Compared to the despair of last season, the Seattle Kraken are roaring coming out of the NHL’s recent All-Star break.
While they were already firmly entrenched at the bottom of the standings in 2022, the second-year franchise currently trails the Vegas Golden Knights by a single point in the Pacific Division standings. They own two games in hand, however, and figure to be a significant player at the trade deadline with the hopes of claiming home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
According to CapFriendly, the Kraken are projected to accrue a significant amount of cap space by the March 3rd deadline. The injured trio of Joonas Donskoi, Chris Driedger, and Justin Schultz have not been assigned to Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR), allowing the Kraken to continue accumulating cap room as per the league’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Those salary cap machinations leave general manager Ron Francis with nearly $4 million to play with as he looks to supplement his core and cement the franchise’s first-ever playoff berth. The Kraken have a few clear flaws they must address but can choose from just as many suitable trade targets on the market.
With that context in mind, let’s evaluate the potential bargaining chips and assets that the Kraken will have at their disposal come the trade deadline.
2023, 2024, and 2025 First-Round Picks
Although the 2023 NHL Draft is projected to be one of the best crops in recent memory, the Kraken could part ways with their first-round selection if a true impact player becomes available.
If Seattle clinches a playoff spot, the highest the pick could be is in the mid-teens, which the Kraken would gladly give up for a long postseason experience. If an unexpected run comes to pass, that pick will move even further back into the mid-to late-20s, and at that point, the draft becomes more of a crapshoot. There is an element of risk involved, to be sure, but the Kraken’s success this season mitigates that risk reasonably well.
The Kraken’s 2024 or 2025 first-rounder could also be in play, but teams have become extremely risk-averse when trading first-round picks more than a year out. Pick protections could be attached in case of an unexpected disaster season, but this pick is unlikely to be traded at this year’s deadline.
Three 2023 Second-Round Picks
Since including any of the Kraken’s upcoming first-round picks introduces too much uncertainty, one or more of the team’s three second-round picks in the 2023 Draft are the likeliest assets to be on the block.
Along with their own pick, the Kraken can auction off those belonging to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets after completing trades headlined by Mark Giordano and Vitek Vanecek, respectively.
Second-round picks carry enough currency that they could garner a solid contributing player and represent a much lower risk than parting with a first-round selection. Trade activity at recent deadlines suggests that general managers around the league have met in the middle and designated second-round picks as carrying good but unspectacular value.
As the next section demonstrates, the Kraken’s farm system has been bolstered enough in a short time that even trading a pair of second-rounders would not hamper them in the long run. They may not be sufficient to acquire a true star such as Timo Meier, Jakob Chychrun, or Patrick Kane, but they could be parlayed into someone from the second tier of trade targets.
David Goyette, Center
The Kraken are understandably lacking in the prospect department, given that they’ve only participated in two drafts. However, some of the scouting industry’s leading figures view Seattle’s system in a favorable light. As a result, they could be moved to dangle a prospect from a position of strength, where centerman David Goyette enters the conversation.
Goyette, the last of the Kraken’s four second-round draft picks in 2022, is one of the organization’s top-ranked prospects. He’s accumulated 134 points in 108 career Ontario Hockey League (OHL) games, including 61 points in 42 games this season. He ranks 14th in total scoring as an 18-year-old and eighth by points per game (P/G) among qualified skaters (minimum ten games played).
Scott Wheeler of The Athletic praised Goyette for his ability to leverage his strong skating to create space for himself and his linemates while being able to make difficult passes under pressure. Any team would love to have a player the caliber of Goyette in their system, but the Kraken could withstand his departure due to their depth up the middle.
Matty Beniers was named to the 2023 All-Star Game before missing out due to injury, and he’s a virtual lock to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie this season. He’s tallied 17 goals and 36 points in 48 games so far and has been a responsible two-way presence despite his inexperience.
Fourth-overall pick Shane Wright had a turbulent start to his NHL career but has thrived since being loaned to the Canadian world junior team and returning to the OHL. He’s posted 14 points in seven games with the Windsor Spitfires and should be a key cog on a Memorial Cup hopeful.
The Kraken look set at the center position with two players who should grade out as top-six options at the low end of their potential development curve. That makes Goyette expendable and the likeliest of the Kraken’s top prospects to be included in a trade.
Carson Soucy, Defenseman
Since playoff hopefuls rarely sell off assets, it’s unlikely that pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) defenseman Carson Soucy will be traded at the deadline. Still, his defensive prowess and place in the Kraken’s blueline hierarchy could see him packing his bags by March 3rd.
The Kraken recently traded for depth defenseman Jaycob Megna and have Will Borgen and Cale Fleury waiting in the wings. Soucy ranks fifth among Seattle’s defenders in average ice time in all situations but has featured regularly on the Kraken’s secondary penalty-killing unit. Megna was also a fixture on the penalty kill for the San Jose Sharks, so he could slide into Soucy’s spot in case of a deal.
Having adequate depth is crucial in the playoffs when teams can rotate through several options due to poor performance or injury. Soucy is a capable veteran with experience in a top-four role, so the Kraken may choose to hold onto him instead in the hope his presence provides more value than whatever asset they could obtain in a trade. Though, the Kraken may flip Soucy while making a separate trade for another defenseman with a term on his contract.
Keep an eye on what Francis decides to do with the 27-year-old, especially if Schultz is out for an extended period of time and Megna makes a strong first impression.
Kraken Can Make a Splash at the NHL Trade Deadline
Given that the Kraken are armed with ample cap space and a plethora of draft picks, all signs point to Francis and company being very active on and leading up to deadline day.
Like their expansion cousins in the Golden Knights, the Kraken can generate real interest in a new market by making noise in the playoffs early in their existence. They can’t count on any true superstars but boast enviable depth throughout the roster.
Whichever direction the franchise ultimately chooses to go, the rest of the season should be an exciting time for the Kraken faithful – buckle up.
Data courtesy of CapFriendly, Elite Prospects, Hockey Reference, and the NHL.