Dooley: Breaking down who Seattle Kraken have added in free agency

Sep 5, 2021, 10:50 AM

In July we finally got to see the formation of the Seattle Kraken roster with not one but two separate drafts in a matter of days.

Seattle Kraken schedule for inaugural 2021-22 season released

After those drafts, the team appeared to have a strength on defense, with some promising young options at goalie and the need to add some offensive depth. General manager Ron Francis and his team got right back to work when NHL free agency opened up the week after the drafts, though, adding depth at center and shaking things up with a big addition in goal.

Here are some of the newest members of the Seattle Kraken you should know.

Philipp Grubauer, G

The biggest surprise of the Kraken’s start to free agency was the addition of Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer. Francis admits he wasn’t planning to have that opportunity.

“I don’t think we expected Grubauer to get to free agency,” he told reporters after the signing. “Just like (the Avalanche) signed Gabriel Landeskog late, we thought that he would get signed as well.”

But the Avalanche not only had to re-sign forward Gabriel Landeskog but also their star defenseman Cale Makar, and that created an opening for the Kraken to make Grubauer a better offer.

The talented young goalie got his first chance to be the starter last season after two years of splitting the duties, and he was impressive. Grubauer had a 30-9-1 record, posted a league-leading 1.95 goals against average, and was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL’s top goaltender.

Alexander Wennberg, F

A former first-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2013 draft, Wennberg adds some depth to a thin center position for the Kraken. One of their top options at center, Yanni Gourde, is likely to miss the first couple months of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery, so the Kraken were searching for depth in free agency.

“I was real pleased with getting Wennberg,” Francis said. “We think we got a two-way centerman who can play in all situations, so that was exciting, especially with the issue with Yanni Gourde being out for a little bit.”

Wennberg had a breakout season for the Blue Jackets in 2016 but struggled to stay at that level of play and was traded to the Panthers last season. He posted a career-high 17 goals, and although Wennberg is a veteran, he’s only 26 years old with room to grow.

“He’s a smart player,” Francis said. “I think he can play in all three zones, he can kill penalties, he’s got the skillset to play the power play, so hopefully last year was just the start for him and he can continue to get better from there moving forward.”

Jaden Schwartz, F

Another former first-round draft pick (14th overall in 2010 by the St. Louis Blues), Schwartz was a forward the Kraken had their eye on in the expansion draft. At the end of the day they decided on defense and took his teammate Vince Dunn, but they were happy to come back around to Schwartz in free agency and offer him a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Schwartz was a big part of the Blues’ 2019 Stanley Cup championship run and is known for his work ethic and leadership. Francis likes the broad skillset Schwartz bring to the table.

“He’s a very versatile player,” Francis said. “He can play up and down your lineup in a lot of different roles and there’s good leadership from him, especially winning a Stanley Cup.”

Schwartz knows how to find the net as well, scoring double-digit goals in six of his last eight seasons. Unfortunately, injuries have resulted in quite a few missed games for Schwartz over the years. That was the case in 2020 when an oblique injury forced him out for 16 games. Missing time and dealing with the sudden death of his father last November resulted in an uncharacteristic finish of only eight goals and 21 points.

Schwartz brought up the fact that his numbers dropped off in his introductory press conference, explaining that 2021 was a pretty tough year for him but he is looking forward to a new beginning in Seattle.

“The opportunity of playing for a new franchise, not a lot people get to do that so I’m super excited to join them,” he said. “I knew right away that was a place I was going to look at (in free agency) and I’m really happy that it got done.”

Marcus Johansson, F

The 30-year-old veteran forward is yet another former first-round selection, taken by the Washington Capitals with the 24th pick of the 2009 draft. Johansson is versatile, plays fast and can help at center or wing.

Though he isn’t as much of a goal scorer as he used to be and has struggled with injuries, Francis believes he still brings a lot to a team when healthy.

“Marcus plays a fast game and brings us another veteran presence with a significant amount of playoff experience,” said Francis. “His speed, skill and versatility will help our forward group.”

The Kraken signed Johansson to a one-year, $1.5 million deal.

Follow Maura Dooley on Twitter.

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