It’s not how he got here that matters, it’s the fact the Spokane native got here. Ex-Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto signed a one-year contract for $1.5-million with the Seattle Kraken, the club announced on Sunday.
The 24-year-old winger joins his home-state NHL team after three full and three partial seasons with the Pacific Division rival Edmonton Oilers, the organization that drafted him in the 1st-round, 22nd-overall in 2017.
That followed four prolific seasons with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League where the under-sized winger put up 291 points in 230 games from 2014 to 2018.
He follows in the tradition of Tyler Johnson, another 5-foot-8 NHL forward who played for his hometown major junior team in Spokane, the difference being that “TJ” is a center and weighs about 25-pounds more than the youngster who followed him.
Yamamoto arrives in Seattle following some NHL salary cap gymnastics performed by Oilers General Manager Ken Holland and the man he once mentored in Detroit, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman. Holland traded Yamamoto and the final year of his contract worth $3.1-million to Motown last Thursday along with feisty Russian forward Klim Kostin, a pending restricted free agent (RFA).
“Stevie-Y” quickly inked Kostin to a two-year contract with an annual cap hit of $2-million while buying out the remaining season of Yamamoto’s deal. That immediately made him an unrestricted free agent (UFA). The Kraken pounced.
A Kraken Why Not
For one year it’s a no lose for the Seattle Kraken for a player needing a change of scenery after moving up and down the Oilers line-up for the past three seasons. Injuries slowed him this past season after he posted a career high 20 goals in 2021-’22.
The Seattle leadership group, a dressing room full of former Stanley Cup champions, will take Yamamoto and whatever issues he might have under their wings. Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol says he thinks the acquisition is a good fit.
“He’s a good offensive player, he’s tenacious,” Hakstol said Sunday. “Physically he’s not a big guy, but he can use his competitiveness and his intelligence to get inside, he’s not a perimeter guy, so we’re excited to have him, his skill set is excellent, he’s very much a motivated player. I think he’s going to fit in very well with the make-up of our team, the way we’re built and the way we play.”
Speaking of Stanley Cup Champions, the Kraken added defenseman Brian Dumoulin on Saturday, who won it all with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. Hakstol added his thoughts.
“First thing that stands out is … great pro,” Hakstol said. “Veteran D in this league, he’s been through it, he’s another guy that we can add into that dressing room. There’s nothing that we’re going to see this coming year that he hasn’t been through already, and more importantly he’s a good player. I think he’s going to add to the D-corps. His skill sets fit very well with the make-up of our group.”
Hakstol didn’t want to reveal the potential Kraken D-pairings that he’s already starting to think about for next season, but he definitely thinks Dumoulin is a good fit in a couple of them.
“He’s going to be a big part of our penalty kill, he’s done that, he’s very good at it,” Hakstol added. “There’s a lot of elements to his game he’s going to bring here, but most importantly, after just a short conversation, he’s excited to come here, and vice versa, we’re excited to have him and add him to our mix.”