Why Seattle Kraken were right to stand pat at NHL Trade Deadline
What a difference a year makes. At this time last season, the Kraken were buried in the standings and general manager Ron Francis was busy on NHL trade deadline day. Francis traded away any player who was an unrestricted free agent, resulting in six players moved and he did a great job of collecting draft chips and freeing up space on the salary cap.
This year’s trade deadline hit Friday afternoon and Francis and the Kraken did … well, nothing.
It didn’t come as a surprise since Francis had been preparing us all week, commenting on how no major moves should be the expectation.
“I’ve said all along, I like our group,” Francis said after the deadline passed on Friday. “We did a lot of the work kind of in the summertime and I think we’re seeing the results on the ice with our players. And we liked the group, like I said, and felt that give them the chance to get in the playoffs, which we all want to do. I think they’ve earned that opportunity.”
Trades to improve your team don’t have to happen in March.
Friday, Francis referred to the eight new faces on the club versus last year. Many of those contributors did come during the summer.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, who scored twice, including an overtime winner, during Thursday’s win in Detroit, came to Seattle for a third- and fourth-round pick. With the prices thrown around in the last couple of weeks, there is no way Seattle would have picked up a player of his caliber for less. Daniel Sprong has had a breakout season for the Kraken and he was a guy that Francis first acquired during last spring’s trade deadline and brought back this fall.
They also picked up Eeli Tolvanen off waivers for nothing in December and he’s turned into a great producer this year. Was there a Tolvanen-type of player available at this deadline? One that would cost zero draft picks and still have some term left on their contract?
Highly unlikely, and it was more of a rental market this year.
“If you get into the rental market, you’re giving up assets, whether that’s prospects, whether that’s players, whether that’s picks, to get somebody that you’re going to use for a few months,” Francis said. “You’re hopeful that you get to the Stanley Cup Final and that you win it – that’s what the rental market is all about. We look at multiple things. We look at our team. We like our team. It’s been a good team all year. They’ve shown they can win and compete against the best in the league. So we’re comfortable with our group.”
For the team, hearing that your general manager has that kind of faith in the group as is has to be a motivating force moving forward.
Francis said he’s spoken with some induvial players, but was hoping to get to address the group, as will head coach Dave Hakstol.
“They’ve played hard for each other all season long,” Francis said. “I don’t think that’s going to change here once we get beyond the deadline. If anything, probably relax a little bit because it’s a nervous time of year. You never know what’s going on, there are all kinds of rumors and stuff. So now they can put that in the rearview mirror and focus on the task at hand, and that’s winning hockey games and getting into the playoffs.”
There were rumors right up to the noon deadline on Friday. League insiders reported that Seattle was in on Philadelphia Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk and Anaheim Ducks defenseman Jonathan Klingberg. There were also reports that Francis and the Kraken were listening to phone calls about defensemen Carson Soucy and Will Borgen.
None of those rumors turned out to be true.
“It’s an interesting time of year,” Francis said. “There were a lot of rumors that were coming our way. I never comment on whether they’re true or not. But let’s just say there was a lot there and more than a few not accurate. Let’s just put it that way. I don’t really comment on what’s out there in regard to rumors.”
Staying pat the right move?
While the Kraken didn’t make a splash this week, it was the right way to go in the long run.
By not selling away any assets for a rental player they maintained the building path they’re on. The upcoming 2023 NHL Draft is set up to be one of the deepest drafts in memory and Francis has 10 picks, including four in the first 61 selections. He’ll be able to continue to stock the Kraken pipeline or use those picks for summer trades that could bring in more long-term players.
Being in the position they’re in, it would have been easy to go all in, but it would come at a cost that the Kraken just are not in a place to afford, they’re still building.
“To add another piece just add a piece and overpay at this point. You factor in is that really going to help you?” Francis said. “Is it going to push the needle a lot or a little bit? Is it going to mess up your chemistry? Is it gonna mess up what’s happening with your team right now. And as I said, we like the group we have, we believe in the group we have and we think that they’ve earned this opportunity if through their body or to this point and you know, complete faith in them.”
Francis is of course right.
He also correctly pointed out that they did do things to make the team better. Last year’s deadline set up the summer, and they got and are getting a full season out of Matty Beniers this year. They also picked up Tolvanen and made an early February trade to pick up Jaycob Megna from San Jose to add defensive help.
Andre Burakovsky was another summer pickup who was leading the team in scoring prior to getting hurt in February, and he too expects to return to the fold.
“Burky is training hard in the gym and I was a little busy today, so I didn’t get confirmation, but I believe he was getting on the ice today,” Francis said. ‘’So that would be his first day back on the ice.”
It is hard to imagine they could have picked up a player with Burakovsky’s skill via a trade. While it may not have been as fun or exciting for the fans, standing pat this week may ultimately pay off for Francis and the Kraken. They still are in playoff position and did not sell the future for the next couple of years.
With the deadline come and passed, the focus now is on points and wins in a final stretch march to the playoffs. That continues Friday night in Columbus.
Oliver Bjorkstrand’s OT goal gives Kraken 5-4 win over Red Wings