It’s safe to assume that the 2021-22 season has not gone to plan for the Seattle Kraken, as the expansion franchise currently languishes at the bottom of the NHL’s Pacific Division and sits an underwhelming 26th in the overall standings. It’s too early to claim that the season is a lost cause, but historical evidence suggests that general manager Ron Francis and his support staff should begin to gauge the value of their roster assets ahead of March’s trade deadline. Recognizing that the calendar has yet to turn to 2022, here are three premature trade candidates for the Kraken to dangle in front of hopeful Stanley Cup contenders.
Mark Giordano, Defenseman
A trade involving Giordano, the Kraken’s first-ever captain, is a shocking proposition. He’s easily the most tenured skater on the roster and provides a virtuous example for the team’s young blueliners. Yet, their disappointing results through the first two months of the season suggest that the pending Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) is more valuable to the team as a trade-chip rather than as a key driver of their future aspirations.
Despite his advanced age, the 38-year-old rearguard has scored seven points in 19 games and forms one-half of Seattle’s most effective defensive pairing in terms of five-on-five expected goals share (57.6 xGF%) with the hulking Jamie Oleksiak. Most impressively, the duo ranks 12th in 5v5 expected goals against per-60-minutes, giving the Kraken a secure option to deploy in high-pressure situations.
It’s not as though Oleksiak is necessarily the key factor in the pair’s success either, as Giordano posts better results away from Oleksiak (52.9% vs. 47.2%) than the reverse. If paired with a defensively responsible partner, Giordano can still drive offense as a more attacking option from the back-end.
While his sizeable $6.75-million cap hit is deterring, up to 50% of that total can be retained by Seattle in a trade, and the hit can be mitigated even further by involving a third party to retain an additional 50 percent. A minor No-Trade Clause (NTC) which prohibits a trade to 13 NHL teams, slightly shrinks the number of possibilities. Adding a wizened veteran for a playoff push is an appetizing proposal for any legitimate Cup threat.
Calle Jarknkrok, Forward
The 30-year-old Swedish forward is another of Seattle’s few pending UFAs, making $2-million against the cap this season. His depressed counting stats (2 points in 14 games) is disconcerting after producing at a 37-point pace over the past three seasons (2018-2021), but his on-ice results lend some reassurance to potential suitors.
As a versatile member of Seattle’s underappreciated forward group, Jarnkrok has posted a Corsi For (shot attempts) rating of 50.5%, and the team is controlling over 60% of high-danger chances with him on the ice. Public micro-stat data gleaned from Corey Sznajder’s tracking project shows that he’s an above-average creator of offense off of the forecheck, an invaluable skill-set to have in the holster come playoff time. Teams will love that he has 63 games of playoff experience – including Nashville’s 2017 Stanley Cup run – and it would not be surprising to see Jarnkrok garner an eye-brow-raising draft pick in a potential trade.
Marcus Johansson, Forward
The third and final trade option for the Kraken is Marcus Johansson, the cost-efficient ($1.5-million cap hit) pending UFA, whose six points in 14 games this season suggests the 31-year-old still has something left in the tank.
He’s hovering around a break-even shot- and chance-share at 5v5, and is generating nearly eight shots per-60 – a top-six rate that puts him 133rd among forwards. Additionally, his on-ice shooting percentage and goals for share are well below average, which indicates he’s bound to benefit from a welcome regression to the mean for puck luck in the near future.
Johansson came advertised with plenty of playoff experience (97 games, three shy of the century mark) and played the role of trade deadline hero with the 2018-19 Boston Bruins. He tallied 11 points in 22 postseason appearances as the Bruins succumbed to the St. Louis Blues in seven games at the final hurdle. For prospective Stanley Cup favorites, adding a cheap Swiss Army Knife capable of facilitating clean zone entries and creating chances off of the rush to your lineup is a no-brainer.
Are the Kraken Headed for a Rebuild?
Before the Kraken faithful jump down my throat for throwing out the possibility of a rebuild after a single year of existence, consider their stockpile of draft assets. In the next three entry drafts (2022-2024), the Kraken hold only ten picks over the first three rounds, not early enough for a team clearly a cut below the Western Conference contenders. They may be better served to construct a prospect pipeline that feeds into future success rather than prioritizing immediate success in the hopes of energizing a fanbase still in its infancy – much to ponder.