Seattle Kraken Breakdown: A look at top 3 adds in free agency

Jul 20, 2022, 10:02 AM

The so-called “NHL Free Agency Frenzy” kicked off a week ago, and while there were free agent signings, it wasn’t much of a frenzy. When the humble puff of dust settled, the Seattle Kraken had made three acquisitions to improve the current roster, along with several signings to bolster the roster for the Coachella Valley Firebirds, their new AHL affiliate.

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Prior to free agency, Seattle general manager Ron Francis talked about how aggressive the team planned on being in free agency. Since it started, he has brought in Andre Burakovksy from the Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche, defenseman Justin Schultz from the Washington Capitals, and goalie Martin Jones from the Philadelphia Flyers. Those players are surely upgrades but wouldn’t fall in the category of aggressive.

So what happened?

For starters, the market wasn’t set up for aggressiveness. One of the top free agent targets, Nashville Predators winger Filip Forsberg, was re-signed by Nashville and never made it to free agency. The other big fish was Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, who shocked the hockey world by leaving money on the table and surprisingly signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets in a move more about family and home than dollars.

One of the biggest factors in what the Kraken did in free agency was the arrival of first-round pick Shane Wright. While Francis said they saw a potential set of circumstances that would give them a shot of drafting the center fourth overall in Montreal, he had to be surprised that it actually happened.

It had an effect on how the Kraken proceeded into the free agency pool.

“It certainly changed our approach at centerman,” Francis said. “If you’re out there looking for centermen and you gotta give him seven years, that’s a big number. We’re looking at Matty Beniers and Shane Wright thinking we don’t need to do that at this point.”

Feeling set down the middle, the Kraken could sit back a bit on picking up new players. It should be mentioned that as of Wednesday, though, free agents such as center Nazem Kadri, left wing Nino Niederreiter and defenseman John Klingberg are still out there.

It feels like the team is unlikely to make any high-priced acquisitions at this point, however. There are still players who could come available and there’s always the specter of trades to be had, but the Kraken appear to be done spending big money.

“You try and make the best decision for your team now but also in the future,” Francis said. “With those two young centerman coming, Matty’s contract can be up in two years and Shane Wright’s contract is probably gonna be up in three years. So making sure that we don’t box ourselves in a corner and having the cap flexibility to pay those guys moving forward is important, as well.”

That’s not to say Francis sat idly by last week. He picked up players that will help the roster now and hopefully add much-needed offense.

Are the Seattle Kraken a playoff team now? That remains to be seen, but for now, here’s a look at the newest Kraken players.

Andre Burakovsky, LW

6-foot-3, 201 pounds, 27 years old
Former team: Colorado Avalanche
Contract: Five years, $5.3 million a year

Bringing size and scoring to the Kraken forward group, Burakovsky is also a two-time Stanley Cup winner – first with Washington in 2018 and this spring with the Avalanche. He’s coming off a career year in which he had 22 goals, not counting the clutch goals he scored for Colorado in the Stanley Cup Final.

His underlying possession numbers are good, and he was a positive possession player last year. His career shooting of 14% has been consistent throughout his time in the NHL. Playing behind offensive superstars in Colorado, Burakovsky averaged under two shots a game last season but should have an opportunity for more with Seattle.

“Up front with Burakovsky, this guy’s in the right age group at 27,” Francis said. “He’s got good speed, he’s got good playmaking abilities, and he’s got a heck of a shot. We think getting here and having a little bit more opportunity hopefully helps him reach his potential.”

Justin Schultz, RD

6-2, 186 pounds, 32 years old
Former team: Washington Capitals
Contract: Two years, $3 million a year

The Kraken added veteran presence to their blue line in another player who has a Stanley Cup pedigree, with Schultz winning with Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017. He’s a right-shot defenseman, which was needed on the Kraken roster, and Schultz will most likely end up in Seattle’s top two pairings and top power-play unit.

“Certainly, we think Schultz is a guy that can do that,” Francis said. “He hasn’t had much of an opportunity playing behind (Washington’s John) Carlson and probably in Pittsburgh behind (Kris Letang). We think that’ll be a good opportunity for him.”

Schultz had two goals and five assists on the power play last year with the Capitals. Overall, he scored four times with 29 assists. The Kraken could use help on the power play after finishing 29th in the NHL last season with a 14.6 success rate.

Martin Jones, G

6-4, 190 pounds, 32 years old
Former team: Philadelphia Flyers
Contract: One year, $2 million

There was a time when Jones looked to be the next up-and-coming young goaltender in the NHL. He led the San Jose Sharks to the Stanley Cup final in 2017 where they lost to Schultz’s Penguins. As some goalies do, he started to regress and struggled enough to lose the No. 1 goalie slot with the Sharks.

Last season, Jones played 35 games for the Flyers and posted a modest .900 save percentage. For Seattle, he’s a stop-gap for a season while Chris Driedger recovers from a knee injury he suffered at the IIHF World Championship.

Jones has enough veteran savvy to spell top Kraken goalie Philip Grubauer when needed, but will have to beat out Joey Daccord in training camp first. Francis said both goalies will be in the mix, making the backup spot a battle to watch during this fall’s camp and preseason.

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