This file is the latest details on each NHL team’s offseason activity at THN.com. In this file, we’re examining the Seattle Kraken.
2021-22 Record: 27-49-6 Finish in Pacific Division: 8th Salary Cap Position Available (according to CapFriendly.com): $2.15 million
The Kraken has: strong goal-scoring forwards Jared McCann, Jaden Schwartz, Andre Burakovsky and Yanni Gorde among a strong, talented young squad; The benefit of center Shane Wright falling into his lap via the No. 4-overall selection in this summer’s entry draft. A big move in the upcoming NHL draft, where they already have three second-round picks and two fourth-round picks; An ownership group willing to spend at or near the upper limit of working capital;
What the Kraken need: More advanced skill up front and in their defensemen, and more goal production from the blue line and up front. Adding veteran winger Oliver Bjorkstrand from Columbus in a high-value trade like they did recently for third- and fourth-round draft picks next summer;
What’s in store for the Kraken next season: Some in the hockey world didn’t expect much from Seattle in its first year on the ice. The precedent was that the Vegas Golden Knights were supposed to be the best, and that’s what the Kraken more or less proved last season. Were the Arizona Coyotes ranked awful? Not quite, but that’s more about Arizona than Seattle. The former is clearly tanking over and over until they stock up on talented prospects, while the latter is actively trying to make the playoffs this coming season.
Kraken GM Ron Francis rested more than a few veterans last season, and as a result, the team had a large amount of salary cap space to use this summer. Francis used $5.4 million to acquire 27-year-old winger Bjorkstrand from the Blue Jackets, and you can make sure Seattle has a competitive, if uneven, forward collection.
The same cannot be said for the Kraken’s blueliner team. Jamie Oleksiy is the highest paid player at $4.9 million per season. With all due respect to Oleksiy, you have a deep threat when your highest paid defenseman is Oleksiy. Maybe Francis can convince Chicago Blackhawks star Seth Jones to move to Seattle, but even then, you’re not talking about a player early in his NHL career. To have a star blueliner, you have to develop from within, and that process continues in Seattle.
The good news for Francis is that most of his top players are signed next season for relatively low salaries, so he may be able to translate that into trades that bring in more players in their early twenties. Landing Wright with the fourth overall pick in the 2022 draft was a huge bonus in their draft plan, and it’s entirely possible that Wright could make the last three teams take him on a day. But again, the focus of Francis and head coach Dave Hakstol should be on the bigger picture and the long term.
Kraken will no doubt be more competitive next year. But even in a weak Pacific Division, it would take a big jump in the rankings just to challenge for the playoffs. Perhaps another year of stumbles, skinny knees, and trades for veterans today and tomorrow. Kraken fans can’t be greedy until they expect more from this mixed bag of assets.