In this season of firsts, the Kraken have now made it through their first NHL Trade Deadline, and it was an active one for the franchise. Indeed, “bold” predictions calling on management to look to the future and make three trades look downright mild in hindsight.
It all started on March 16, when news broke that the Kraken sent winger Calle Jarnkrok to the Calgary Flames–to play alongside his cousin Elias Lindholm–in exchange for three draft picks. But, for several agonizing days thereafter, the silence from the Kraken front office was deafening. The anxiety in the fanbase grew.
Then, with the trade deadline almost exactly 24 hours away, the floodgates opened. (Just as John Barr’s research suggested they would, we should note.) It began with a report at noon on Sunday, March 20, that Mark Giordano was going to the Maple Leafs. Soon we learned it would be Colin Blackwell and Giordano going to Toronto for another three draft picks.
On the morning of deadline day, we learned that Seattle had traded Marcus Johansson to the Washington Capitals in exchange for two draft picks and Daniel Sprong. And, finally, as the last echoes of the trade deadline bell faded from our ears, we were informed of yet one more minor move: Seattle obtained depth center Victor Rask from the Minnesota Wild for future considerations.
All told, that’s six trades that look like this:
When the team takes the ice Tuesday night in Arizona, it will look pretty different. With the Seattle Kraken v.1.0 a thing of the past, this felt like the right time to reconvene for another roundtable discussion that allows us to get out some of our traded player memories and deadline thoughts, as we pivot toward the future.
Let’s dive in.
Favorite memory of the departing players?
Andy Eide: The shootout winner from Johansson in Montreal. That was a surprisingly tense game with vital draft lotto balls on the line. The Canadiens tied the game thanks to an own goal by Adam Larsson. The game went to overtime and through to a shootout and then eight rounds with no goals. Johansson calmly flipped the winner in, and after the game Philipp Grubauer admitted he didn’t watch it, which was funny.
Darren Brown: For me, this is an easy one; when Blackwell scored a goal with his head against the Panthers, then fell awkwardly in celebration.
But seriously, it’s hard for me to pinpoint a single moment for any of the departing players, so I’m just going to reiterate what an absolute pleasure it was to get to cover Giordano. I never really understood what people meant when they called guys “consummate pros” in hockey, but Giordano brought that phrase to life. It was the way he carried himself and the way he answered every question with poise–even after the toughest of losses–without sugarcoating but also not throwing anybody under the bus. He is a fantastic human.
John Barr: Blackwell’s shorthanded goal against the Nashville Predators on March 2. Coming into the game the Kraken had lost seven games in a row. Heading into the third period it was 3-3 when the Kraken took a penalty. On an aggressive forecheck, Yanni Gourde caused a turnover and fed Blackwell in front of the net. It just felt like Blackwell would not be denied. He whacked at it three times before the puck slipped past Saros for what would be the game winner. It was the loudest I heard Climate Pledge Arena in over a month.
Curtis Isacke: Though I didn’t follow his career in particular while he was in Calgary, the tribute to Giordano in his regular season return to the Saddledome really resonated with me. It was so clear how much he meant to that community and how lucky we were in Seattle to have him–both on the ice and off.
Similarly, I also want to mention Giordano’s early first period goal in the September 29, 2021, preseason game in southern Alberta. What a moment–and at a time in the season where there was so much optimism and expectation. It reminded me that there will never be another inaugural Kraken team.
While our eyes are rightly on the future in this moment, we should all take a moment to reflect with gratitude. And, in particular, we should give thanks to the first captain. Best of luck, Gio.
How did the Kraken do at the trade deadline overall?
Andy Eide: It was a solid effort by Ron Francis and company. They acquired a number of NHL Draft picks that have value and give the franchise options over the next couple of years. Seattle went from 14 picks over the next two years to 25. I like the mindset Francis has, saying he hopes he doesn’t draft 25 players but sees those extra picks as assets that can be used for a quicker rebuild. Now, he just has to do it.
Darren Brown: It was interesting being so immersed in this trade deadline, covering a team that was an extremely active seller. I don’t know if I’ve ever paid such close attention to a team in that position, and what the Kraken got back for players on expiring contracts makes me believe that the future of this franchise is bright.
I appreciated that Francis reminded us on Monday that this was just part of the process to make the team better over time, and not the end all be all. Team brass racked up a boatload of chips, and now they can choose to cash them in or horde prospects.
John Barr: The team did very well at the trade deadline. They moved all pending unrestricted free agents plus a couple other depth pieces to accumulate a ton of draft picks in the next few NHL Entry Drafts. The returns on the Jarnkrok and Gio/Blackwell trades were about what was expected heading into the week before the deadline. With the acquisition of Sprong from Washington, the team has a low-risk depth player with some potential upside. He is in the last year of his contract but will still be a restricted free agent and can be extended should the Kraken like what they see in the remaining games of the season.
It would have been nice to get a first-round pick, but I do not believe that would have been realistic given the trade chips the Kraken had at their disposal.
Curtis Isacke: Fair or not, our perception of the deadline is colored by the deal that sent Giordano to the Maple Leafs. Some hefty prices were paid for other big name defensemen on the trade market, and the Giordano trade did not match those returns.
But it is not at all clear that Francis overplayed his hand or otherwise “missed out” on a better deal. It may be that the Panthers simply preferred Ben Chiarot and the Bruins similarly favored Hampus Lindholm and those suitors landed their primary targets without seriously considering Giordano. (It also sounds like a CBA peculiarity essentially ruled out Calgary as a bidder.) If those “overpays” weren’t really there for the Kraken, I think our perspective would be different. The Giordano return was not that far off from what the Avalanche paid for Josh Manson or what might have been reasonably expected before the trade season hit high gear.
Any move (or non-move) leave you scratching your head?
Andy Eide: The Lauzon move came as a surprise. He wasn’t a player that had been mentioned as a potential trade target. He is a young defenseman with potential and had already earned the trust of the coaching staff and organization. He was rough early on but was improving. Seattle wasn’t shopping him but getting a second round pick for him was too juicy to say ‘no’ to.
Darren Brown: I didn’t necessarily expect the Lauzon or Appleton deals, but I wouldn’t say I scratched my head after. Both players can be replaced, and it didn’t seem like Appleton ever was really a fit.
John Barr: The old “future considerations” we gave up to get Victor Rask. Rask was immediately assigned to the Charlotte Checkers. On the surface this makes little sense for the Kraken. It is a bit speculative, but I believe the Kraken are obligated to provide the Checkers with a minimum number of players. As the Kraken backfill some of the vacancies from the trade deadline moves, they might be getting close to that minimum number and thus needed some bodies to place in Charlotte.
Curtis Isacke: The Mason Appleton era was a perplexing one for me, so I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me that it came to an equally confusing close. A productive and relatively young power forward with a middle-six pedigree, I attached high hopes to the player originally. I talked myself into it because Seattle drafted him over another player, Dylan Demelo, who seemed like such a strong Expansion Draft candidate. If the front office preferred Appleton, there must be something there.
But Appleton’s Kraken tenure never truly got on the rails. He missed time early, and when he was on the ice he was frequently skating fourth-line minutes.
That said, he had been playing on Yanni Gourde’s wing in recent weeks, and he had started to re-establish his middle-six role. Still cheap and an RFA this summer, he seemed like he was playing himself onto the 2022-23 team.
So I was confused when Francis was willing to part with him for essentially nothing–a fourth-round pick more than a year away. This tells me either the team thought very little of Appleton or Appleton was demanding (or signaling) that he wanted out, and this was the best deal the team could find. Either way, this is the true head scratcher trade that stands out from a group of solid trades, and one very good one (Lauzon to Nashville for a 2022 second-round pick).
Most notable non-Kraken story from the trade deadline?
Darren Brown: Obviously, I’m going with the #Minnutiae pick here and saying the Wild acquiring Marc-Andre Fleury from the Blackhawks is most notable. It’s an interesting deal anyway, because Minnesota already had an All-Star goalie in Cam Talbot. But when you layer in the fact that the Wild just picked up a future Hall-of-Famer in their all-in year before their salary cap-tastrophe hits next season, I absolutely love this move. It feels like the Wild have the pieces to go on a deep run.
Andy Eide: The Tampa Bay Lightning are looking for a three-peat and went all in with the Chicago Blackhawks in a trade that netted them Brandon Hagel. It cost them two first-round draft picks, one in 2023 and another in 2024, but may be worth it if Tampa gets back to the Final. It helps to have an already loaded roster, but now somehow, the Lightning have more depth.
John Barr: The Florida Panthers made significant moves all over their lineup. They overpaid for Chiarot, went big for Claude Giroux, and added a solid depth defender in Robert Hagg. They felt like a Stanley Cup contender before the deadline and added some more firepower and depth that will be needed if the injury bug shows up in the playoffs.
Curtis Isacke: I really liked what the Anaheim Ducks did, even if their final trade for Evgenii Dadonov and a draft pick does not ultimately go through. They returned very solid draft value for Manson, got a great haul for Lindholm, and did well moving Rickard Rakell too. Zach Aston-Reese, obtained from Pittsburgh, is one of my favorites (and a preferred depth free agent target for the Kraken in the offseason). Now comes the hard part: converting those assets into good players to supplement their young core. But so far so good.
What’s next for the Kraken?
Darren Brown: I’m going to define “what’s next” as “what will happen during the offseason.” Francis has said publicly that he plans to be active in free agency. What I love about all the draft capital the team just acquired is that the Kraken can theoretically sign some big free agents, and when those big free agents start to age out, all the young guns selected over the next few years will be coming into their respective primes.
Suddenly it feels like there’s a clear path forward for this club, and the next big step is building for the immediate future with an influx of offensive talent from trades and free agency.
Andy Eide: Try to get through the final 19 games getting more ice time for the likes of Kole Lind, Morgan Geekie, Will Borgen, and Haydn Fleury, and maybe build momentum heading into the offseason. The NHL Draft will come quickly, and it will be exciting to see who the Kraken get at the top of the draft where there are two or three guys who are good enough to play in the league next season. After that, how will Francis begin to deploy these extra picks that he picked up?
John Barr: The remainder of the season feels like a mini-tryout. Not that any of the players are in danger of losing their jobs, but it will give the front office an opportunity to see what kinds of players they really have for next year. With the movement of Appleton, Blackwell, Jarnkrok, and Johansson, some of the forwards will be given more ice time and more opportunity to showcase consistently. Lind has been having a great season in Charlotte and Ron Francis stated he will be with the Kraken the rest of the year. It will also be interesting to see if Sprong will be able to show some of his potential with the expanded role he will have in Seattle.
Curtis Isacke: The clear focus is now on scouting–both internal and external. Internally, the team has decisions to make on potential building block pieces like Ryan Donato and Fleury. Looking outside, the team has 12 draft picks this summer and more than $20 million in cap space for NHL free agents. We’re looking at an enormous offseason for shaping the future of this team. That process begins now.
Separately, I’m curious to see if a clear team leader emerges over the last 20 games of the season. Will the team fade away over the last month, or will they rally around the next potential captain of the team? I want to see it.