Salk: Kraken should look to Maple Leafs for offseason upgrades

May 19, 2023, 11:21 AM | Updated: 11:23 am

Seattle Kraken trade Auton Matthews...

Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets set for a faceoff on April 18, 2023. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

(Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The Seattle Kraken had a great second season, recording 100 points in the standings, making the playoffs, knocking off the defending champs in Round 1 and pushing the Dallas Stars to Game 7 in Round 2.

So what’s next?

How Seattle Kraken are primed to build off playoff run in a major way

The good news for the Kraken is the majority of their roster is set to return this upcoming season.

Top defenseman Vince Dunn is a restricted free agent, as is fellow D-man Will Borgen, center/winger Morgan Geekie and winger Daniel Sprong. Center/winger Ryan Donato is an urestricted free agent, as is backup goaltender Martin Jones and defenseman Carson Soucy.

Seattle also has 10 picks in July’s draft, including three in the second round, and the Kraken currently are ninth in available cap space, per Spotrac.

So how do the Kraken build off a playoff run that saw them fall just a game short of reaching the Western Conference Final?

“There’s two ways to do it,” Mike Salk said during Wednesday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports. “You can continue to build through the draft and through the young guys – and they do have a lot of picks and they do have some young guys coming and all of that – or you can take advantage of some of the veterans that are on this team like (Jordan) Eberle that aren’t going to be around or relevant forever and try to add what it is they need. And I look at this team, and there’s any number of places you could point at, but for the most part, they need a scorer. They need a big-time player that they don’t have.”

Top players aren’t always available in trade or free agency, but Salk thinks that a 2022-23 playoff team is a franchise the Kraken should reach out to for offseason trade talks.

“You’ve got four guys in Toronto … that make up 49% of their cap. They’re top-heavy. It’s not a good way to build it,” Salk said. “… If you were to add one of those guys, I think you could really help yourself. And it’s not a great free agent year … There just aren’t a lot of great options in free agency. But if you look at Toronto, you’ve got four guys.”

The first guy? Center/winger John Tavares, the team’s 32-year-old captain. Tavares was the No. 1 pick in 2009 by the New York Islanders and he signed a lucrative free-agent deal with the Maple Leafs in the 2018 offseason.

“He’s a little bit older. (He had) 36 goals last year,” Salk said. “What I like about him, 18 of (his goals) come on the power play. Eighteen of his 36 came on the power play. You need that. You’ve got two years left at big money, he’s got a no-trade clause … but you probably wouldn’t have to give up as much to acquire him because he’s older.”

After that are two wingers – Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

Marner, 26, was the fourth overall pick by Toronto back in 2015 and has been with the Maple Leafs ever since.

“Mitch Marner led the Leafs in points this year. More of a setup guy, so I don’t know whether he’s what you need – he’s also a winger and I’d rather see them find a center. I just think he’d be a little redundant on this team,” Salk said.

Nylander, 27, is “kind of a wild card,” Salk said.

“He’s grown into it more than the other guys who are sort of more ‘blue blooded’ or expected to be great from the beginning,” Salk said of the No. 8 pick in the 2014 draft. “He’s now become a 40-goal scorer over time, and there’s only one year left on his deal, so maybe he’s tradeable.”

The last one is the big prize, and would certainly make many heads turn in the NHL world.

“And then the last one is the guy that I would love to see them go after and that’s Auston Matthews,” Salk said. “He’s a stud. He’s the prize.”

Matthews, 25, is a center who the Maple Leafs drafted first overall in 2016. He currently has one year left on his contract and has a no-trade clause that kicks in July 1. It’s expected he and Toronto are going to try and negotiate a new deal this offseason. But if a deal doesn’t happen, Matthews would certainly be a game-changer for the Kraken or any other team that trades for him.

“Maybe the cost is so much, but he’s 25 years old. This is his last season under his deal. So if you’re trading for him, you’re signing him to a big time deal,” Salk said. “He has scored 40 Plus goals and five of his seven seasons in the league, including one where there was only 51 games and he still got over 40.”

“If he were here as a No. 1 center, that could allow Matty Beniers to be what I think he truly is – an unbelievable No. 2, two-way center who can do it all – I think you’re looking at a team that can challenge for the Cup next year,” Salk later added. “And you’ve got to give up a lot to get him. You’ve gotta give up (2022 No. 4 overall pick) Shane Wright and draft picks and more.”

Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the player below.

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