While the Conference Finals begin in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Seattle Kraken shifts into offseason mode. They put up a valiant playoff run, finishing one win shy of the Conference Finals themselves. First, they dispatched the defending champions, the Colorado Avalanche, in round one. Then, they took the Dallas Stars to the wire, ultimately dropping game seven on the road. Most pundits expected Seattle to miss the playoffs outright, so a wildcard berth followed by 14 playoff contests should be seen as an overwhelming success. In the business of hockey though, memory remains short-term, and immediately the Kraken shift their focus to the future.
Offseason Priorities for Seattle Kraken
After a successful season, the Seattle Kraken offseason priority list begins. The Kraken have ten roster players reaching free agency this summer, as well as various prospects and AHL’ers. Those players combine for nearly $14 million in cap space that becomes available to General Manager Ron Francis. A couple of the pending free agents (Joonas Donskoi and John Hayden) sat on the team’s long-term injured reserve, so those expirations don’t really add cap flexibility.
Beyond this, five of their pending free agents have restricted status, so Seattle maintains team control in those scenarios. All five do retain arbitration rights, but both sides likely want to settle things before reaching that point.
The bigger question, though, stands as whether or not the team wants to retain any or all of the potential free agents. Realistically too, a good chunk of these players want raises. This offseason, the Kraken must pick and choose which players they value enough to retain, and how best to fill the holes left by the inevitable departures.
Kraken Offseason Draft Capital
Usually, teams that go on playoff runs own fewer draft picks than those outside of the playoff picture. Thanks to savvy moves from Seattle’s inaugural season, however, tons of draft capital sits in the Kraken’s possession this offseason. They own ten selections this year, four of which come in the first two rounds alone.
Either the Kraken take players in each of those slots, or they trade some of them away. This gives them options to acquire players to fill roster spots, as part of trade packages.
Seattle’s short history of existence means they have drafted far fewer players than other teams around the league. In total, their prospect cupboards stand a tad bare, so their extra draft picks could surely come in handy for the Kraken this offseason.
That said, they do own a few prospects that might make the jump to the NHL in the very near future. Fans already got a good look at Tye Kartye in the postseason. He jumped into the lineup after Jared McCann got hurt in the first round. Kartye made enough of an impression to hold down his spot even after McCann returned, scoring three goals and five points in ten games.
Beyond Kartye, Seattle also has high hopes for Shane Wright. He only logged eight games this previous year, posting one goal and one assist. The team juggled him perfectly to maximize his exposure across the season without burning a year of his entry-level contract. He earned NHL exposure early in the year, got some conditioning stints under his belt in the AHL, played in the World Juniors over Christmas, and then finally returned to junior hockey. The team’s 2022 first-round selection will be someone to watch during the Kraken training camp this offseason.
Pending Free Agents
The big decisions in Seattle lie squarely at the feet of their pending free agent class. Carson Soucy, Ryan Donato and Martin Jones stand as the only pending UFA’s on the roster. Rumours swirled around Soucy at the trade deadline, maybe foreshadowing his departure this summer. Jones likely won’t return, as Chris Driedger worked himself back to full health and Joey Daccord continues performing well at the AHL level.
The RFA group, though, has some bigger names on it. Morgan Geekie, William Borgen, and Cale Fleury all exist here. More impactfully, though, Vince Dunn and Daniel Sprong both need new contracts. These two, without a doubt, represent the most impactful names on the list of players who expire this summer.
Vince Dunn and Daniel Sprong
First and foremost, Dunn sits atop the list of priorities for the Kraken this offseason. He had a huge season, growing tremendously into a bonafide top pairing NHL defenceman. As a result, he’ll want a hefty raise from the $4 million cap hit he had previously. That raise eats into the $14 million freed up by all the names coming off the books and essentially guarantees at least a couple free agents will walk.
Similarly, Sprong earned himself the right to a contract worth significantly more than the $750,000 he earned this past year. His contract may be the trickiest to negotiate, since he played on the fourth line most of the year. Despite his limited minutes, Sprong posted career highs in every scoring category. He finished third on the team in goals too, with 21.
Sprong may have priced himself out of Seattle, unless he is willing to sign a short-term deal for just a year or two. Francis and his staff will undoubtedly be cautious to commit money beyond 2023-24, as they have some significant names reaching free agency next summer, including Matthew Beniers, Jordan Eberle, and Justin Schultz.
Future in Focus for Kraken this Offseason
All of the above comes before even considering the free agents available on the market. That’s a nice position to be in; the Kraken enter the offseason with no bleeding concerns or desperation to sign a “big fish”. From the outside looking in, it’ll feel like a quiet summer. But on the inside, plenty of posturing and preparation will take place to continue setting the franchise up for future success.
While fans may be sad at the prospect of watching some of their players depart, the team remains more than capable to replace them from within. Kartye and Wright want permanent roster spots, and Ryker Evans may be a long shot to do the same on their blue line.
Seattle may acquire a few players to help around the edges of the lineup, but nothing enormous that will break the bank. They might snag a defenceman or two, as well as a veteran goalie, to bolster the team’s depth. But really, the core pieces all remain under contract and ready to mentor some of the younger prospects into full-time NHL jobs. Long story short: the Kraken look poised to be a force in the Western Conference for the foreseeable future. Get excited, Kraken fans.
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