The Seattle Kraken and their General Manager, Ron Francis, ended up pursuing a unique strategy in their expansion draft, which left many scratching their heads. The Kraken selected three pending unrestricted free agents, and ultimately agreed to contracts with those players, which counts as a selection from those teams in the expansion draft.
Those three players were goaltender Chris Driedger from Florida, defenseman Adam Larsson from Edmonton, and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak from Dallas. Other than those three, the Kraken avoided any real extravagance in selecting players with larger contracts.
For example, instead of selecting Jakub Voracek, Shayne Gostisbehere, or James van Riemsdyk from the Philadelphia Flyers, they chose to select Carsen Twarynski, who is currently a restricted free agent and figures to be a bottom six player.
After the roster embargo ended at 1:00 PM eastern on Thursday, July 22nd, the Flyers announced that they had traded a second and a seventh round pick along with Gostisbehere to the Coyotes for future considerations. Wouldn’t it have made sense for the Kraken to work out a side deal similar to that with the Flyers?
Ultimately, the Kraken focused on building from the net on out, with a relatively solid defensive group and strong goaltending, with Driedger and former Capital Vitek Vanecek tending the net. With that, the Kraken also focused on taking younger, unheralded players at the NHL level. With no additional trades announced after the end of the roster freeze, it has to be assumed that the Kraken will be major players in free agency with $30,701,667 in projected cap space (via CapFriendly).
So, let’s take a look at how the Kraken’s roster projects out in regards to Goals Above Replacement (GAR):
Although the Kraken’s forward group looks a bit unheralded on paper, they have relatively solid projections in GAR for next season. A likely first line of Yanni Gourde, Jared McCann, and Jordan Eberle would be really solid, but the question of depth scoring down the lineup arises. On top of that, the Kraken traded Tyler Pitlick to the Calgary Flames for a fourth round pick, which likely puts even more pressure on Francis and the Kraken to sign a high caliber, top six forward in free agency.
Here’s what the Kraken’s forward group did in terms of GAR during the 2020-21 regular season:
Gourde produced very well last season in a third line role on an utterly stacked Tampa Bay Lightning team. McCann is a solid player too, but it’ll be interesting to see what his play amounts to as a key cog of the offense, rather than a complimentary piece in Pittsburgh’s system.
Here’s a look at the Kraken defensive draftees’ GAR projections for the 2021-22 season:
Former Norris Trophy winner Mark Giordano leads the way in projections. This makes sense considering he’s still a solid player, although he’s definitely aging. Dunn will be intriguing as well. He’s currently a restricted free agent, and depending on how negotiations go with Seattle, he could be a coveted trade asset to other teams. One glaring issue with the roster is they only have one right handed NHL caliber defenseman on the roster: Adam Larsson. Outside of that, they’re all left handed except for William Borgen.
Here’s how the Kraken defensive draftees performed in GAR last season:
Carson Soucy is an interesting asset. He’s 26 currently, and has amassed 31 points in 108 career games with the Minnesota Wild. With a larger role, potentially in Seattle’s top four, he could be a good offensive option on the back end. Oleksiak is certainly a more defensive focused player, so his GAR doesn’t quite reflect his value on ice.
As mentioned previously, the Kraken selected Vanecek from the Capitals, as well as agreeing to a contract with Florida’s Chris Driedger. Driedger came off a really solid year with the Panthers out of seemingly nowhere, and was a bit of a gamble on Seattle’s part. Additionally, the Kraken selected Joey Daccord from Ottawa, who figures to be a goalie with their AHL affiliate. Evolving Hockey does not have GAR projections for goaltenders, so we’ll take a look at their 2020-21 season GAR:
If the Kraken get the 2021 iterations of Driedger and Vanecek, they could be really solid in net for a reasonable cost. Driedger signed to a three year, $3.5M cap hit contract, and Vanecek has a year remaining at a $716,667 cap hit.
Lineup and Standings Projection
JFreshHockey constructed a Seattle lineup and Wins Above Replacement (WAR) projection tool, and we’ll take a look below at how the Kraken’s roster could perform next season:
Based on their current roster, 103 standings points could be quite a stretch. On the other hand, the roster as it stands today is solid defensively, and could be really solid between the pipes. They’ll ultimately play a much different style than Vegas did in their inaugural season, but with the relative weakness of the Pacific Division, the Kraken could find themselves in a playoff spot come next spring.
With a few key free agent additions to their top six, and potentially another right handed defenseman, the Kraken could be competitive in the Western Conference. Prior to Vegas’ surprise run to the Stanley Cup in their inaugural season, most projected they’d struggle. They proved the opposite. Will the Kraken do the same?
By Justin Trudel