Kraken Breakdown: The impact of Seattle’s top 4 offseason additions

Nov 25, 2022, 11:04 AM | Updated: Feb 5, 2023, 3:39 pm
Seattle Kraken Martin Jones Justin Schultz...
Martin Jones and Justin Schultz celebrate a Seattle Kraken win on Oct. 29, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Kraken finished off a season-long, six-game homestand Wednesday with a crazy 8-5 win against the San Jose Sharks. They finished the homestand with a 4-1-1 record which lifted them to second in the Pacific Division as they prepare for a Friday night test against the first-place Vegas Golden Knights.

What’s allowing Seattle Kraken to have success in OT, close games?

Seattle has started strong and the improvements over last season are obvious. Much of that improvement came from the additions they made this summer, both through free agency and trades.

The new additions have all paid off so far and are contributing to the Kraken’s early success. Here’s a look at the new guys and how they’ve helped.

Martin Jones, goalie

Signed to a one-year, $2 million contract this past summer, Jones was to be a stopgap to fill in for Chris Driedger, who injured his knee at the IIHF and is expected to be out long-term.

Jones, 32, was formerly the starter in San Jose but had fallen out of favor with the Sharks and was relegated to the backup spot in Philadelphia last season. Turns out he just may be the Kraken MVP for the first quarter of the season.

Forced into the No. 1 goalie position thanks to an injury to Philipp Grubauer, Jones has played better than anyone expected.

So far with Seattle, he’s appeared in 16 games, starting 15 of them, while having a 10-4-2 record, 2.49 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. He was just named one of the NHL stars of the week, and it’s hard to imagine where the Kraken would be without him.

He looks like the Jones of old who led the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016. For whatever reason, he has found the fountain of youth in Seattle and the Kraken are reaping the rewards.

Jones plays a very steady goal with great positioning and an economy of motion. He rarely looks rattled, even when there is a scramble in front of him. His calmness in net has influenced the skaters, who are quickly gaining confidence in him.

With Grubuaer now back and available it will be interesting how coach Dave Hakstol handles the goalie rotation. Jones has been the starter in the two games that Grubauer has been back for. With a three-game road trip against division opponents starting, expect Jones to be front and center.

Andre Burakovsky, forward

After turning in a career season in 2021-22 for the Colorado Avalanche with 22 goals and 61 points, Burakovsky was an attractive free-agent target for the Kraken this summer.

They landed the 27-year-old from Sweden, who is the owner of two Stanley Cup rings, signing him to a five-year, $5.5 million deal. So far, it’s been a great fit.

“I feel good about being here,” Burakovsky said last week at practice. “I like it a lot, the team is great, we are winning games. I feel good about my game and like where we’re living now, it’s good.”

The feeling is mutual and Burakovsky has delivered. Through the first 19 games, he leads the Kraken in scoring with 18 points on five goals and 13 assists. He’s been one of the big reasons that Seattle has been better offensively this season.

Goals and assists have helped, but he’s been a play driver, and with Burakovsky on the ice at 5-on-5 the Kraken have taken 52.48% of the shot attempts. His previous stops with Colorado and the Washington Capitals have seen him play behind some of the NHL’s biggest superstars. He’s not convinced you need superstars to win.

“I think we’ve kind of proved that we don’t need to have that,” Burakovsky said. “Our strength on this team is that we’re a really deep team and we have four lines that can win any matchup they’re playing, and so we’ve just proved it.”

The Kraken hope they can keep winning without a superstar.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, forward

In one of the more savvy trades that general manager Ron Francis has pulled off so far in his tenure, he was able to leverage cap space and trade assets to pry Bjorkstrand out of Columbus for just a third- and fourth-round draft pick this July.

Bjorstrand is an offensive threat and can shoot from everywhere on the ice.

He has had bad luck, hitting several posts, which have limited him to just a pair of goals so far. But that slow start in scoring has not stopped Bjorkstrand from being a part of the Kraken attack.

Bjorkstrand has assisted on eight goals and been a puck possession monster, and the Kraken have taken 54.88% percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts when he’s been on the ice. Safe to say that Seattle is pushing the pace when Bjorkstrand is out for a shift.

The scoring will come, and his pretty backhanded goal Wednesday could be what breaks the dam and gets him going.

Justin Schultz, defense

Perhaps a signing that was somewhat overlooked, the Kraken added the veteran Schultz on a two-year, $2 million contract this summer with hopes the 32-year-old would bolster the team’s power play.

The power play has improved but Schultz’s presence has had a bigger impact. He’s an offensive-minded defenseman who has scored three times and is second among Kraken defensemen in scoring with 11 points so far.

Playing close to home, Kraken newcomer Justin Schultz coming up big

“It’s been good for guys. We all get along really well,” Schultz said. “We have chemistry and having fun right now – everything’s fun when you’re winning, right? So we’ve just got to try to keep this going. Seattle’s been awesome so I’m enjoying it.”

When his defensive partner, Jamie Oleksiak, got hurt in early November, Schultz was the guy who played with Cale Fleury and AHL call-up Gustav Olofsson, which allowed Hakstol to avoid scrambling his pairings. There was little to no difference in how Seattle played defensively.

Schultz has fit in nicely and some of that may be due to his familiarity with many Kraken. Having previously played in Edmonton, Pittsburgh and Washington, he had already played with several guys on the Kraken roster.

“Washington and Pittsburgh, when I got traded there, I didn’t know anyone,” Schultz said. “That’s a lot different here, I knew a bunch of guys actually so made it easier to come in. Like my wife, she knew these guys’ significant others and made it easy on all of us.”

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