The Seattle Kraken will not be selecting any of the players available in Edmonton or Dallas. Instead, they are expected to reach contracts with unrestricted free agent defensemen Adam Larsson and Jamie Oleksiak, according to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff. Chris Johnston of Sportsnet adds that the contract with Larsson is expected to be a four-year deal and carries an average annual value of $4MM.
When looking at what was available from the Oilers and Stars, targeting free agents made a lot of sense for the Kraken.
Unless the team was going to select an unknown commodity like Ben Bishop, there wasn’t much else available in Dallas. Oleksiak, 28, was going to be one of the most interesting UFA defensemen this summer, after really settling into a top-four role this year for the Stars. Logging over 20 minutes a night for the first time in his career, the 6’7″ behemoth added six goals and 14 points in 56 games. Oleksiak’s breakout really began during the 2020 playoff bubble, when he logged nearly 22 minutes a night for a Dallas team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Losing Oleksiak hurts the Stars, but losing Larsson may be crippling to the Oilers. The team recently brought in Duncan Keith, expecting to put him on a second pair beside the shutdown defenseman as contract talks had progressed well through the early part of the summer. Ryan Rishaug of TSN reports that the team had multiple offers on the table for Larsson, even ones with comparable term and money to the one he will sign in Seattle. Instead, the 28-year-old defenseman has just decided on a change of scenery, a tough blow to the Oilers offseason that seemed to have him penciled into the lineup for next season.
The Oilers defensive depth is now extremely thin, with Darnell Nurse being only reliable name in the mix. While Keith likely still has enough to contribute positively in a limited role, the team will need to find him a partner if he’s to log top-four minutes on a consistent basis. Ethan Bear is now the team’s top right-handed defenseman, unless Evan Bouchard takes a big step forward.
For the Kraken, the two defensemen are a great start. The team should have plenty of options on the back end, but now at least have two reliable shutdown options to ice every night, potentially even as a pair. Seattle’s penalty-killing should be strong with these two in the mix, while a four-year commitment to Larsson is more than reasonable. It’s a heck of a start for GM Ron Francis as he looks to bring the league’s 32nd team into the spotlight.