Back in December, I highlighted three Seattle Kraken players who were likely trade candidates ahead of the NHL’s March 21st deadline. The Kraken stumbled out of the gate and looked in tough to qualify for the playoffs in their inaugural season. Over two months later, the situation offers much of the same for the expansion franchise. They rank 30th out of 32 teams in the overall standings (36 points in 49 games) and are bottom 10 in both goals and goals against per game.
As a result, the franchise should adopt a focus on rebuilding from the ground up and trade off a considerable number of assets, which should have been the directive from the beginning. You can’t change the past, though, so righting the ship in the lead-up to the trade deadline is the necessary first step towards redemption. Here are the three players that Seattle should auction off to kickstart their efforts at a retool.
Mark Giordano, Defenseman
In terms of what to expect from a 38-year-old defenseman clearly at the tail-end of a storied career, Mark Giordano has delivered at both ends of the ice. He’s scored 20 points in 43 games, leading all Kraken blueliners, and has formed one-half of the team’s most dependable defense pairings alongside the hulking Jamie Oleksiak.
At 5-on-5, Seattle controls 53% of expected goals, 52% of unblocked shot attempts and have kept an even ledger in terms of actual goals (12 for, 13 against) with the duo on the ice. Giordano hasn’t looked out of his element while playing over 21 minutes a night, and he’d very likely see easier minutes if moved to a contender.
The veteran rearguard is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) this summer, and his contract counts for just under $7-million against the cap. The Kraken have the room to retain half of his salary to help grease the wheels for any cap-strapped bidders and could take back an unsavory contract to add to their haul for Giordano.
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As Giordano’s strongest impact looks to be on the power play at this stage of his career, many teams could turn to him to bolster their efficiency with the man-advantage. One trade candidate to look out for could be the sneakily good Minnesota Wild. They rank 15th in power-play conversion (20.3%) and lack a playmaking threat on the back-end. Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, and Alex Goligoski make up a quartet of robust defenders, but only Dumba has shown glimpses of above-average offensive quality in his time in the NHL.
If the Wild add, they must acquire extremely short-term fixes, with the cap-hit of the twin buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter rising from around $4-million this season to $12-million in 2022-23. Giordano’s on an expiring deal, giving the Wild the flexibility to add him without worrying about how he might fit in next season.
Someone like 22-year-old Connor Dewar (11 points in 12 AHL games this season) and a first- or second-round pick could go back the other way to Seattle in return. Giordano might not be the Norris Trophy-caliber defenseman that he once was, but he still has much to offer as the fourth to sixth defenseman on a strong team.
Calle Jarnkrok, Forward
Although the NHL’s annual trade deadline frequently fails to live up to the hype as big names being bandied about for weeks go unmoved, less-heralded pieces are often all the rage. In Calle Jarnkrok, potential suitors can count on a player capable of lining up in any of the three forward positions and who boasts considerable penalty-killing experience to boot.
For his career, the 30-year-old utility man has scored at a 15-goal, 35-point pace over 82 games and has been on track to set career-highs in all three of goals, assists, and points. He’s missed 12 of Seattle’s 49 games this season which means he won’t post the actual numbers, but by rate, this has been one of his productive campaigns to date.
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Jarnkrok is the team’s fifth-most utilized skater while shorthanded this season (1:30 minutes a night) and sits third among Kraken forwards. Although Seattle’s penalty kill has underwhelmed this season (27th in kill efficiency), that’s not entirely Jarnkrok’s fault. Of the 12 Kraken skaters to have played at least 25 shorthanded minutes this season, his per-60 expected goals against rate (PK xGA/60) ranks sixth and third among forwards.
Like Giordano, Jarnkrok is unsigned after this season and only carries a $2-millon cap hit at the moment. He’s affordable, productive, and tactically versatile, three traits that make general managers salivate at the thought of harvesting for their own.
As every team looks for a dependable two-way presence at the deadline, the Kraken should be able to procure at least a third-round pick or solid prospect for Jarnkrok’s services. He’s of more use to a contender than to the Kraken at this point in their competitive timeline.
Joonas Donskoi, Forward
It’s safe to say that the 2021-22 season hasn’t gone to plan for Joonas Donskoi. The Finnish-winger was plucked from the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche at the expansion draft and was coming off of a 50-point pace 2020-21 campaign. While his assist rate has been left unscathed, Donskoi is snake-bitten in the goalscoring department.
After scoring at a 16-goal pace over his career before this season, Donskoi has only potted a solitary tally through 48 appearances in 2021-22. Excluding this calamitous year, the former Avalanche and San Jose Sharks player converted at a 12% clip. That mark has dropped precipitously to 1.7% this season, one of the harshest regressions in shooting luck that I’ve ever witnessed.
His depressed production and not insignificant cap hit of $3.9-million could scare off potential suitors, but Donskoi should experience a positive rebound in his conversion soon. He’s also still relatively young at only 29 years of age, and his contract runs for only one additional season after this one. Donskoi is responsible defensively, presenting a career 52.7% Corsi For (CF) rating, demonstrating that he doesn’t get overwhelmed shot-wise at even-strength.
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If the Kraken could retain a portion of his salary, a $2-million or $2.5-million Donskoi immediately becomes much more attractive on the open market. Astute executives will note that his abysmal shooting luck shouldn’t continue and that he could fortify any contender’s top-nine forward group.
Any teams which need to improve their zone-transition efforts should take a look at the unlucky winger. His 65% controlled zone entry rate (entering the offensive zone with possession of the puck) ranks third among Kraken forwards this season. Teams like the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers both flail during 5-on-5 play and struggle to enter the zone cleanly, making Donskoi the perfect antidote. Both teams have enough cap space to play with, and salary retention could make him even more affordable.
Just food for thought, Ken Holland. The McDavid Doomsday Clock is ticking; better do something about it before it’s too late.
General Manager Ron Francis Must Be Active In Trade Talks
It’s difficult to fathom, but Ron Francis’ job should be in jeopardy if he doesn’t effectively navigate this year’s trade deadline to make up for his mistakes in the expansion process.
With the only significant pending free agents being Giordano and Jared McCann (restricted free agent), the Kraken likely look very similar come next season. Consequently, it wouldn’t be a shock to see finish near the bottom of the standings once more in 2022-23, suggesting this team is further from contention than initially thought.
In the first three rounds of the three upcoming drafts, Seattle only owns an extra second-round pick in 2023, courtesy of the Winnipeg Jets. The team’s prospect pool is barren, offering little foundation going forward. Selling off assets at the deadline would go a long way in seeing the organization orient themselves towards the future.
The 2023 NHL Entry Draft offers two potentially generational talents in Conor Bedard and Matvei Michkov at the top, meaning a strategic retool could give the Kraken the cornerstone they so desperately need. Will Francis see it through?
Data courtesy of All Three Zones, Hockey Reference, MoneyPuck, and Natural Stat Trick.