As free agency opened on July 1, the Kraken started with some minor business, signing players likely to spend at least some time with the Coachella Valley Firebirds this season on one-year contracts, including Jimmy Schuldt, John Hayden, and Marian Studenic. In the meantime, many notable former NHL contributors left the team, including Daniel Sprong, Ryan Donato, Morgan Geekie, and Carson Soucy.
As it seemed like free agency news was beginning to die down in the early afternoon, the Kraken announced their first major acquisition of the 2023 free agency period, signing 10-year veteran and Stanley Cup champion defenseman Brian Dumoulin.
What is the deal?
Dumoulin signed a two-year, $3.15 million average annual value contract. The term is one year shorter than the deal signed by Carson Soucy, the player Dumoulin is likely to replace in a one-for-one swap. In a press conference after the signing, Kraken general manager Ron Francis noted the importance of this shorter term in opting for Dumoulin over Soucy.
Born: September 6, 1991
Birthplace: Biddeford, Maine, United States
Weight: 207 lbs
How does he look on the ice?
My two cents: Brain Dumoulin is a big defender who uses his size to his advantage defending the puck, winning board battles, pinching in the offensive zone, and canceling forwards at the net front. Defense is his hallmark. He rotated defensive partners during 2022-23, but in the games I reviewed, he was taking difficult matchups – though with somewhat mixed results. With the puck, he is a quality passer, connecting on numerous tape-to-tape passes to facilitate breakouts, in transition, and in the offensive zone. He is also a disciplined player, taking only 16 penalty minutes over 82 games last season.
Based on the small sample of games I watched toward the end of the 2022-23 season, his agility struck me as a question. In transition and in the offensive zone he moved adequately in linear fashion – as I might have expected for a bigger, defensive defenseman. He flashed skating skill in offensive-zone cycles. When given space, he showed he will seize it and lead the rush into the offensive zone.
In the defensive zone, however, his feet deadened at times, losing track of his check, which left him lunging or out of position entirely. He also made numerous questionable plays under forechecking pressure from the opposition. Speed from top-of-the-lineup competition, in particular, gave him problems. He did fairly well maintaining his gaps in defensive transition when he was able to set up in structure.
I left wondering if a lack of confidence in his mobility was undermining his defensive-zone play. Perhaps he can recapture his form, but in his 2022-23 incarnation he looked more like a solid third-pair defenseman than the top-four defender he had been in his twenties.
Offensively, Dumoulin isn’t much of a threat with his shot, but he does fairly well manipulating the defense to get point shots through to create chances for his teammates. In transition, he’s a better passer than skater but adequate with his feet. The team would be best served to pair him with a stronger transition defender. He isn’t going to be a power-play contributor, but his physical, stay-at-home style is well suited to the penalty kill if he can regain some skating agility and confidence in the defensive zone, as noted above.
Overall, if the Kraken effectively swap Dumoulin for Soucy, they are trading away some youth and athleticism but gaining back more discipline, experience, and production neutralizing top-quality competition. Despite my concerns above, projecting into 2023-24, I’d give Dumoulin the slight edge as a defensive-zone player. He has the stronger track record and is still young enough to expect a bounce back toward his career norms.
What do the analytics say?
Francis noted in the team’s press release that Dumoulin recorded a career high in points last season (25), but digging a bit deeper into Dumoulin’s underlying on-ice shot data reveals a downward trend and suggests that his overall game impact, particularly offensively, has been decaying for a couple years. That said, the decline started from a very strong place, and his play remains solid, particularly for a bottom-of-the-lineup defenseman. Even after some slippage, he compares favorably to Soucy. Getting him on a shorter deal than what Soucy required seems to be a quality bit of business.
Where does he project with the Kraken?
The Kraken’s left-shot defense NHL depth chart looks like this:
- Vince Dunn (RFA)
- Jamie Oleksiak (signed through 2025-26)
- Brian Dumoulin (signed through 2024-25)
- Jaycob Megna (signed through 2023-24)
- Ryker Evans (signed to ELC through 2024-25)
- Gustav Olofsson (signed through 2024-25)
Dumoulin likely slots directly into Soucy’s vacated role on the third pair with Justin Schultz. This pair should compliment each other since Schultz is more offensively inclined. Even better, the two have significant on-ice experience playing together from their time in Pittsburgh: 371:21 time on ice together over five seasons.
Dumoulin’s presence allows Ryker Evans to continue to develop at the AHL level. Evans is close, but in my viewings, it seemed like another partial season at the AHL level would beneficial. If the Kraken have a log jam of NHL-caliber, left-shot defensemen by the end of this season, at least it won’t be a long-term problem with Dumoulin signed for only two years.
Where do the Kraken go from here?
After losing forwards Geekie, Sprong, and Donato to free agency, the Kraken may continue to look for depth up front (indeed, they added Kailer Yamamoto Sunday), particularly forwards who can handle center responsibilities and play on the penalty kill. After this move, I had the Kraken with approximately $15,992,000 in cap space, with one goalie buried at the AHL level. Following the Yamamoto signing, I currently have the Kraken at approximately $14,492,000 in space. This sum does not account for Seattle’s qualified RFAs. Beyond signing their RFAs and another depth forward, the Kraken could have room for one additional cap-leveraging trade or some other transaction.
More reading on Dumoulin
Scott Malone of ROOT Sports posted an informative Twitter thread on Dumoulin after the signing was announced. A Nov., 2022, article on Dumoulin from The Athletic breaks down some of his early struggles during the 2022-23 season.