2022 NHL Off-Season Guide: The Seattle Kraken
Welcome to another 2022 NHL Off-Season Guide. This time out we are looking at the newest franchise in the game. The Seattle Kraken. Going into their second year the Kraken can proudly say they are doing a lot of things right when it comes to building a franchise. The question this off-season will be whether they continue the path they are on or look to turbo speed the (re?)build with Unrestricted Free Agents.
While the Seattle Kraken didn’t make the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season like the Vegas Golden Knights, Ron Francis should be given kudos for constructing his band of misfits very cleverly. They had their targets who management felt could play a higher role than they had at previous franchises. After that Francis did a good job of taking on expiring contracts, that wouldn’t hinder the Kraken as they began to build. And if one of those shone like a star they always knew the money would be available to re-sign.
What that means in the off-season is they do not have eight forwards including Jordan Eberle under contract for next season as well as five defensemen. The rest are either Restricted or Unrestricted Free Agents. Forwards Ryan Donato and Morgan Geekie should have done enough to secure new deals while defenseman Haydn Fleury will be the ‘should we, shouldn’t we’ decision after missing numerous games with injury.
It’s too easy to say everything, especially since they just finished their first-ever NHL season. High-end talent is a must, given General Managers weren’t as naive during this expansion draft as they were years earlier when the Vegas Golden Knights entered the league. Matthew Beniers is a star in the making, but does it benefit anyone to place him with top-line minutes starting not season!?! Probably not.
The middle six is Seattle’s strongest with Jordan Eberle, Yanni Gourde, Jaden Schwartz, Jared McCann, Alexander Wennberg, and Joonas Donskoi all under contract for at least next season. The problem is, instead of creating a second and third line to fear all these players will end up further up the depth chart than they should be and continue to be outmatched and that’s where the UFA market comes in. While as a new Franchise the sales will be a lot tougher in the UFA market this year with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Filip Forsberg, and Nazem Kadri would be an instant improvement.
There’s also the goaltending situation although I honestly don’t believe that becomes a pressing issue until after the 2022-23 season. While neither were particularly good Chris Driedger’s numbers show that he outplayed Philipp Grubauer throughout the season. This will be put down to a new goaltender learning the systems for Grubauer (even though both were in the same boat), however, another season where you’re backup outplays your starter and decisions will have to be made.
The Kraken has nearly $23 million to play with this off-season but also has six RFA’s to make decisions on including Ryan Donato, Morgan Geekie, and Daniel Sprong. While all would be decent bottom-six forwards they may not feel the same and have expectations above their means. For Ron Francis, it’s a case of don’t overpay to keep this group together instead of looking at high-end talent who can play top line minutes for you.
There are enough RFA’s around that an offer sheet is not out of the question, but with long-term success, the goal of giving up first-round draft picks should be seen as an absolute last resort save only for those players who will change the trajectory of the franchise immediately.
With twelve picks over seven rounds, including four in the second, the Seattle Kraken has an opportunity to build depth (just like the Coyotes in our previous episode) for the future in this year’s draft. They also drew the number four pick in the Draft Lottery which will see them get another high-end talent to build the team around alongside Matthew Beniers.
It’s imperative though that Seattle uses those second-round picks to strengthen the team. If that means trades so be it, but if you do keep all four at least two have to be bonafide NHL’ers in three years.
I can’t pretend to know what’s going through Ron Francis’ mind but the smart thing seems to be to continue the (re?)build and trust your process and team when it comes to the Draft. The Western Conference is too stacked right now to challenge and it’s smart to not sell the farm for one decent Ox.