Could the playoffs change the off-season plans the Seattle Kraken have for a small handful of key unrestricted free agents? Probably not.
There’s a pretty strong likelihood Kraken General Manager Ron Francis knows whether or not he’ll be negotiating with and/or planning to re-sign forward Ryan Donato, defenseman Carson Soucy, and goaltender Martin Jones.
All three situations are obviously different. In our opinion, one’s a yes, another is a no, and a third is a definite maybe.
Having casually spoken to all three players on the topic, consulted agents, and broken down on-ice performances and the club’s salary cap and roster situation, Seattle Hockey Insider takes a closer look at all three.
The Kraken hoped for balanced scoring from four lines and they absolutely received it at a delightful rate, one that they likely didn’t expect. The ole “good problem to have.”
Donato was part of that equation. The selfless 27-year-old lefty center chipped in 14 goals and 27 points in 71 games as a 4th-liner, with a very similar points-per-game ratio as the previous season. His feistiness showed up in his penalty minutes total, 46, 2nd among forwards on the team behind Yanni Gourde. Donato dropped the mitts twice.
The Boston native was an affordable option this past season at $1.2-million. That’s almost $500K more than he earned with his previous one-year Kraken contract.
Donato also has a little history on his side; a member of the Kraken since day-one after signing as a free agent in September of 2021. He had previously played for the San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild and Boston Bruins.
Verdict: Not that Francis won’t try, but it would be tough to find a reasonably priced replacement for a tenacious player like Donato in the 4th-line rotation. He finished ahead of his expected goal total for the season and based on his takeaway/giveaway ratio, he does a very good job protecting the puck. It helps that he’s a center and the fact the Kraken should have plenty of cap room in general. Donato’s a yes.
Size To Spare
Carson Soucy is one of the Kraken’s big bodies on the back-end. He’s had a solid season as a third-pair D-man, staying home for the most part while veteran puck mover Justin Schultz operates.
We’re not in it for Soucy’s offense or his possession numbers. He’s in business to do exactly what he’s done. Take care of his own end, lay a bit of lumber, and eat up as many valuable minutes as possible. You can’t teach size and Soucy has it. 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds.
The Alberta native will turn age-29 shortly after the final year of his three-year contract expires in July. He signed the deal, that carried an annual cap hit of $2.75-million, with the Minnesota Wild in October of 2020 before jumping to the Kraken in the Expansion Draft.
Soucy was pretty much all smiles when chatting about his desire to return to the Kraken and the likelihood of him getting a reasonable deal.
Through three games of the playoffs, Soucy has been on the ice for four of the Kraken’s goals and only once in the series when Colorado scored. He took a hooking penalty in the 2nd period of Game-1 and a slashing penalty in the 1st period of Game-3.
He’s played 15:05, 13:55, and 12:39 in the three matches, including a grand total of 4:02 shorthanded. The Kraken penalty kill has gone a perfect 7-for-7 in the series thus far after finishing the final month of the regular season at 88% effectiveness.
Verdict: Soucy is a maybe mainly because when upgrades occur there can be a trickle-down effect, particularly when you’re a bottom-pair defenseman. It’s safe to assume Francis will be looking for overall upgrades. Aside from that, he’ll be spending some fat money this summer, upwards of $7-million a season to keep top-pair, restricted free agent (RFA) D-man Vince Dunn around.
Spending about $3-million for Soucy could become questionable. Chemistry and continuity work in his favor.
An Enigma In Net
We’ve talked about it before. Martin Jones filled in admirably and piled up wins during the first half of the season when Philipp Grubauer missed a substantial amount of time due to injury. During an 11-game span between October 23rd and November 17th, Jones went 6-3-and-1, while giving up a start to American Hockey League stalwart Joey Daccord.
Jones was so effective that he held on to the number-one spot for periods of time even after Grubauer returned to the active roster, He won 6 of 7 games after ‘Grooby’s’ return and then ran off another win streak of seven in a row between January 1st and January 14th. That streak included back-to-back shut-out victories against the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins, a team that had previously gone unbeaten in regulation at home.
After mid-January, Jone’s game slipped in general in terms of consistency and his starts became more spotty.
It’s tough to argue with a win-loss record of 27-13-and-3, but Francis has a number of things to consider, the most obvious being the fact goalie Chris Driedger is over his long-term injury and still has a year remaining on his three-year deal at a cap hit of $3.5-million. That’s a tough number to unload somewhere for a 28-year-old netminder coming off a knee injury. Depending on other cap considerations and limited maneuver options, it would appear the Grubauer-Driedger combo will be back to the future in 2023-’24.
If he’s healthy, Driedger should provide a steady back-up to “Grooby”. If he’s not, or he’s somehow moved, Jones would get consideration. The Driedger injury was why Jones was brought aboard in the first place.
As much as Jones enjoys being around this team and being close to his hometown family and friends up the road in North Vancouver, British Columbia, he seemed the least convinced that the club would be bringing him back, especially with the Driedger writing being on the wall.
Jones is 33-years-of-age, finishing up his second consecutive one-year deal, the first being with the Philadelphia Flyers, after being bought out halfway through a six-year deal by the San Jose Sharks in 2021.