Seattle Kraken Should Have Quiet 2023 Trade Deadline

With the NHL’s annual trade deadline (March 3rd) finally upon us, the Seattle Kraken must appraise their current situation and decide a path for the rest of the season.

Though the Kraken occupy a Western Conference playoff spot at the time of this writing, they should avoid mortgaging the future considering the broader NHL landscape. It doesn’t help that the Kraken are only 4-5-1 over their last ten games, putting their once-secure playoff spot in slight jeopardy.

The league’s top six teams by both points and points percentage (PTS%) hail from the Eastern Conference, with the Boston Bruins currently on pace to eclipse the NHL’s single-season points record (132 set by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens).

Additionally, the early flurry of deadline deals has overwhelmingly tipped the balance of power in favor of the East. Ryan O’Reilly (Toronto Maple Leafs), Timo Meier (New Jersey Devils), and Patrick Kane (New York Rangers) represent a few of the notable names switching coasts in recent days and weeks.

Related: Ranking The Seattle Kraken’s Assets at The 2023 NHL Trade Deadline

Even if one assumes that the Kraken wins the potentially wide-open West, it’s difficult to envision the second-year club overcoming whoever emerges from that Eastern gauntlet. For that reason, spending assets to improve a team well removed from the top of the NHL hierarchy would be short-sighted, all things considered.

It appears general manager Ron Francis shares that sentiment, suggesting that the Kraken plan to do some minor tinkering around the margins rather than trading for one of the notable remaining names.

The allure of playoff games so early in the franchise’s existence is understandable, and clinching a postseason berth would represent a massive leap forward from last season’s 30th-overall finish.

Still, patience should be the name of the game, especially since the Kraken have a sturdy foundation built upon a burgeoning core and a growing vault of draft picks.

Young Kraken Core Offers Long-Term Flexibility

The unexpected playoff run enjoyed by the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural campaign elevated expectations for the Kraken, but the temptation to potentially emulate their expansion cousins should be dismissed in favor of ensuring long-term prosperity.

Luckily, the Kraken are well-equipped to successfully carry out the patient construction of a future Stanley Cup winner. Apart from the likely 2022-23 Calder Trophy winner in 20-year-old center Matty Beniers, 2022 fourth-overall pick Shane Wright could give the Kraken an enviable one-two punch down the middle for the next decade.

Pick accumulation and shrewd drafting have seen the Kraken slowly add to a once-barren prospect pipeline, and five picks over the first three rounds in 2023 should only bolster their project. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic ranked the Kraken’s system as the 15th-best in the NHL, a remarkable feat for an organization with only two full drafts under its belt.

Elsewhere, Eeli Tolvanen (age 23), Jared McCann (26), and Vince Dunn (26) also figure to be leading figures going forward, giving the Kraken a solid base with which to build around at the NHL level.

It’s true that several of their key players, including Jaden Schwartz, Jordan Eberle, and Yanni Gourde, are all aged 30 or older with relatively high cap hits, which could hinder their future roster flexibility. However, as many of the recent deals have proven, almost no contract is unmovable under the right circumstances.

Kraken Could (and Should) Target Players with Term

Although the Kraken’s recent slide may have reined in inflated expectations, that shouldn’t preclude the team from adding to a lineup that has earned a reward via reinforcements. GM Francis could remain active if he keeps his sights on available targets with multiple years remaining on their contracts, simultaneously improving both their short- and long-term Stanley Cup odds.

For example, the Arizona Coyotes’ Karel Vejmelka is one such candidate. He’s only 26 years old, and his contract carries an average annual value of $2.725 million through 2024-25, a bargain for a goalie who has saved the 10th-most goals above expected (GSAx) this season.

The Coyotes are firmly in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, so Vejmelka’s performance makes it more difficult to claim the best odds in the draft lottery. At this rate, he is more valuable to playoff-bound clubs rather than those in the middle of a long-term rebuild.

Even if Vejmelka isn’t the final target, shoring up the crease should be the top priority for the Kraken at the deadline or during the upcoming offseason.

Between Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones, who are making a combined $7.9 million this season (the fifth-highest team total allocated to goalies this season), receiving the fifth-worst team save percentage (SV%) is not acceptable for that level of investment.

Vejmelka’s age profile and extremely team-friendly contract could drive up his price beyond what the Kraken find palatable, but a second-round selection should be enough to obtain some offensive reinforcements up front at the very least.

Among a handful of intriguing prospects, the Kraken currently hold three second-round picks in the 2023 Draft. They may not have the cache of a first-round pick, but they are still valuable currency in the NHL marketplace.

Further, pending unrestricted free agent (UFA) defenseman Carson Soucy – fifth among Kraken defenders in time on ice this season – could be on the move, handing Seattle an additional asset or two to flip at the deadline.

Balanced scoring (Jordan Eberle leads the team with 47 points) and favorable puck luck (second in team shooting percentage) have contributed to the Kraken’s top-10 goalscoring rate. Still, injecting additional offensive talent into an understated group could help shield the team from any untimely cold streaks in the playoffs, even if that doesn’t come by way of a legitimate star player.

Francis, Kraken Have Options At 2023 Trade Deadline

What’s evident is that GM Francis should have a number of potential pathways available to him ahead of Friday’s deadline. Fortunately for the Kraken, improving on the misery that pervaded the entirety of the 2021-22 season should grant the team some breathing room going forward.

The Kraken are clearly more competitive and boast several of the NHL’s top players aged 23-and-under, providing hope for the future. Yet, that initial disappointment has kept expectations low this season, keeping the pressure off of Francis for the time being.

A weakened Western Conference could lead to an unexpected playoff run, but that should be treated like a welcome luxury rather than as a necessity. Regardless of which avenue the Kraken ultimately take at the deadline, the future is bright in Seattle.

Data courtesy of Hockey ReferenceNatural Stat Trick, and the NHL. Statistics are accurate as of March 2nd.

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About Marko Zlomislic 82 Articles
Marko is an aspiring sportswriter with a passion for crafting stories while using a combination of the eye-test and (shudder) analytics, which is complemented by an academic background in criminology and political science. When not covering the Seattle Kraken for Oregon Sports News, Marko can also be found pouring countless hours into various sports video games franchises, indulging in science fiction novels, and taking long runs around his neighbourhood. You can yell at him by following him on Twitter or via email at He also regularly produces content for The Hockey Writers.