Just like that, the NHL offseason is drawing to a close, with the opening of training camps mere weeks away. Most free agents have put pen to paper, but many useful players are still looking for a contract ahead of next season. The Kraken, like most teams, still have some holes to fill in their lineup and could hand out Professional Tryout (PTO) contracts in an attempt to supplement their roster with some bargain bin thrift shopping.
After scanning the list of unsigned players, here are three players piquing my interest for their experience, offensive instincts, and bounce-back potential, adding new dimensions to a Seattle Kraken lineup that begs for a supplementary injection of offense.
Tyler Bozak, Centre/Right Wing
2020-21 Team: St. Louis Blues
Depth at center is a sore spot for the Kraken ahead of opening night, with the surgery undergone by the team’s first-line pivot in Yanni Gourde forcing him to the sidelines. This temporary setback leaves the Kraken to fend off their opponents with some combination of Alexander Wennberg and Jared McCann operating as their top two centers. There’s no kind way to put this – that’s ugly.
At age 35, Bozak has stepped onto the back nine of his career, and his impact at either end of the ice is no longer what it was at his peak. He’s scored at just over a 40-point-pace in the past three seasons and brings invaluable playoff experience stemming from his Stanley Cup run with the Blues just three years prior. Is he a top-six forward at this moment? No, probably not, but he can still offer depth scoring at a veteran’s discount further down the lineup.
Signing Bozak also reunites him with his former Blues’ teammate Jaden Schwartz and hey, banking on a little familiarity never hurt anybody. The inaugural Vegas Golden Knights showed us just how far positive vibes could take a franchise – the Kraken could be no different.
Alex Galchenyuk, Left Wing/Centre/Right Wing
2020-21 Teams: Carolina Hurricanes, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs
Galchenyuk has experienced a precipitous fall from grace since posting career highs of 30 goals and 56 points in the 2015-16 season for the Montreal Canadiens. The journeyman has since bounced around the league while struggling to put down roots in any one of his many career pitstops.
However, he experienced the most fleeting of renaissances after Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas acquired the forward for peanuts from the Hurricanes. In the blink of an eye, Galchenyuk went from slumming it at shadowy depths of the Senators’ lineup to a prominent role alongside two of Toronto’s multi-million dollar forwards in John Tavares and William Nylander, scoring 12 points in 26 games for the blue and white.
Unfortunately, what was a heartwarmingly feel-good for most of the season quickly turned macabre, as Galchenyuk’s memorable gaffe in overtime of Game Six in Toronto’s first-round battle with the Montreal Canadiens precipitated yet another spectacular meltdown from the franchise, likely souring the front office on the eclectic winger. Yet, Galchenyuk did show that, in the right role, he could boost a team’s depth scoring, something the seemingly impotent Kraken offense could use in spades.
Michael Dal Colle, Left Wing
2020-21 Team: New York Islanders
The theme of any expansion roster is rebirth – the chance to reset and reestablish oneself in a new city with new teammates and a new franchise. Michael Dal Colle fits this mold, as the former sixth-overall pick has yet to make good on the promise suggested by his draft slot, scoring a meager 21 points in 111 games since making his NHL debut in 2017.
Limited NHL production aside, his performances in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Islanders’ minor-league affiliate suggests an under-appreciated talent is simmering underneath the surface. In 2018-19, Dal Colle featured 34 times for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and tallied 34 points, the most fruitful points-per-game pace on the team. Unfortunately, Dal Colle has seen a shift in his role since his high-scoring junior days, often being shunted to the bottom of the lineup where he’s averaged under 12 minutes of ice-time for his NHL career.
According to Natural Stat Trick, out of 388 NHL forwards who have played at least 1000 minutes at five-on-five since 2018, Dal Colle ranks 282nd in primary assists per 60 minutes – awarded to who completed the last pass before a player scores – which demonstrates there’s at least a top-nine passing talent buried within a misused and neglected player.
Corey Sznajder’s micro-stat tracking data also shows that on the Islanders, no forward apart from Mat Barzal completed high-danger passes at a higher per 60-minute rate than Dal Colle. His natural playmaking instincts combined with his large frame – he’s 6-foot-3 – advertises Dal Colle as quite the intriguing reclamation project if finally given the chance he deserves.
Ron Francis – Take a Krak’ At One
The nature of thrift shopping is that quality is not assured – players may have been discarded for any number of reasons, and some that may not be made known to the public. Ron Francis and the rest of Kraken’s management should leverage the goodwill they’ve accrued as an expansion franchise and take a flier on one or more of the undervalued assets on my list while not yet being expected to contend.
Luckily, none of these players will cost a whole lot, and who knows, you might slap a fiver down for a cool painting you like and come to find that it’s an authentic Picasso. It can’t hurt to try.
Data courtesy of Corey Sznajder, HockeyDB, Hockey Reference, and Natural Stat Trick.