KRAKEN

Seattle Kraken have decisions to make with 2 players on hot streaks

Jan 23, 2022, 10:24 AM
Seattle Kraken Ryan Donato...
Ryan Donato of the Seattle Kraken skates against the Anaheim Ducks. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

During the second period of the 3-2 Seattle Kraken win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, forward Ryan Donato attacked the visiting net and scored on his own rebound. While the bench celebrated and the Climate Pledge Arena crowd erupted, it took a while to notice the huddle of referees and linesmen at the scorer’s table.

Seattle Kraken set up to build momentum after exciting end to 9-game skid

The play had been challenged by the Sharks for offside.

It didn’t take long for the verdict to come back offside and thus, no goal.

Had the play been onside, it would have given the Seattle Kraken the lead and Donato a big goal against his former team, the team that chose not to make him a qualifying offer this summer and turn him into an unrestricted free agent, allowing him to sign with the Seattle Kraken.

In the third period, with Seattle holding onto a one-goal lead, Morgan Geekie slipped a pass between his legs to winger Calle Jarnkrok in front of the net. Jarnkrok buried it to score what would turn out to be the game-winning goal.

Donato and Jarnkrok have been two of the hottest players on the Kraken roster the past couple of weeks and are both in interesting positions heading into the offseason.

Seattle has 12 players on its current active roster who are in the last year of their contract, a mix of soon-to-be unrestricted and restricted free agents. The unrestricted guys will be free to negotiate with any team they wish while the Kraken have a say in where the restricted players end up.

Some restricted free agents, like Jared McCann and Geekie, are no-brainers and will be re-signed by the Kraken, barring some strange occurrences.

Meanwhile, Jarnkrok and Donato have both been playing well, and one may have played his way off the team while the other has played his way into an extension.

Will the Seattle Kraken trade Jarnkrok?

Jarnkrok, 30, came to the Kraken via the NHL Expansion Draft as the club’s selection from the Nashville Predators, where he had played the previous eight seasons.

He had been a consistent scorer with Nashville, topping the double-digit goal mark in each of the last seven years, potting 15 goals or more on four occasions. The Kraken viewed him as a veteran forward who would chip in offensively to provide some precious secondary scoring.

Jarnkrok struggled early, testing positive for COVID-19 the night before the team’s franchise opening game in Vegas. He missed the opening road trip before finally returning for the home opener. This missed time slowed him down and he was held off the scoresheet over his first 12 games with the team.

He has found his sea legs, though, and in his past 16 outings has scored six times with 13 points. Jarnkrok has become what the Seattle Kraken had hoped he’d be this year.

Scoring the game-winner against San Jose was massive for Seattle and it gave the Kraken a much-needed two-game win streak after losing nine straight. Jarnkrok is in the final year of a $2 million a year contract and will be an unrestricted free agent.

His cap number, improved play, and experience make him attractive to a contending team looking to add some depth scoring. The Kraken should field offers on Jarnkrok before the NHL trade deadline on March 21.

He’s not going to warrant a first-round draft pick, but if he continues to play the way he has been, Seattle could end up with an extra second- or third-round selection. The Kraken could always keep him and try to sign him in the summer, but that opens the door to losing him for nothing.

Donato exceeding expectations

Seattle brought Donato, 25, in as a free agent in September with little to no fanfare.

He was seen as a bottom-of-the-lineup forward who would add some depth to the team. Donato was an on-again and off-again healthy scratch early in the season, but every time he got an opportunity to play, he played well and did something noticeable.

Eventually, he earned more playing time, more starts, and is now a regular in the Kraken lineup.

Heading into Friday’s game against St. Louis, he has nine goals – surpassing his total in San Jose last year – and 15 points, which puts him on a pace to set career highs in goals (14), assists (14), and points (25). Donato has shot the puck well this year and his 11.7 percentage is the second-highest of his career.

Donato is cheap, making just $750,000 a year, and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

After exceeding expectations this season, he feels like an automatic to be re-signed by Seattle this summer. He has arbitration rights so a raise is coming to him, but he will still end up with an affordable contract.

Donato isn’t a dynamic scorer that is going to slide into your top line or even top six. As the Kraken add pieces to the top of the lineup and turn the roster over as they will this summer, Donato becomes even more valuable than he is now.

Seattle is playing him in elevated roles this year out of necessity, and the idea of a Ryan Donato in a support and depth role will strengthen the Kraken forward group tremendously.

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Seattle Kraken have decisions to make with 2 players on hot streaks