The first-ever season for the Seattle Kraken, well, happened. They finished dead last in the Western Conference and a bulk of their moves from the Expansion Draft and in free agency haven’t panned out. Namely, the acquisition of goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger, who combined for just 27 wins on the year, and a combined GAA of just over three. On the upside going into the offseason, the Kraken will have a healthy amount of cap space to play with. As well as five picks in the opening two rounds of the NHL Draft as well. How does Ron Francis go about improving this roster heading into year two?
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 14.5% (29th)
Penalty Kill: 74.8% (31st)
Goals For: 213 (T-28th)
Goals Against: 284 (24th)
There are a few options for the best Kraken player in their inaugural season, but the nod here goes to Yanni Gourde. Jared McCann did score two more points on the season, but the former Tampa Bay Lightning led all Seattle forwards with 27 assists on the year. Additionally, Gourde put up 21 goals and had a plus-minus of -13, compared to McCann who had 27 goals and a plus-minus of -26. Not to mention that Gourde averaged more ice time a night as well. He should be a good glue guy for that Kraken locker room moving forward unless they trade him of course.
Without a shadow of a doubt, this honor is Grubauer’s by a wide margin. Yes the defense in front of him is not what he had with the Colorado Avalanche, but the drop-off he had this season was astounding. For fans of the Quality Start stat, Grubby went from .667 percent a year ago with the Avs, to .333 percent this season. Although he couldn’t control the defense, nor the trading of defensemen, in front of him, Grubauer has to be better moving forward.
Behind the Bench Analysis
Dave Hakstol didn’t have the best NHL Head Coaching track record before heading into Seattle. Even with that said, this was the worst a team has finished with him manning the bench. It became clear rather quickly that this wasn’t a roster akin to the first-year Vegas Golden Knights, but it would be hard to imagine this was the expectation going into the season. Hakstol just simply may not be the guy even if he sticks around to start next season.
Now if the Kraken want to start over with their coaching staff, they do have some enticing options. Barry Trotz of course is the new hot topic, after Lou Lamoriello fired him, claiming the New York Islanders “needed a new voice”. Ironic as he could be just that for the Kraken. Once Trotz got to Long Island, he turned them into a defensive juggernaut inside of two seasons, perhaps he can do that in Seattle as well. Keep an eye out for names like John Tortorella, as well as Islanders’ assistant Lane Lambert, who should be a hot commodity if he doesn’t stay.
Front Office Analysis
It is no secret that Seattle didn’t exactly crush the Expansion Draft, but the ever-savvy Francis did an excellent job at the trade deadline to recoup future assets. Getting a second-round pick for Jeremy Lauzon may have been the best move at the deadline seeing as how he did for the Nashville Predators. In total, Francis picked up several round two and three selections for the next few years, as well as pending UFA Victor Rask from the Minnesota Wild. As for the guys they already have, he also re-upped McCann on a five-year 20-million-dollar extension that begins next season.
2022 NHL Entry Draft Picks
For the 2022 Draft, the Kraken have a whopping 12 selections as of this moment. That includes the fourth overall pick, along with four second-round selections, as well as three fourth-round selections. Francis now has a slew of options available to him this summer. Going through with using all 12 picks feels unlikely, so does he swing deals for higher picks, or does he go and try to get a game-changer to speed up this team’s trajectory?
Seattle has a bunch of solid talent but clearly lacks a true superstar skater. Luckily for them, there just so happens to be multiple 100-point players set for RFA and UFA respectively, and it just so happens that they are teammates. Francis 100 percent has the money to go and get Johnny Gaudreau, who could reasonably want a change of scenery if the Calgary Flames fail to win the Stanley Cup. Johnny Hockey would have led the Kraken in goals and assists and would be a certified sniper to pair with the pride of Hingham, Massachusetts, Matty Beniers.
The other Flame is less likely to move due to RFA status, but with the draft capital Seattle has, it may be worth the gamble. Of course, we’re talking about Jayson Tatum‘s high school friend Matthew Tkachuk. The eldest son of Keith Tkachuk is coming off a career-best 42 goal, 64 assist regular season, and however you may feel about his playstyle, you need at least one guy like Tkachuck on your roster. Parting with a first-round pick may be tough, but it isn’t like the Kraken are starved for draft picks. Getting one, if not both, of the Flames’ free agents, along with an above-average defenseman should be an absolute must for the Kraken.
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