Whether it’s purely with his own self-interest in mind and/or it’s Kraken General Manager Ron Francis unloading some prorated salary ahead of the deadline, we should know veteran Seattle forward Jordan Eberle’s fate before March 8th.
That’s the NHL trade deadline.
Should the Kraken fail to put themselves in a solid position for a playoff spot between now and then, there would appear to be little reason to keep the unrestricted free agent around. The right winger, closing in quickly on 1,000 NHL games, a milestone he’ll reach this season if he stays healthy, has never won a Stanley Cup in his 14 seasons. He’s come close to reaching the Final twice.
It would make total sense for the soon to be 34-year-old to try and find a contender to skate with, one that could potentially allow him to reach every hockey player’s dream. He should be high on the list of veteran “rentals” this trade season, although his $5.5-million seasonal salary cap hit could be a sticking point.
Would the Kraken retain some of that hit if their trade partner sweetened the pot a little bit?
Eberle has a 16-team no-trade clause in his contract, which should be a moot point to some extent since no non-playoff team is going to want him and the feeling will be mutual. He can select 16 NHL teams that he doesn’t want to go to.
Communication should flow freely between Francis and Eberle’s agent Craig Oster.
Although the Edmonton Oilers, the team that drafted him, were a non-playoff mess his first six seasons in the league, and he did little in Edmonton’s one postseason visit in 2017, Eberle has proven to be a valuable playoff commodity with the New York Islanders and then the Kraken since then.
He was a point-a-game playoff performer for the Isles in 2019 and helped the team reach the Eastern Conference Final in the 2020 season and again in 2021. He tallied 14 and then 11 playoff points respectively. New York lost the conference final in seven games in 2021 to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the team that beat them in five games the year before.
He scored the biggest, most exciting goal in Kraken history in Game-4 last spring against the Colorado Avalanche at Climate Pledge Arena. His 3-2 overtime winner at the three-minute mark blew the roof off the building.
Should the Kraken end up in the wild card driver’s seat over the next four weeks, then all of this is likely a moot point. He’ll play on in Seattle as the club tries to nail down a spot and then head into a UFA summer.
Either way, dealt or not, would the Kraken want to bring him back in the off-season to remain a part of the core for another two or three seasons at a lower price. Maybe.
There will be other similar decisions for Francis to make, with a handful of players looking at UFA status this summer. None are as intriguing as Eberle. He’s been a Kraken leader since day one.