With lefty blueliner Ryker Evans recalled from the Coachella Valley Firebirds of the AHL, the Seattle Kraken are set along the blueline for the stretch drive.
It’s the strong suit of the hockey club and has been since last season. While the forward group has taken a step back offensively this year and the club’s top goaltender periodically ends up on injured reserve, the D-corps has remained remarkably healthy and consistent.
Should the team get hot and put themselves into a strong playoff position ahead of the NHL trade deadline on March 8th, who knows, maybe Kraken General Manager Ron Francis will pull the trigger on something and make the group even deeper.
One would think adding depth up front would be a priority, but if the team is sincerely involved in the postseason chase, why not go for both.
In the meantime head coach Dave Hakstol will enjoy having the option of plugging in a strong, young skater in Evans, giving a break to veteran Justin Schultz for short or long term periods. This concept obviously depends on performance.
Kraken Free Agent
Our profile of Schultz back on January 3rd gave us a good look at how and why the 33-year-old veteran arrived in Seattle and why he remains an important piece for the Kraken. Like Vince Dunn and Brian Dumoulin, to different degrees and timing, Schultz has improved as the season has gone on.
At this point however, the calendar becomes a key factor in a different manner, much like it has for Kraken forward and fellow unrestricted free agent (UFA) Jordan Eberle.
Without Schultz — a full-time reality should the Kraken drop far enough out of the playoff picture and the UFA is moved before the deadline — this is the line-up.
Vince Dunn – Adam Larsson
Jamie Oleksiak – Will Borgen
Ryker Evans – Brian Dumoulin
When Evans replaces Schultz, it means having two lefties on the third pair: Evans working with Brian Dumoulin. Not the end of the world of course, but not ideal. It’s advantageous to have a right shot along the boards particularly in the offensive zone.
With Schultz instead of Evans, it’s a line-up Kraken fans have become very much used to, a healthy core of familiarity in place since Dumoulin arrived last summer. Prior to his arrival, it was Carson Soucy on the left consistently. He signed with the Vancouver Canucks in the summer and Dumoulin stepped in next to Schultz.
Bottom line, trade deadline aside, the blueline remains the stalwart element to the Kraken’s game. If the forwards falter, if the goaltending gets dinged up or slumps, it’ll be the D-corps that holds things together.
There’s pressure in that, and in some ways, very little room for error.