They’ve stayed the course. Kraken management has stuck to its plan of building its team carefully, patiently, while developing a hard working identity.
Admirable, but in hockey, “patience is a virtue” has its limits.
At some point Kraken General Manager Ron Francis must make a move to upgrade the skill level, and he’s well aware.
“Cap space moving forward here, in case we want to do something, especially as we get closer to the deadline,” Francis said on the final day of training camp, in reference to carrying 22 players instead of 23. “It’s always valuable to have it if you can.”
The Kraken have some cap space but they lack star power; a finisher or two who can light the lamp or make game changing plays at the right time on a consistent basis. Kind of like a Ron Francis.
Yet it won’t necessarily take a Hall of Fame caliber player to get there, just a serious upgrade.
It begins with the club needing that true number one center. Calder Trophy (rookie-of-the-year) winner Matty Beniers is an excellent player, but in a perfect world he’s slotted in a second spot. Maybe the club hoped Shane Wright was that guy when he fell in their lap at 4th-overall at the 2022 NHL Draft. He’s not. At least not yet.
Unfortunately top-line centers don’t grow on trees.
Overall production-wise, the club was hoping a healthy Andre Burakovsky for a full season, an Eeli Tolvanen for a full season — he was acquired last December and didn’t play until January — and a well adjusted Oliver Bjorkstrand might be enough to make up for potential gaps in scoring.
Burakovsky’s hurt again, Tolvanen is Tolvanen and Bjorkstand’s been clicking.
It’s not enough.
By the way, current Seattle players won’t be opposed to a boost if it gives them a better chance to win. Note the interesting conversation we had with defenseman Vince Dunn just ahead of last season’s trade deadline, when the Kraken stood pat.
“Those things are out of our control, we don’t really hear anything on the players end of things. You always want your team to get better, management did a a great job doing that this summer (2022), and at the end of last season. We were in an great spot going into the (NHL All-Star) break, we need to get back to that level, and whoever comes in and out of the line-up or into our locker room, we’re a welcoming team and we’re excited for anything ahead.”
Tis not the season, as in, the time of year for deals. This time of year teams are just settling in, seeing what they have and don’t have, discovering which players are on their games and which ones aren’t. Trades are rare ahead of Thanksgiving.
Consider this column an augur for what’s ahead.
The initial plan would be to first put yourself in a position to make the playoffs again and then make a deal come February or March when teams start to “sell” and players become available.
Depending on how November unfolds, Francis may be eyeballing a new plan.
The Kraken need to keep the ball rolling. They need to make the playoffs in this market.
The assets the Kraken possess that other NHL teams would be most interested in are draft picks and prospects. Coachella Valley Firebirds defenseman Ryker Evans is off limits, while forward Jani Nyman might fall in that category as well.
Plenty of other options exist for bartering, particularly among a strong group of developing forwards, while the Kraken have all of their draft picks the next three summers, including an extra 3rd-rounder and 7th-rounder in 2024.
The deal Seattle would be looking for likely requires sacrificing one of those top picks, always a dangerous path to go down.
Not if the incoming prize is worth it.
It’s up to Francis to decide if and when the price is right.