The current situation for the Seattle Kraken remains a far cry from where fans expected to be in February 2022. Can they go back through the expansion draft and critique every pick? Sure. Can they ask exactly where and when the “weaponizing cap space” plan supposedly began for Ron Francis? Absolutely. Has all that been done already, over and over, time and time again, with no real benefit? Yep. Everyone can say “coulda, shoulda, woulda” but that doesn’t change the circumstances as they sit today.
Whether people believe in Dave Hakstol or not, or whether they trust the direction of the team or not, evaluating the assets in the team’s possession today and thinking about what needs to be done is all their fans can do. So, that’s what will be done here. Spoiler alert: the answer, by and large, is that it is time for the Seattle Kraken to sell, and sell almost everything.
2022 Trade Deadline: Seattle Kraken Trade Goal Should Be Selling
Before getting into the pieces Seattle should look far and wide for a suitor to take off their hands, let’s evaluate the players the franchise should want to keep.
Every team in the league has a defined core, composed of their assets deemed to be untouchable. For contenders, the core is a mix of the team’s superstars and vital role players. Think Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Steven Stamkos for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
For cellar-dwelling teams, the core looks quite a bit different. Some franchises possess two or fewer true “untouchables”. For teams like the Arizona Coyotes, the biggest untouchable might actually be future first-round draft picks.
The Kraken will sell at this year’s deadline, and their “untouchable” list looks more like the Coyotes than it does the Lightning or Penguins. And justifiably so, given they sit just a stone’s throw away from Arizona in the standings (and have half as many standings points as Tampa or Pittsburgh). Also like Arizona, another untouchable might be their “weaponized cap space”. In other words, they are willing to take on money for the short-term if it means adding to their draft cupboards or prospect pool. Aside from intangible assets, let’s define the Kraken core players.
Seattle Will Sell, But Not These Pieces
On the roster today, Seattle has few (if any) players with whom they will refuse to part ways. Yanni Gourde and Jared McCann, sitting third and first in team scoring respectively, likely remain parts of the franchise going forward. Of course, a blockbuster deal for an additional first-round pick or top-shelf prospect could change that. But for now, they’re safe.
Joining those two, probably the only defenceman worth deeming as part of the core is Vince Dunn. Carson Soucy, too, has great underlying numbers. However, he just won’t transform the team much on his own. And in net, Philipp Grubauer probably won’t be going anywhere, mostly as a result of his poor performance coupled with his large cap hit with many years remaining.
Besides that, the active roster has no one off-limits to trade. The real untouchable asset is yet to join the team, being 2021 first-round pick Matty Beniers. In that list with him, there are all picks in the upcoming draft. Seattle needs all the building blocks it can get its hands on right now.
Hot Commodities From Kraken Roster
Performance-wise, pretty much nobody in Seattle turned heads this season. However, there’s plenty of reason to believe many of their players could make a positive impact on another team. Seattle constructed a team of players with strong underlying numbers and advanced statistics. Most of them are experiencing a tremendous “down” season currently, likely because they’re all playing with one another. Instead of anyone player benefitting from playing alongside players better than they are, they’re having to create everything themselves.
The best example of this is Joonas Donskoi, who netted career-high goal totals with the Colorado Avalanche in each of the previous two seasons (16 and 17 goals, in 65 and 51 games, respectively). He was expected to be one of the producers for the Kraken, with 20+ goal potential. As it turned out, Donskoi benefitted tremendously from playing with the Avalanche powerplay alongside superstars like Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and Mikko Rantanen. Plus, he skated with forwards like Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky regularly on their second line. Those calibre players simply don’t exist in Seattle, and his production fell off drastically as a result. He’s potted a career-low one goal through 50 contests this season.
But, could he bounce back somewhere else? Again, this is someone who reached double digits in goals five times in his seven NHL seasons. This year is his worst season statistically, and by advanced metrics too. If he were playing on a team like the New York Rangers or Pittsburgh, his opportunities to produce would probably shoot through the roof. And that will be the conversation Ron Francis has over and over with GM after GM around the league through the next month.
He carries one more year on his current contract, at a manageable $3.9 million. Francis should be able to find a suitor for him, but if not, here’s hoping for a deal this summer to move him elsewhere. The argument for Donskoi is the same for many others, too.
Seattle Kraken Forwards to Sell
One of them is Donskoi, as said before. The big fish for Seattle upfront would be Jordan Eberle. He represented the Kraken at the NHL All-Star Game last month. When asked during a skills event about what it’s like in Seattle, his answer started with, “it’s…new…” followed by a chuckle and awkward pause. The other players in the event listening on gave him looks and laughed too.
Many fans read into the line and it felt like Eberle was an unhappy member of the Kraken. And it sure looked like he had voiced that to the other All-Stars already. It seemed like they all knew what he meant when he called his journey in Seattle “new” rather than “exciting”, “fun”, or even “challenging”. Eberle didn’t provide hope for the future, and his body language said it all.
If Eberle wants out, Francis should look to find a way to make that happen. His contract keeps him with the club for another two seasons should he stay, and his cap hit of $5.5 million still looks fine given his production. He could garner the best return of any player on the team.
Additional Deadline Targets Amongst Kraken Forwards
Marcus Johansson, Calle Jarnkrok, Riley Sheahan, and Austin Czarnik all become UFA’s this summer. Given how this year went, it seems unlikely any of them would re-sign with Seattle between now and next season. They all could provide a playoff team with depth up front, and slot in on a third or fourth line to provide energy and a scoring touch.
Again, their contributions to Seattle probably don’t reflect exactly what their potential contributions could be elsewhere. They’re all struggling to find traction with the Kraken, and none of them are players who have driven play on their own at any point in their careers. They need a good supporting cast to be effective. Pretty much all playoff teams have the kinds of rosters where these forwards could flourish.
It is expected to see one or more (or all) of these players moved for whatever Seattle can get for them before the trade deadline. If Francis got a call for Mason Appleton, Morgan Geekie, or Ryan Donato (amongst others), there’s no reason not to hear those proposals out either.
Kraken Defencemen Worth Dealing
If one wish could be made, it would be for Mark Giordano to be flipped back to the Calgary Flames. The deal may not get much for Seattle in return, given Giordano becomes a UFA this summer and is 38 years old. He could be a rental, but if he was to play in the NHL beyond this season, it’s hard to imagine that the Flames won’t be his destination of preference. Seattle could retain salary to sweeten the deal in hopes for a higher draft pick in return. However, they shouldn’t expect much else from their captain.
Jamie Oleksiak could be moved but the five-year deal he signed last summer makes that outlook unlikely. The same goes for Adam Larsson, too. That leaves the glut of younger defencemen as the source for any other likely deals. Soucy, Haydn Fleury, William Borgen, Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Carrick, Cale Fleury, and Dennis Cholowski all offer roughly the same amount of experience and potential. Seattle doesn’t need all seven of them and could use forward prospects or second and third-round draft picks instead.
If they can get something for Chris Driedger, too, that would be worthwhile. With Joey Daccord looking solid in limited games, and Grubauer committed for the foreseeable future, flipping Driedger for something, anything, to build for the future could be a big yes.
Moving On To Next Season Is The Key
The Kraken fell very, very short of aspirations in 2021-22. But that doesn’t mean the same will be true in 2022-23. If the Anaheim Ducks and Rangers have taught the hockey world anything, it’s that anything can happen in the modern NHL. The margin between the best and worst clubs may be large within any single season, but a new year offers a fresh start. The Montreal Canadiens fell from a Cup Championship appearance to being the worst team in the league this season. Meanwhile, the Rangers rose from the cellar to the penthouse of the Metropolitan Division.
The Pacific Division truly remains the “Wild West”, who knows what teams come out on top. The Vegas Golden Knights should sit first. However, between the Ducks, Flames, Los Angeles Kings, and Edmonton Oilers, it is anybody’s guess. That could be put into a blender again next year, and Seattle could slide into the mix just as quickly. They do still have plenty of cap space they could “weaponize”, especially if they can clear more before the deadline. With tons of expiring contracts too, their game-day roster will undoubtedly appear drastically different next season. They need to add draft picks to the eight they have for the upcoming draft, and offload pieces that won’t change the franchise’s fortune in the short or long term.
Embed from Getty Images