One year ago, the Seattle Kraken traded six of their regular players away for 10 draft picks in a flurry of activity in the lead-up to the NHL Trade Deadline. General manager Ron Francis and his staff were in full sell mode with the team proving to be one of the worst in the league. They offloaded almost all their expiring contracts with hopes of bringing back whatever assets they could get.
At the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline, the situation for the Kraken was different. We expected them to be cautious buyers, making subtle deals here and there to upgrade the team, as it prepares for its first playoff push.
In the end, Friday’s 12 p.m. deadline came and went and the Kraken did… nothing.
Even minutes after the deadline had passed, we still anxiously awaited news to break of a deal done by Seattle, but such news never came.
Now, you could technically call Seattle’s acquisition of defenseman Jaycob Megna on Feb. 5 a “deadline” move, but even so, this was about as quiet as we could have imagined the team being at this stage of the season.
Seattle’s inaction was amplified as teams around the league beefed up their rosters this week. Superstars like Ryan O’Reilly, Timo Meier, and Patrick Kane headed east to Toronto, New Jersey, and New York, respectively. Meanwhile, within the Pacific Division, the Kraken’s rivals all made shrewd moves to address specific needs. The Edmonton Oilers got better on defense by adding defenseman Mattias Ekholm, the Vegas Golden Knights got better up front by adding forward Ivan Barbeshev, and the Los Angeles Kings got better by swapping out aging franchise legend Jonathan Quick for Joonas Korpisalo in net.
Even so, the Kraken stood pat, and Francis told media on Friday that he’s happy with the group and the chemistry that they have shown.
“At the end of the day, we believed in the group we had,” Francis said. “I [didn’t think] there were prices that we were willing to pay at this point to change that chemistry that we have in our locker room currently.”
What the Kraken could have done
Perhaps the Kraken could have used another addition on the blue line (supposedly Seattle was in on John Klingberg up until the very end when he was traded to Minnesota). We like the balance Seattle has on the back end, both in terms of right-shot and left-shot blueliners and with the mix of puck-moving and stay-at-home guys.
But we really would have liked to see a middle-six forward added to the group. Seattle has shown that its forward corps is not quite as deep as it seems on paper, especially with Andre Burakovsky out these past few weeks. Coach Dave Hakstol has a hard time backfilling any injuries up front, which is why you saw players like Brandon Tanev and Jesper Froden inserted onto a line with Jaden Schwartz and Alex Wennberg.
Hakstol finally made the move to break up his lovable third line of Eeli Tolvanen, Yanni Gourde, and Oliver Bjorkstrand before the St. Louis game on Tuesday, moving Bjorkstrand into Burakovsky’s spot and Ryan Donato onto that third line. Those adjustments seemed to have worked in the short term, as Seattle beat the Blues and Red Wings to start the road trip, and the team is suddenly scoring goals again. Plus, Francis said Burakovsky was getting back on the ice Friday, a huge step toward a return for the winger.
BUT… there were players out there that could have been had that would have made Seattle significantly deeper. The trickle down of adding a player like Philadelphia’s James van Riemsdyk—who wasn’t traded, but linked to the Kraken on Friday’s deadline, Barbeshev, or Detroit’s Tyler Bertuzzi—who was traded to Boston — would have been immense and would have made Seattle’s forward group even more formidable.
Why the Kraken did not make moves
Francis went back to the “chemistry” piece in his press conference on several occasions, and he held firm that he is happy with the group as it stands. He also made it sound like keeping some of the players that had been rumored to be available—Carson Soucy, Will Borgen, and Morgan Geekie were all supposedly discussed, according to various insiders—was a message to his players that they deserve to stay together and make a run at the playoffs.
But wouldn’t a better message be to add even one player to show the existing group that Francis believes they can go beyond just making the first round of the playoffs?
As far as Francis was concerned, not if it meant overpaying just because it was the deadline and teams around the league were making shocking moves.
“I think it’s easy to overpay for players at this point in the season,” Francis said. “Your emotions get involved, and you want to do that. I’ve always said the two most dangerous days are trade deadline day and free agency day.”
Francis also made the point that the front office has not sat on its hands over the past nine months. He reminded the media that including Sprong at the last deadline, Matty Beniers joining the club, acquiring Burakovsky, Bjorkstrand, and Martin Jones in the offseason, and plucking Tolvanen off waivers, Seattle actually has made a lot of moves, even if they didn’t come during deadline week.
Like the patient approach or not, this is the group Seattle will march down the stretch with.
“I’ve got complete faith in them,” Francis said. “They can do this.”