NHL Off-Season Outlook: Seattle Kraken
This file is the latest in THN.com’s ongoing breakdowns of every NHL team`s off-season moves. In this file, we're examining the Seattle Kraken..
2021-22 Record: 27-49-6
Finish In The Pacific Division: 8th
Salary Cap Space Available (As Per CapFriendly.com): $2.15 million
What The Kraken Have: A solid amount of goal-producing forwards, including Jared McCann, Jaden Schwartz, Andre Burakovsky, and Yanni Gourde a better-than-solid number of talented youngsters; the benefit of center Shane Wright falling into their laps via the No. 4-overall pick in this summer’s entry draft; a huge haul at the next NHL draft, where they’ve already got three second-round picks and two fourth-rounders; an ownership group that is willing to spend at or near the salary-cap upper limit;
What The Kraken Need: More elite skill in their forwards and defense corps, and more goal production from both the blueline and from upfront; the same type of high-value trade like the one they made just recently when they added veteran winger Oliver Bjorkstrand from Columbus for only a third-and-fourth round draft pick next summer;
What’s Realistic For Kraken Next Season: Some people in the hockey world didn’t expect much from Seattle in its first year of on-ice operations; the example the Vegas Golden Knights was thought to be an outlier, and that’s more or less what the Kraken proved last season. Were they Arizona Coyotes-level awful? Not quite, but that’s more about Arizona than Seattle. The former is openly tanking, repeatedly, until they amass a huge number of talented prospects, while the latter is actively trying to make the playoffs this coming season.
Kraken GM Ron Francis dealt away more than a few veterans last season, and as a result, the team had a notable amount of salary cap space to utilize this summer. Francis used $5.4 million to acquire 27-year-old winger Bjorkstrand from the Blue Jackets, and you can make a case Seattle has a competitive, if uneven, collection of forwards.
The same cannot be said for the Kraken’s group of blueliners. Jamie Oleksiak is their highest-paid D-man at $4.9 million per season. With all due respect to Oleksiak, you have serious depth concerns when your top-paid defenseman is Oleksiak. Perhaps Francis can convince the Chicago Blackhawks to move star Seth Jones to Seattle, but even then, you’re not talking about a player at the start of his NHL career. To have a star blueliner, you must develop them internally, and that process remains underway in Seattle.
The good news for Francis is that most of his best players are signed through next season at relatively low pay rates, so he may be able to translate that into trades that bring them more players in their early twenties. Landing Wright with the fourth-overall pick in the 2022 draft was a massive bonus in their blueprint to win, and it’s entirely likely that Wright will make the three teams that passed on him rue the day they did. But again, the focus for Francis and head coach Dave Hakstol has to be on the bigger picture and the longer term.
There should be no doubt Kraken will be more competitive next year. But even in the weak Pacific Division, it will take a considerable leap through the standings just to challenge for a playoff berth. More likely is another year of stumbles, skinned knees, and the trading of veterans today for up–and–comers tomorrow. Kraken fans can’t be so greedy as to expect more than that out of this mixed bag of assets.