It’s possible Seattle Kraken can contend next season — here’s how
Since the NHL trade deadline last week, the Seattle Kraken have won two of three games, all on the road. Overall, they’ve won four of their last six games, but that doesn’t mean that general manager Ron Francis can kick, back, dust his hands off and relax.
No, he still has major work to do.
Seattle Kraken players with most to gain after flurry of trades
On the recent road trip, the Kraken split a two-game series with the Los Angeles Kings, one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Los Angeles is where Seattle wants to be, jockeying for a top seed in the playoffs.
A season prior, the Kings were where the Kraken are now – well out of the playoff race and playing out the final few weeks of the season. That should be inspirational to the Kraken as Los Angeles was able to get moving in the right direction thanks to its offseason.
The Kings did not overhaul their roster, and they didn’t go out and spend a ton of money. Rather, they made a couple of shrewd signings and turned their team around. Francis’ trades left the Kraken loaded with draft picks – a number of which come in the second round – but can those picks turn the team into a playoff contender next season?
In the history of the NHL, it’s not rare for teams to turn into contenders in one season. In 2016-17, the Colorado Avalanche won 23 games (the Kraken won their 21st on Monday), and the next year jumped up to 43 wins and made the playoffs. In 2006-07, the Philadelphia Flyers won 22 games and rebounded the following season to win 42 games and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Those are just two examples, but every season there are teams that jump from also-rans to playoff teams, and that will be the task at hand for Francis. He has publicly spoken about his goal is to do this quickly rather than have it be a prolonged rebuild.
So what do the Kraken need and do they have the assets to make it happen?
What the Seattle Kraken have going for them
What the Kings and other teams that turned around quickly had going for them was organizational depth. Seattle doesn’t have that yet, but Francis is in a position to build that along with getting the Kraken competitive quickly.
Francis has two main weapons in his arsenal for a quick rebuild.
First up is the number of draft picks that he acquired before the trade deadline. Francis stockpiled them and has 12 picks in the 2022 NHL Draft – including five in the second round – and 13 the following year. The tricky thing about NHL Draft picks is that players taken rarely play with the team the season after they’re drafted. Most will return to their amateur teams, as the Kraken’s first-round pick Matty Beniers did this year when he spent a second season at Michigan.
So those draft picks that Francis picked up aren’t going to help the on-ice product improve in the short term, but they will go a long way to building that depth in the team’s pipeline.
That’s not the whole equation with the draft picks, however. Francis has stated that he hopes not to use all these picks but rather sees them as assets to acquire players via trade. If the Kraken are after a player, throwing a pair of second-round picks into the deal may help swing the chances of completing a trade in Seattle’s favor.
Francis also has the salary cap space to help improve the team, and he has a lot of it.
According to CapFriendly.com, the Kraken have over $50 million in cap space projected for next season. That’s a big number, and while Seattle will eat into that by retaining the restricted free agents currently on the roster, it will end up with a sizeable war chest to go after top free agents as well as take on salary via trades.
What the Kraken need
The Kraken’s biggest need is goal-scoring.
Seattle has struggled to score goals consistently this year and the Kraken are near the bottom of the league with 2.25 goals per 60 minutes. The Kraken lose close games mainly because they don’t have enough skill to find that one goal that ends up costing them.
Those numbers have to improve next year, so Francis will need to bring in more skill.
Matty Beniers will be in the mix to help offensively, and there is the potential of a player that Seattle lands at the top of this year’s draft stepping into the NHL right away. However, it may be too much to ask rookies to carry the load offensively so Francis will need to handle free agency wisely and look to bring in offensive players to add to what could be a solid core.
The good news is that he is armed with the cap space to go after the high-end free agents that will be out there, and the approval from ownership to spend to the cap. Two of the big names the Kraken could make a run at this summer will be Filip Forsberg from the Nashville Predators and Johnny Gaudreau from the Calgary Flames.
While it would be quite the jackpot to land two top-tier free agents, getting even one would vastly help the roster. A player like Forsberg is an elite finisher, something the Kraken are lacking, and Gaudreau is a play-making center that makes the players around him better. Put him on Seattle’s top line and the team takes a drastic leap forward.
For a quick rebuild, it will have to be a combination of using the team’s cap space wisely to add free agents and employing draft assets to swing key trades. It’s all there for Francis, and now the challenge is to pull the right strings and make the right choices.
Breaking down the Seattle Kraken after their six deals at trade deadline