With Shane Wright on board, restricted free agent qualifying offer decisions made, and unrestricted free agency less than a day away, it is a good time to simulate the approach the Kraken may take to free agency. Let’s get to it.

What do the Kraken need?

The Kraken have repeatedly stated that the team’s goal is to compete for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Assuming this to be true, at a macro-level, the Kraken need to add goal scoring. John Barr’s research indicates that the Kraken need to add approximately 46 goals scored this coming year to be in a position to compete for the playoffs. This assumes a modest bounce back from Seattle’s goaltenders and consistent defensive play.

Looking at the NHL roster, I see four clear needs: a top-nine LW, a top-nine RW, a top-four RD, and a backup goalie. Beyond that, the Kraken could also potentially use a depth center (like Riley Sheahan).

1 – Left wing

The left wing depth chart is fairly clear: Jared McCann, Jaden Schwartz, and Brandon Tanev are a solid group, but, after non-tendering Ryan Donato, another skater is needed.

2 – Right wing

The right wing depth chart in particular is fairly muddled. Jordan Eberle sits at the top. Shane Wright could factor into the mix on the wing should he earn a permanent spot in Seattle, but that is no sure thing. Joonas Donskoi and recently re-signed Karson Kuhlman could factor into the bottom-six, but neither is a sure thing given Donskoi’s poor 2021-22 season (and apparent skills mismatch to the Kraken system) and Kuhlman’s low salary. Kole Lind could also factor in here, though he may fit best as a fourth liner or extra skater at this stage. Perhaps one could argue that depth chart is full. But, as is, it is not good enough. And there is far too much uncertainty after Eberle. As I describe below, I imagine Donskoi off the roster in some way, but he could equally take a bottom-six role.

3 – Right defense

The right defenseman depth chart has veteran Adam Larsson at the top but no clear second-pair option. Will Borgen proved capable of third-pair minutes, but we would be surprised if the Kraken are willing to assign him a bigger role quite yet. Cale Fleury held his own, but is likely best fit in the sixth- or seventh-defender role. This leaves an opening for a top-four capable right-shot defender.

4 – Backup goalie

Chris Driedger is recovering ACL surgery and will not be an option for the Kraken until February or March at the earliest. Joey Daccord will receive the opportunity to compete for the backup role, but Ron Francis has indicated that the Kraken would like to bring in a veteran to compete here too. This is in addition to the goalies the Kraken will need to sign to fill out the Coachella Valley roster.

Identifying and bidding on players

I used analytics from Evolving Hockey, TopDownHockey, and Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic to determine a list of targets in the three skater “need” categories (i.e., we like players A-E to fill a top-nine left-wing role). Then I used insights from those analytics and my own lay scouting and “fit” judgments to arrange those players into a priority list for each need (i.e., approach player A before player B). I then used the analytics and modified for injury history to build a “max offer,” both in terms of years and term for each player (i.e., offer player A up to X dollars over X years).

To determine whether a free agent would accept my offer, I used Evolving Hockey’s contract predictor tool, which continues to be unsettlingly accurate. Acceptance or rejection of a proposed framework is based on the total cash value of the offer, as this is typically the most important factor to the player.

To Johnny or not to Johnny?

With that, it is time to get to the elephant in the room: Should the Kraken bid on Johnny Gaudreau? At first, my answer was “no.” In general, I’m not a fan of spending money in unrestricted free agency; so why go for the most expensive item at the auction? This is particularly true when you are (mock) managing a team that finished near the bottom of the standings.

As we approach free agency, two facts have led me to re-evaluate my gut reaction. First, Johnny Gaudreau falls into the category of a truly special player that rarely makes it to unrestricted free agency. He easily projects as a top-10 player in the league next year in the analytics I track and should remain a clear top-30 performer for at least the next several years. Even if his peak performance is behind him, players that produce like Gaudreau hold value into their mid-30’s. In short, Johnny Hockey is a star. And it’s almost impossible to overpay a star. Teams get in trouble when they throw too much money at the next tier of performers.

Second, Shane Wright’s presence on the roster—and his potential to provide top-six value while playing on an entry-level contract—frees the team to be aggressive in using its cap space to pursue one more top-six player in search of a playoff spot.

For these reasons, I’m now a “yes” on calling Johny Gaudreau’s agent to explore the potential for a fit in Seattle.

Step one: bid on a scoring left winger on day one of free agency

Free agency starts with a call to Johnny Gaudreau. In my projection below, the Kraken would offer enough money to get him signed, but this will probably be true of many teams. Gaudreau’s interest, or lack thereof, is a key inflection point. If he is signable, the Kraken may need to seek a value option on the right side or forego an acquisition there entirely. Gaudreau’s decision is important enough that at the end of this post I will ultimately provide two free agency scenarios: one with and one without Johnny Hockey.

I think Gaudreau will receive Evolving Hockey’s projected contract (of approximately seven years, $10.9 million AAV) from several teams. So it will come down to to Gaudreau’s preference. Personally, I do not think he would pick Seattle, all things equal. He and his wife are from the East Coast and are just starting a family. If he leaves Calgary, I think Philadelphia, New Jersey, or a few other Eastern Conference teams are more likely. To be competitive, I think the Kraken would need to be the highest offer. Accordingly, for the “Gaudreau scenario,” I will be using a seven-year, $11.75 million AAV contract. This deal checks in just above Artemi Panarin and just below Auston Matthews. But it still yields positive value based on my analytics study.

In the “no Johnny Gaudreau” scenario, I’d move onto negotiations with Andre Burakovsky. Based on Evolving Hockey’s numbers, it would very quickly become clear that Burakovsky can get more money elsewhere, which is too bad. In real life, part of me thinks Burakovsky’s market could be weakened by a mediocre postseason run that is fresh in the minds of NHL front offices. I call this getting “Tomas Tatar’d.”

Accepting the premise I have set up, however, I would then move onto negotiations with Dylan Strome and Mason Marchement. Strome could get done but would be a close negotiation, and a Marchment deal could come together quickly. For this reason, I’ll project a Marchment signing in the “no Johnny Gaudreau” scenario.

Step two: acquire a value right winger

It remains likely that Jesse Puljujarvi is ultimately traded from Edmonton. He would be a strong compliment to the smaller, skill-oriented players the Kraken currently deploy in their top-six forward group, particularly in the “Gaudreau” scenario. I think he could emerge as a key Valeri Nichushkin-lite contributor with the Kraken. I’d offer Seattle’s 2023 third-round pick or Toronto’s 2023 second-round pick, if necessary. The cap-strapped Oilers don’t seem like they have any better offers in hand. (Warren Foegle is another interesting player who could be squeezed out of Edmonton.)

For this exercise, I will assume that Edmonton is ultimately willing to accept this offer. If this trade were not possible, however, I’d prioritize signing Evan Rodrigues, who may be squeezed out of Pittsburgh.

In the “Johnny Gaudreau” scenario it may not be possible to sign one of those forwards. In that scenario I’d consider “over-spending” on a lower-end player like Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Or the Kraken could bring back Colin Blackwell.

Step three: acquire a defenseman who can play on the right side

The second major name at times linked to the Seattle Kraken is John Klingberg. My analytics projection has a high-end offer for him at three years, $4 million AAV. Given that Klingberg may achieve something closer to his Evolving Hockey projection of 6 years, $6.9 million AAV, I’m a strong “no” on being a serious competitor for Klingberg.

All of that said, I understand Klingberg’s fit with Seattle: He’s a right-handed, offensive play-driving defenseman with the ability to lead a first unit power play. Seattle needs all of these things. So, could I be convinced that something like four years, $5 million AAV could work? Perhaps. But I’m completely “out” on Klingberg at his Evolving Hockey projected contract. That could be a crippling mistake.

The list of free agent forwards is fairly deep, but the number of competent blueliners is much shorter, particularly on the right side. This renders another trade as the best option. As with Puljujarvi, Ethan Bear was tendered by Carolina, but it seems like a separation is ultimately likely. Seattle’s 2023 fourth-round pick could be enough to get it done. Rasmus Sandin is an alternative trade candidate who could get squeezed out of the picture in Toronto, but he’s a left shot and not as easy of a fit.

I’ll project that the trades do not get done. This may be because the Kraken prefer to avoid sending out draft assets for another RFA. Accordingly, I turn my attention to free agency, where the first target is Kelowna, British Columbia native Justin Schultz. He could bring some puck moving ability on the right side of a second pair. This deal comes together. Jan Rutta is another right shot defenseman who could be an alternative, but I prefer Schultz’s puck-moving profile.

Step four: sign a backup goaltender

I’ll keep this one simple. Jaroslav Halak could be a good fit. He played in Vancouver last year and provided solid production, with a .903 save percentage and approximately average goals saved above expected.

Other transactions: sign a depth center and look for a Donskoi taker

As mentioned above, I think Donskoi is a scheme mismatch in Seattle, and I would look for a taker if the Kraken are successful in adding to their right wing depth chart. I would be willing to retain some salary to facilitate a deal, but I would not be willing to attach a significant asset to Donskoi simply to clear his cap from the books. I’ll project that they find a trade partner willing to take Donskoi’s full salary with minimal other assets involved in the deal.

In terms of a depth center, I could see the team bringing back Riley Sheahan to play in Coachella Valley and a handful of games in the bottom-six. Alternatives could be Victor Rask or Curtis Lazar. Morgan Geekie needs to take a step forward this year or he could be displaced by one of these veterans in the event of a playoff push.

Recapping the “Johnny Gaudreau” scenario


  • Sign UFA LW Johnny Gaudreau (seven years, $11.75 million AAV)
  • Sign UFA RW Nicolas Aube-Kubel (two years, $2 million AAV)
  • Trade away RW Joonas Donskoi
  • Sign UFA RD Justin Schultz (two years, $2.75 million AAV)
  • Sign UFA G Jaroslav Halak (one year, $1.5 million AAV)
  • Sign UFA C Riley Sheahan (one year, $950,000 AAV)

Cap chart (Capfriendly)

The team’s cap situation is a little tight, and particularly so if a Donskoi trade is impossible without salary retention. They could get some relief before the deadline if activating Chris Driedger allows the team to move Jaroslav Halak’s cap hit off the roster. But with contingency signings, it is very possible this team would end up needing to put Driedger on long-term injured reserve. Shane Wright plays on the right wing in his rookie season, learning to add a bit of sandpaper and tenacity to his game from Yanni Gourde.

Projected team performance (JFresh Hockey)

I used JFresh Hockey’s roster builder tool to then project this team’s performance. One note before diving in: Matty Beniers and Shane Wright do not have enough experience to be built into this system. In the projections below, I used Nico Hischier as a proxy for Matty Beniers. I used Calle Jarnkrok as a proxy for Shane Wright’s potential rookie production because Jarnkrok’s 2021 production was a close comparable to Elias Lindholm’s rookie campaign, and I think Elias Lindholm’s rookie season is a reasonable projection for Shane Wright’s first year.

This is a good team; probably a playoff team. Gaudreau solves much of the Kraken’s even-strength and power-play scoring issues. Signing Gaudreau, together with the other additions listed here, likely achieves John Barr’s target of adding 46 goals scored to this team.

Recapping the “no Gaudreau” scenario


  • Sign UFA LW Mason Marchment (three years, $2.5 million AAV)
  • Trade for and sign RFA RW Jesse Puljujarvi (two years, $4.2 million AAV)
  • Trade away RW Joonas Donskoi
  • Sign UFA RD Justin Schultz (two years, $2.75 million AAV)
  • Sign UFA G Jaroslav Halak (one year, $1.5 million AAV)
  • Sign UFA C Riley Sheahan (one year, $950,000 AAV)

Cap chart (Capfriendly)

Here, again, Shane Wright is placed on the right wing. If sent down to the CHL, Lind would likely move into the lineup. Alternatively, Geekie could move to the wing with Sheahan drawing in on the fourth line. Ideally Puljujarvi could be signed for less on a bridge deal, but Evolving Hockey projects a deal above $4 million AAV.

Projected team performance (JFresh Hockey)

This team projects well, though not quite as well as the team with Gaudreau. It carries more flexibility into the future, but nonetheless has the look of a borderline playoff team. Again, 2021 Nico Hischier subs for the projected performance of 2022 Matty Beniers and 2021 Calle Jarnkrok subs for the projected performance of 2022 Shane Wright.

Ultimately, this version of the Kraken may not have added quite enough goal scoring to get all the way to the playoffs. I expect Shane Wright could deliver a net gain of 10 goals scored over Joonas Donskoi. If he is sent down to the CHL, though, this would be a wash. Puljujarvi scored 14 goals last year and Marchment scored 18 goals. All together, even an optimistic view would likely fall short of John Barr’s target for goal scoring. But this is a young, competitive team, with upside to be in the race at the trade deadline.

What do you think? Send us your free agency predictions on Twitter or in the comments below.

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