Takeaways From The Kraken’s Playoff Run, and Potential Moves this Offseason

A bad bounce here, an unlucky deflection there. A shot that rang off the post and back out onto the ice. There were a lot of mishaps this postseason that could have been avoided. Despite these setbacks, the Seattle Kraken played a solid season and postseason after their abysmal record the year before, which just so happened to be their first. Since the Kraken took the ice in September in the preseason, the hopes for the new team to do more damage than the previous year were low. They had sustained a record of  27-49-6, placing them last in the Pacific division. Over the offseason, the Kraken added a few new faces to the roster, including four former Stanley Cup finalists, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Andre Burokovsky, Justin Schultz, and Martin Jones. These additions to the team helped the Kraken ramp up their depth and scoring and enabled them to mend the chemistry between the Seattle players. During the 2022 NHL entry draft, they also added the promising talent of Shane Wright, who was projected by many to be the number one overall pick in the draft. He stayed with the Kraken up until the 2022 IIHF World Juniors, where he was subsequently sent down to the minors for conditioning. They expanded their roster further, after acquiring Eeli Tolvanen off of waivers from the Nashville Predators in December of 2022, proving to be a helpful addition to the team for the rest of the season, and into round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. These new players allowed the Kraken to see a much-needed and unexpected increase in their performance as they ended their regular season with a record of 46-28-8 as five separate players on the roster broke the 20-goal mark, demonstrating this team’s depth.

Speaking of depth, the Kraken really lives up to the Seattle sports saying, “Fear the Deep”. During the regular season, the Seattle Kraken saw all but three players on their roster score goals, twelve of them scoring over 10. During the postseason, we saw a similar story. During Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Seattle Kraken saw 15 different players make their mark on the scoresheet, with each player getting either 1 one or two pucks past the Avalanche goaltender. There was no one player that dominated the scoring, which is a promising sign when one is trying to build a well-balanced lineup. This trend continued into the second round against the Dallas Stars, with Carson Soucy adding his name to the already extensive list of scoring skaters in Game 4 of Round 2. The Kraken’s roster sees a lot of talent on all lines, and their season made that fact very obvious.

The Seattle Kraken wouldn’t have been able to pull off this incredible feat without their aggressive and physical style of play. Throughout the regular season, the Seattle Kraken were lackluster when it came to their physicality– placing 22nd in the league for hits by a team with 1,670. However, that changed DRASTICALLY with the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Immediately, the Kraken were throwing bodies left and right. Out of all players in the 2023 postseason, four skaters for the Kraken rank in the top ten; the most skaters out of all teams with Jamie Oleksiak leading the team’s hitters with 63 of them. Following him, are Adam Larsson, Yanni Gourde, and Brandon Tanev, with a combined hit total of 223 hits between the four of them alone. This helped push the Kraken to the top of the leaderboard in regards to hits, with a total of 575 all together. These Kraken players literally had that dog in ‘em. Even more impressive, despite this physicality, the Sealle Kraken managed to keep their penalties pretty low, coming in at 8th among all playoff teams. This allowed the Seattle club to force turnovers, disrupt play, and keep the puck in the offensive zone. 

The biggest spectacle for the Seattle Kraken this offseason was the golden glove of a particular mister Philipp Grubauer. He has absolutely CARRIED the Kraken this postseason and has helped the team get a lot of their wins. This postseason, he posted a .901 SV%, with all 14 games played, being replaced only once by Martin Jones in the final period of Game 4. Even in games where the Seattle club has lost, the Giant German still put on a showcase for the fans in every arena he played in, with excellent puck tracking, situational awareness, and athleticism. Unfortunately, the Kraken skaters were lacking in their ability to position themselves well, and provided less than adequate coverage for Grubauer, forcing him to make a bulk of the stops in nearly every game, despite the team’s high number of blocked shots. I found myself watching games throughout the postseason, screaming at the TV and telling the guys to get out of Philipp’s crease. Alas, my prayers fell on deaf ears, as I can recall a few goals where the puck deflected off of friendly skaters into the net, or when the Kraken just straight-up screened their own goaltender, allowing opportunities for both the Stars as well as the Avalanche to sneak pucks past Gru. While this was a problem for Seattle, I still believe that Philipp Grubauer played 14 spectacular games, and made a lasting impact on both series.

My next issue with Seattle’s play has got to be their faceoffs. In nearly every game this postseason, the Seattle Kraken has been dominated by their opponents on the faceoff dots. In the first round, the Kraken only won 181 faceoffs out of 402, with is not a fantastic look. They only beat out the Avs in game 4 in faceoffs, winning 37 to 29, a game they won, but only did so in overtime. Their series against the Stars wasn’t much different, as they didn’t go a single game beating their opponent in the circles. The ability to win those faceoffs is crucial to puck and game control, and this lack of faceoff ability came back to bite the Kraken in the rear, leading them to also be outshot in the majority of their games, both against the Avalanche as well as the Stars. This, however, has something to say about Seattle’s ability to get their shots into the back of the net, as a lower shot attempt with more goals is indicative of a higher shot accuracy, and a better ability to make opportunities for themselves.

While their ability to move the puck and make chances for themselves has shone through multiple times this series, the Kraken seem to have had a bit of a confidence issue going into this postseason. During the regular season, it wasn’t really there, as games during the first 82 were just… Well… Games. Another hockey game doesn’t carry the stress and demand that a playoff series game has, especially when facing elimination. I’m not going to say the Seattle Kraken choked– they didn’t even come close to meeting that definition. Jake Ottinger just happened to really buckle down in Game 7 versus The Deep, and keep the score low for the Kraken. Grubauer did the same, but his counterpart across the ice was just slightly better. However, this was the franchise’s first appearance in the Cup playoffs, and with any milestone such as this, there’s going to be some jitters, especially if the goal is to beat the expectations of nearly everyone. During every game in the First Round, the Kraken managed to net the first goal, making history as the first team to do so since the Toronto Arenas in 1918. Following these goals, if the Avalanche managed to score, this seemed to shake up the boys just a little bit, as their style of play seemed to deteriorate, signifying a reduction in their morale and confidence. The trend was amplified against the Stars, as their opening goal-scoring trend ended after Game 1 with the returning Joe Pavelski scoring first in the series opener. With the exception of the first contest, whatever team scored first went on to win that respective game. If the Kraken scored first, they would get hyped up and use that momentum to close the coffin. Unfortunately, if the Stars managed to net one first, it seemed as though the Kraken immediately started struggling to keep up. After seeing their play and how they responded to adversity, I don’t think the Kraken players expected to make it to the second round, let alone Game 7.

Overall, I would say the Kraken had a milestone season. They went into the playoffs hungry to prove those who doubted them wrong– and prove them wrong they did. That being said, they need to work on their defensive positioning and not rely on Grubauer to do the job of the defensemen, on top of minding the net. They also need to work on their faceoffs. My GOD do they need to work on faceoffs. With the number of successful scoring opportunities that they have made for themselves when comparing their shots on goal to their opponents, mastering the faceoff would turn them into an unstoppable machine. However, they can’t make these improvements unless they can trust in themselves to play in high stake situations such as the playoffs. Once they have these three problems under control, the Seattle Kraken will more than likely hoist the Stanley Cup high, or at the very least do a lot of damage to the team that does. As far as their roster is concerned, I don’t think they need to make any major changes. Going into this off-season, the Seattle Kraken will have a projected cap space of over $20 million, which is an ample amount of money to resign players and possibly add some fresh faces to the roster.

The unfortunate reality that the Seattle Kraken face going into the 2023-24 season is that they have 9 players facing the ends of their contracts. The good news is the majority of these players are restricted free agents (RFAs). This means that when other teams offer deals to these players coming out of their contracts, the Kraken have the opportunity to match their offers, in turn allowing Seattle to keep these players on the roster for the specified time given in the offering team’s terms. These players on RFA status going into the new season are Morgan Geekie, Daniel Sprong, Will Borgen, Vince Dunn, and Cale Fleury. For Geekie, Dunn, Sprong, and Borgen, I think the Kraken will make a great effort to keep those guys on the roster, as they made huge contributions to the team’s postseason run. If I were a betting man though, I think they’ll be letting Fleury go, as he only played 12 games during the regular season, with only one assist. This would open up some space for the already roomy salary cap, which would aid the team in re-signing some key players when the time comes. The remaining players that are facing their respective contract ends are Ryan Donato, Carson Soucy, Joonas Donskoi, and Chris Driedger. The Kraken won’t have the opportunity to match other teams’ offers however, as they are unrestricted free agents (UFAs), and have the complete freedom to stay or depart from the Kraken if they desire. Out of the remaining UFAs, I only expect Carson Soucy to stay with the team. During his exit interview, he was quoted saying, “I love this group. We battled for two years together and we’re growing something here. So obviously, I’d love to stay.” Soucy has 36 hits and 16 blocked shots in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, making him a valuable asset to the Kraken defensive core. While Ryan Donato did see some action in the playoffs, his performance was rather lackluster, as his only points during the postseason were earned through two assists. During the regular season with 72 games played, he scored 14 goals, which is average for a centerman. Earning a salary of $1.2 million, the Kraken will likely not extend Donaoto in the hopes to find another centerman to replace him.

Assuming Cale Fleury and Ryan Donato are out of the picture, this frees up almost $2 million in cap space, adding on to their already extensive $20.3 million in play money. Looking at the free agency going into the 2023-24 season, there are a lot of options available to the Kraken, and they have the opportunity to add some household names to their roster if they choose to do so. The smart move for the team would be to continue to increase their depth, as they’ve proven that depth wins games. As with any sport, depth allows a team to stay afloat when players are injured or out for other reasons. Taking this approach, Seattle should look at unrestricted free agents to avoid having their offers to potential candidates matched by their original teams. My first addition to the roster I think the Kraken should make is Derek Ryan. He’s reaching the end of his contract with the Edmonton Oilers and played 80 games this season with 13 goals and 7 assists. “MaN, ThAt’S a StUpiD piCk aFtEr YoU jUsT sAiD tHe KrAkEn ShOuLdN’t Re-SiGn DoNaTo”, yeah, well, I disagree. The reason I think that Derek Ryan would make a great fit is because he’s a versatile player. He can score, and he can also play defensive hockey. Not to mention, he was born in Spokane, Washington, and I believe that the feeling of being back in his home state could potentially set him up for a breakout season if he accepts an offer from the Kraken. It would cost Seattle at LEAST $1.2 million a year to sign him, as that is his current salary with the Oilers. The folks over at the Hockey Writers have already linked the Kraken to Ryan as early as February of this year, although they see the transaction as being a trade rather than the Seattle club picking him up after his contract expires. If that is to be the case, then the Kraken could do well to Trade Donato for Ryan.

Another potential candidate for the Seattle Kraken could be Leafs forward Alexander Kerfoot. Since their exit from the second round of their Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Maple Leafs organization has been turned completely upside down– first with the firing of GM Kyle Dubas after his intent to think things over before continuing his position in Toronto, followed by the resignation of Jason Spezza. With a new GM, many more could depart as well. This has caused many of the players on the Maple Leafs roster to begin questioning their own desires to stay with the organization as the July 1st deadline begins its approach. With an average of 12.3 goals and 24.2 assists per season, it’s unlikely that Brendan Shanahan and his new GM are willing to hold on to him with the intention of clearing house, even if Kerfoot is okay with extending with the Leafs at a discount. This would be an opportunity for the Seattle Kraken to pick him up, and give him a home where he’s comfortable and can flourish among an already diverse roster. Ethan Bear and Marc Staal could also be two additions that can be made to the roster this offseason, as they both could strengthen the Kraken’s defense tenfold. Acquiring Ethan Bear could be a challenge, however, as his contract with the Canucks will leave him open only as a restricted free agent, and the Canucks can match any deal offered to him. That being said, the Kraken have plenty of money to play with.

If the Seattle hockey club wanted to make some huge moves this off-season, they could do that as well. As I mentioned earlier, they have over $20 million worth of cap space, and that can bring a lot of household names to the Puget Sound, especially if those players wanted to make an impact on a new franchise. If the Kraken wanted to use up that cap space quickly, they could potentially look at Timo Meier, who put up 40 goals in 72 games this season. Although it would cost the Kraken a pretty penny, he would make a nice addition to the Kraken’s top lines with Jared McCann. Sitting on Seattle’s injured reserve is Joonas Donskoi. while he had a bad season with only two goals, he would make an excellent bargaining chip in transactions as large as this. Timo Meier was already being linked to the Kraken before this season’s trade deadline, and if the New Jersey Devils for some reason decide not to extend him, or don’t want to match an offer made by the Kraken, he would be a perfect fit on the Seattle roster. Ian Cole is also looking at the end of his contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. While he hasn’t got many goals, his plus/minus for the regular season was 13, indicating his skill as a defenseman, and comparatively cheap with a cap hit of $3 million.

Do I think any of these transactions will happen? Not necessarily, but they are likely and could be beneficial to the overall structure of the Seattle Kraken. With as much money as they have available to them, the Kraken can do a lot in terms of building upon the strong playoff foundation that they’ve laid out for themselves, and they don’t even really need to get rid of any players to expand their talent. Thanks to the thriving hockey market of the SeaTac area, as well as Washington State as a whole, they have a lot more freedom than a lot of other franchises do at the moment, which will also make their ability to acquire desirable players that much easier. In fact, they’re 7th in the league when it comes to available cap space. Any team with that level of negotiating ability should be able to literally make money moves, and secure a jacked roster heading into the 2023/24 season. At this point in the game, the key for the Kraken is to work on the above-mentioned issues they’ve been faced with this postseason, and acquire the right players that will assist the team in their quest to patch the holes in their ship. Undoubtedly, GM Ron Francis will make the right choices to propel the Seattle Kraken into yet another successful season.

#SeaKraken #FearTheDeep

Author: Sebastian Towles

Hello! I'm the newest writer covering the newest franchise in the NHL. Originally born in Oklahoma and raised in North Carolina, I moved to Spokane in July of 2021, and fell in love with the city that eventually introduced me to hockey through the WHL. A Leafs fan at heart, I'll be bringing you some great stories about the Seattle Kraken, and more.

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