The offseason has arrived for half of the league’s teams that aren’t playoff-bound. It’s time to examine what they will need to accomplish over the coming months. Next up is a look at Seattle.
After the Golden Knights went to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, expectations were unrealistically high for the Kraken heading into their first year. But even if they had the expectations of a typical expansion franchise, they still would have underachieved relative to those. As a result, Seattle finds itself trying to build on multiple fronts this summer which is a certainly a tall task.
Find A New Goalie Coach
There was only one coaching casualty from their tough year and that was goalie coach Andrew Allen. That move was understandable as, heading into the season, goaltending was believed to be their best strength with a tandem of Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger. Instead, they had the lowest team save percentage in the NHL (.880) while sitting in the bottom ten in goals allowed despite allowing the fourth-fewest shots on goal. Seattle will need to find a replacement coach and when it comes to their netminders, things can only go up from here.
Expand Young Core
Part of building an organization from scratch is trying to pick up some young core pieces. They got one in the draft in Matthew Beniers and picked one in expansion in Jared McCann with the 25-year-old having a career year and quickly inking a long-term extension. Beyond that, there isn’t that much of a young core. That’s perfectly understandable after just one year of existence but this will be the top priority for GM Ron Francis this summer.
They’ll be able to add some key pieces at the draft. They have the fourth pick in July’s draft plus four second-rounders that can be dangled in an effort to move up. That should yield some nice long-term additions although most of those players will be several years away.
Back when the team was being assembled, cap flexibility was stated as a critical element of what they were doing. This is something that the Kraken can use to their advantage this summer if they’re willing to take a bad contract or two while adding some more picks (or preferably prospects) like Arizona did last summer. If the aim is to build a long-term contender, Seattle needs to have more than two long-term core pieces heading into next season.
Expand Current Core
Most general managers don’t lay out a road map for their planning but at his end-of-season news conference, Francis indicated a desire to add a top-six forward, a top-nine forward, and a puck-moving defenseman to his current group. The forwards, in particular, could be added in free agency where the Kraken will have the ability to outbid most teams as they have nearly $23MM in cap room, per CapFriendly. The UFA market for puck-moving blueliners isn’t as deep so going that route for that spot may be tougher so the trade front might be the better way for them there.
Last summer, Francis surprisingly handed a five-year contract to Jaden Schwartz in a move that didn’t work out too well with the oft-injured 29-year-old missing more than half of the season due to injuries. That should serve as a cautionary tale for their free agent this time around when it comes to adding secondary scorers.
It wouldn’t be advisable to hand out similar long-term deals at this time to fill those roster spots. Anything beyond a medium-term contract carries some risk of being a burden at the time that their young core will be ready to really try to contend. A five-year deal for a 25-year-old (McCann) makes sense as he’ll still be young enough to be part of their plans and productive at the end of it. A five-year deal for a 29-year-old UFA this summer probably won’t hold up as well. They’d be wise to stick with shorter-term contracts that will be easier to move closer to their expiration.
Of course, that caveat doesn’t apply if they happen to entice one of the top free agents to join them. In that case, you don’t say no to top talent and that player becomes a part of their current and future core. But beyond that, playing it safe with the veterans they choose to add should be the path they choose to take.
Fill Out Farm Team
This season, Seattle didn’t have its own AHL affiliate which isn’t particularly unusual for an expansion franchise as they simply don’t have the organizational depth that more established teams do. Instead, they teamed up with the Hurricanes, sharing their affiliate in Charlotte. That allowed the Kraken to carry a pretty short group of contracts with only a handful of recallable players from the Checkers as the season went on.
That won’t be the case next season as Seattle will be operating the Coachella Valley Firebirds. They certainly have plenty of work to do before the puck drops on their inaugural season in October.
At the moment, Seattle has basically the equivalent of one line signed for the Firebirds for next season (with three of those being on future deals that only start in 2022-23). They also have goaltender Joey Daccord if they can get him through waivers in training camp. In terms of on-ice personnel, that’s it. Aside from those few players signed, they basically have to fill an entire team. As a result, expect them to be very active in minor league free agency, both in terms of signing AHL free agents to AHL deals at the beginning of July and in handing out several NHL two-way deals when that market opens up near mid-July.
On top of that, they’ll need to round out their front office and coaching staff. The Kraken added former NHL bench boss Dan Bylsma as an assistant with Charlotte and he’s a contender to be the coach in Palm Springs next season. Francis will be building on multiple fronts this summer so expect a busy summer in Seattle.
Checkers are the Panthers affiliate.
Could the Kraken get a do over on their disastrous expansion draft and free agent signing? They stink. Perhaps Francis was trying to develop a case study on what not to do in expansion.
Your being too harsh. The Kraken first year as a expansion team is above average in results. You cannot build a good team with players that the other teams didnt protect for the expansion draft. It took the ny islanders 8 years to win their 1st stanley cup and their 1st year was worse than the krakens
Time Machine needed
Maybe select Tarasenko, not sign Schwartz to a massive overpayment, don’t pick Grubs as your #1 for that much for that long…
This is just the START of the list!!
First, there is no way that Tarasenko has the same type of season (that he had) with the Kraken. Second, Tarasenko had both injury and contract ($$$) concerns.
That said, I thought he was the obvious choice from the Blues, but can see why they didn’t go there.
Beniers, Gourde, McCann, Tanev, and Dunn.
Everyone else should be available for picks
still partial to this team’s goaltending group, but man does almost everyone else suck. McCann is a great player and Benny, but those three and Gourde only make one line.