- Kraken prospect Ryan Winterton played an important role for OHL Hamilton as they won the league title and have advanced to the Memorial Cup semifinals. Despite that, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times reports that Seattle won’t be signing him to his entry-level deal this summer and instead will wait and see how 2022-23 goes. The 18-year-old was a third-round pick in the 2021 draft and potted 20 goals while adding 26 assists in 37 games with the Bulldogs this season while averaging more than a point per game in the playoffs as well.
The first head coach in the history of the Coachella Valley Firebirds has been announced, and he comes with quite a bit of NHL experience. Dan Bylsma— Stanley Cup and Jack Adams Award winner Dan Bylsma–will take over the new AHL franchise, which will serve as the Seattle Kraken AHL affiliate next season.
Firebirds president Steve Fraser released a short statement:
We are thrilled to welcome Dan Bylsma to the Firebirds family and look forward to his leadership in building a unified roster of players as well as creating a championship product on the ice.
Bylsma had already been working with the Kraken organization as part of their player development staff and as an assistant with the Charlotte Checkers, already working with a number of prospects that will be with the Firebirds next season. The 2009 cup-winning coach has been behind the bench for 565 NHL games, posting an outstanding 320-190-55 record. Unfortunately, those numbers saw a significant downturn at his last stop, where he was put in charge of the struggling Buffalo Sabres and was unable to get them into the playoffs.
Since his time in Buffalo ended, he has been an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings and at the World Championships with Team USA. As far as minor league coaches go, his resume is exquisite, even if his last go-round in the NHL didn’t go so well.
For Coachella Valley, hiring an experienced coach will help them immediately get started as they try to build a new fanbase and support the Kraken’s NHL exploits. Seattle shared Charlotte this season as they didn’t have enough players to fill out their own AHL affiliate but now will be on their own to provide Bylsma with a competitive group.
A busy day of signings continues today. The Nashville Predators announced they’ve extended defenseman Jeremy Lauzon to a four-year contract worth $8MM in total, carrying an average annual value of $2MM.
Nashville acquired Lauzon at the Trade Deadline this season from the Seattle Kraken in exchange for a second-round pick (49th overall in the 2022 draft). He was Seattle’s expansion draft selection from the Boston Bruins.
Strictly a bottom-of-the-lineup player, Lauzon tallied two goals and seven points in 66 games combined between Seattle and Nashville this season. While he was in the lineup more consistently in Nashville, he often found himself as a healthy scratch with the Kraken. He averaged 17:40 of ice time per game this season, only a few seconds above his career average.
The veteran of 142 NHL games has some serious career stability now. He is decent defensively at even strength but has struggled on the penalty kill when used there, making more an ideal complementary player to a more high-end, offensively-inclined defenseman. If all goes well, he could end up being a good, cheap solution to partner with Roman Josi, but that’s assuming he maintains his solid defensive play post-trade. He’s known to be inconsistent at times, which raises a few red flags around the four-year term for this deal.
However, Lauzon is still just 25, and will still likely be in his prime at age 29 when the deal expires in 2026. It’s somewhat of a risky deal since the $2MM isn’t fully buriable in the minors, but it could just as well work out just fine. Lauzon was slated to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this offseason, and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent at the contract’s end.
As the Stanley Cup Final is set to commence in two days, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche will retake the ice today to practice ahead of their last four to seven games of the season. Of note from Tampa’s side of things is that injured star center Brayden Point continued to take part in practice today and took line rushes for the first time, centering a line between Nick Paul and Ross Colton, per The Athletic’s Joe Smith. However, assistant coach Jeff Halpern said after practice that “he didn’t know if you could read too much” into Point’s status, noting that it was a light session.
Tampa will be waiting anxiously to get an answer on when Point can return. Given the uncertain health of Nazem Kadri on the other side for Colorado, Tampa Bay having their full center depth available to them would give them a much greater chance at winning their third straight Stanley Cup.
- With the 2022 NHL Draft now within a month, The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, one of the top public prospect evaluators, released his 2022 NHL Mock Draft, taking team needs, consensus, and intel into account aside from just his own rankings. Although more and more doubt remains around the status of Kingston Frontenacs center Shane Wright as the Montreal Canadiens’ no. 1 overall pick, Wheeler still has Wright listed in the first spot. Rounding out the top five is winger Juraj Slafkovsky to the New Jersey Devils, center Logan Cooley to the Arizona Coyotes, defenseman Simon Nemec going first off the board among d-men to the Seattle Kraken, and defenseman David Jiricek headed to the Philadelphia Flyers.
- The first buyout window of the offseason opens July 1, and Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli has Edmonton Oilers winger Zack Kassian at the top of his list of 10 buyout candidates for this summer. Kassian, who carries a cap hit of $3.2MM through 2024, mustered just 19 points in 58 games this season and averaged under nine minutes per game in the playoffs. With the 31-year-old forward only set to continue declining, Edmonton could take the buyout penalty to free up more space to improve their depth scoring. The buyout for Kassian is relatively benign, per CapFriendly, with a cap hit of $666,667 in 2022-23, $1,866,667 in 2023-24, and $966,667 in 2024-25 and 2025-26. It offers $2.5MM in savings upfront in 2022-23, an appealing number for general manager Ken Holland.
Free agency is now less than six weeks away and many teams are already looking ahead to when it opens up. There will be several prominent players set to hit the open market in mid-July while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign as well. Next up is a look at the Kraken.
Key Restricted Free Agents:
F Ryan Donato – After bouncing around a bit the past few seasons, the once highly-touted prospect settled in for a quality first season with the Kraken, putting up 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points in 74 games. Donato’s 74 games played were the most in a season for his career, as were his 31 points, which ranked sixth on a struggling Kraken team. As Seattle looks to improve and draw closer to its first-ever playoff berth, they’ll look to bring in new talent, but also retain the pieces that seemed to work for them, which would presumably include the 26-year-old forward. After signing a two-year, $3.8MM contract prior to the 2019-20 season with Minnesota, Donato took a pay cut this season in Seattle at just $750K, but after his strong 2021-22 performance, he could be in line for a contract similar to the one he signed in 2019.
F Morgan Geekie – Geekie was selected from the Carolina hurricanes in the Expansion Draft and settled into his first regular role in the NHL, playing in registering 22 points in 73 games for the Kraken, both career-highs. Not the flashiest player, Geekie makes a living as a hard-working, gritty forward which should serve him well as he he looks to continue his career and play regular minutes on a Kraken team that’s also looking to improve. When his ELC expired last offseason, Geekie signed a one-year, $750K contract with Seattle, a deal which seemed to work out well for both player and team. This offseason, Geekie will likely find a modest raise as well as the opportunity to show that he is part of the long-term plan in Seattle.
F Daniel Sprong – A deadline-day deal saw Sprong come from the Washington Capitals as part of the return for forward Marcus Johansson, Sprong continued his quiet-but-effective play with Seattle, scoring six goals in 16 games. Sprong is an interesting player, having been traded three times already in his young career, he’s never had a true chance to settle in with a team. The forward has never had eye-popping numbers at the NHL level, but he has shown the ability to score goals with relative ease. As Seattle looks to find players to build around without a long-settled foundation, Sprong has shown in his brief tenure with Seattle that he was capable of scoring goals, his six in 16 equivalent to a 30 goal pace in an 82 game stretch. He may not find much of a raise over his previous $725K cap hit, but his age (25) and his ability to put pucks in the net could see him getting a real, consistent NHL look with Seattle in 2022-23.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents:
F Victor Rask – Rask’s case is interesting, coming off a six-year, $24MM contract he signed with the Carolina Hurricanes prior to the 2016-17 season. The forward would see himself struggle for Carolina and was eventually dealt to the Minnesota Wild in January of 2019, struggling there as well. Rask would actually rebound to an extent in 2021-22, putting up 13 points in 29 games for the Wild, however salary cap issues forced the organization to bury him in the AHL. As a result, the Wild dealt Rask to Seattle in a salary cap trade at the 2022 deadline, Rask continuing his bounce-back with eight points in 18 games for the Kraken. Where Rask winds up is of course unknown, and he surely won’t see another $24MM contract this offseason, however he has used his 2021-22 very nicely, especially in the face of adversity, to re-establish his value as an NHLer.
F Riley Sheahan – After spending his entire career with the Detroit Red Wings organization, an October, 2017 trade set Sheahan off on a stretch of six teams in five seasons, culminating in a 2021-22 season with the NHL’s newest team. Sheahan turned in a typical-for-him 17 points in 69 games this season, playing his usual 200-foot game as a responsible bottom-six center. The 30-year-old should be useful to a number of teams in different situations, including a building Kraken, a playoff-bound team, or somewhere in between. Having had three straight seasons with salaries under $1MM, most recently $850K this season, Sheahan would presumably wind up with something in that neighborhood once again.
Projected Cap Space:
Seattle projects to have $22.885MM in available cap space this offseason from which to work with. This of course will be enough to retain their pending RFAs and UFAs if they want to, the most expensive of these likely being Donato and Rask, who would probably not go much north of $3MM each per season, if that high. The key consideration for Seattle will be getting better, the team finishing 27-49-6 in their inaugural season. Their available cap space will provide plenty of options to improve and work the free agent and trade markets, but as far as their impending free agents are concerned, the decision may be less about affordability as it is with other teams, and more about what kind of talent they can find to play there. Even if they can retain all of their free agents and find a few to bring in from the outside while staying under the salary cap ceiling, it doesn’t change the fact that they cannot have more than 50 contracts in the organization and 18 skaters dressed each night. On that note, Seattle currently sits with 22 out of a maximum 50 contracts allowed, plenty of room to work.
The Seattle Kraken continue to add to their prospect pool via the acquisition of undrafted free agents. Today, the team announced the signing of 22-year-old Finnish forward Ville Petman to a two-year contract with an average annual value of $791,250.
The 22-year-old prospect is a versatile forward who can play either center or wing. Petman won gold at the 2018 IIHF Under-18 World Juniors, scoring five points in seven games. Standing 5’10” and 181 pounds, he took a gigantic step forward in production this season in the Liiga, scoring 15 goals, 24 assists, and 39 points in 59 games with SaiPa. His previous high in points in the top Finnish league was eight.
It’s that gigantic progression that Seattle hopes propels him to North America and into an NHL role in the future. Petman actually led SaiPa in scoring this season by 10 points, highlighting himself on a team that includes barely any players with an NHL connection. It’s unclear whether or not the contract has a European Assignment Clause, so whether Petman plays with the expansion Coachella Valley Firebirds in the AHL or is loaned back to Finland is unknown at this point.
Petman’s deal will expire in 2024, making him a restricted free agent that offseason.
The Seattle Kraken announced today that goaltender Chris Driedger tore his right ACL while playing for Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships and underwent knee surgery yesterday as a result. As part of the team’s release, the Kraken stated that the surgery was successful and that Driedger’s recovery and rehab program is expected to last seven to nine months, meaning Driedger will be out until at least early 2023.
This update comes as a significant blow for Driedger, as he was likely eyeing 2022-23 as a chance to bounce back from his difficult debut campaign in Seattle. Driedger, 28, was one of the Kraken’s expansion draft selections and signed a $3.5MM AAV deal in Seattle with the idea that he could possibly end up being their starting goaltender. That didn’t end up happening, though, as Seattle jumped at the opportunity to sign Philipp Grubauer, and thanks to Grubauer’s presence along with some injury issues Driedger only managed to get into 27 games this season. Driedger posted an .899 save percentage, a sharp decline from the .927 mark he posted in 2020-21 and the .938 he had in 2019-20. With this injury, Driedger now cannot devote his full focus to improving his performance and now must focus first and foremost on his recovery.
For Seattle, the loss of Driedger means the team will in all likelihood need to add a goalie to back up Grubauer until Driedger is back at full strength. The team does have 25-year-old Joey Daccord ready as their third goalie, and he did have a solid AHL campaign with a .925 save percentage, but his .850 save percentage at the NHL level left much to be desired and it’s possible that Seattle would want a more proven option behind Grubauer. The backup goalie market is set to feature names such as Casey DeSmith, Dustin Tokarski, David Rittich, and Scott Wedgewood, to name just a few. Given how much the team is currently spending on Grubauer and Driedger, and knowing Driedger will recover from his injury and be eventually ready later in the 2022-23 season, it’s fair to wonder what sort of price range the Kraken will be operating within as they try to fill the hole left by Driedger’s absence.
While Driedger’s injury is undoubtedly unfortunate for all parties involved, the addition of a new goaltender from outside the organization to back up and potentially even push Grubauer for starts could be what the Kraken’s number-one netminder needs to bounce back from his nightmarish 2021-22 season.
The Seattle Kraken look to continue to build their prospect pool this offseason, and not just through the draft. The Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker reports that the team is close to signing Slovakian winger Samuel Bucek to a contract.
Undrafted, the 23-year-old Bucek stands at 6’3″, 205 lbs. Playing for HK Nitra in the Slovak Extraliga, he led the entire league in goals (41) and points (64) in 50 games. The highlight on a team that includes 2022 draft-eligibles Simon Nemec and Adam Sykora, Bucek wouldn’t be coming to North America for the first time. In an effort to improve his development and get more playing time, Bucek played in 52 games with the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes in 2016-17, scoring 33 points. He also played for the USHL’s Chicago Steel in 2015-16 and 2017-18.
Bucek uses his larger frame to play a strong net-front game, generating a lot of offense from tips and deflections. Bucek will likely challenge for a large role with the AHL’s Coachella Valley Firebirds in their inaugural season.
The offseason has arrived for half of the league’s teams that aren’t playoff-bound. It’s time to examine what they will need to accomplish over the coming months. Next up is a look at Seattle.
After the Golden Knights went to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, expectations were unrealistically high for the Kraken heading into their first year. But even if they had the expectations of a typical expansion franchise, they still would have underachieved relative to those. As a result, Seattle finds itself trying to build on multiple fronts this summer which is a certainly a tall task.
Find A New Goalie Coach
There was only one coaching casualty from their tough year and that was goalie coach Andrew Allen. That move was understandable as, heading into the season, goaltending was believed to be their best strength with a tandem of Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger. Instead, they had the lowest team save percentage in the NHL (.880) while sitting in the bottom ten in goals allowed despite allowing the fourth-fewest shots on goal. Seattle will need to find a replacement coach and when it comes to their netminders, things can only go up from here.
Expand Young Core
Part of building an organization from scratch is trying to pick up some young core pieces. They got one in the draft in Matthew Beniers and picked one in expansion in Jared McCann with the 25-year-old having a career year and quickly inking a long-term extension. Beyond that, there isn’t that much of a young core. That’s perfectly understandable after just one year of existence but this will be the top priority for GM Ron Francis this summer.
They’ll be able to add some key pieces at the draft. They have the fourth pick in July’s draft plus four second-rounders that can be dangled in an effort to move up. That should yield some nice long-term additions although most of those players will be several years away.
Back when the team was being assembled, cap flexibility was stated as a critical element of what they were doing. This is something that the Kraken can use to their advantage this summer if they’re willing to take a bad contract or two while adding some more picks (or preferably prospects) like Arizona did last summer. If the aim is to build a long-term contender, Seattle needs to have more than two long-term core pieces heading into next season.
Expand Current Core
Most general managers don’t lay out a road map for their planning but at his end-of-season news conference, Francis indicated a desire to add a top-six forward, a top-nine forward, and a puck-moving defenseman to his current group. The forwards, in particular, could be added in free agency where the Kraken will have the ability to outbid most teams as they have nearly $23MM in cap room, per CapFriendly. The UFA market for puck-moving blueliners isn’t as deep so going that route for that spot may be tougher so the trade front might be the better way for them there.
Last summer, Francis surprisingly handed a five-year contract to Jaden Schwartz in a move that didn’t work out too well with the oft-injured 29-year-old missing more than half of the season due to injuries. That should serve as a cautionary tale for their free agent this time around when it comes to adding secondary scorers.
It wouldn’t be advisable to hand out similar long-term deals at this time to fill those roster spots. Anything beyond a medium-term contract carries some risk of being a burden at the time that their young core will be ready to really try to contend. A five-year deal for a 25-year-old (McCann) makes sense as he’ll still be young enough to be part of their plans and productive at the end of it. A five-year deal for a 29-year-old UFA this summer probably won’t hold up as well. They’d be wise to stick with shorter-term contracts that will be easier to move closer to their expiration.
Of course, that caveat doesn’t apply if they happen to entice one of the top free agents to join them. In that case, you don’t say no to top talent and that player becomes a part of their current and future core. But beyond that, playing it safe with the veterans they choose to add should be the path they choose to take.
Fill Out Farm Team
This season, Seattle didn’t have its own AHL affiliate which isn’t particularly unusual for an expansion franchise as they simply don’t have the organizational depth that more established teams do. Instead, they teamed up with the Hurricanes, sharing their affiliate in Charlotte. That allowed the Kraken to carry a pretty short group of contracts with only a handful of recallable players from the Checkers as the season went on.
That won’t be the case next season as Seattle will be operating the Coachella Valley Firebirds. They certainly have plenty of work to do before the puck drops on their inaugural season in October.
At the moment, Seattle has basically the equivalent of one line signed for the Firebirds for next season (with three of those being on future deals that only start in 2022-23). They also have goaltender Joey Daccord if they can get him through waivers in training camp. In terms of on-ice personnel, that’s it. Aside from those few players signed, they basically have to fill an entire team. As a result, expect them to be very active in minor league free agency, both in terms of signing AHL free agents to AHL deals at the beginning of July and in handing out several NHL two-way deals when that market opens up near mid-July.
On top of that, they’ll need to round out their front office and coaching staff. The Kraken added former NHL bench boss Dan Bylsma as an assistant with Charlotte and he’s a contender to be the coach in Palm Springs next season. Francis will be building on multiple fronts this summer so expect a busy summer in Seattle.
Beginning this season, the full effect of the changes to the draft lottery rules announced last year are in place. Starting this year, teams can only move up a maximum of 10 spots if they’re selected, meaning teams originally set at picks 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 cannot move up all the way to the first overall pick. A win for one of these teams in the first draft lottery secures the pick for the team that finished last.
The team with the best odds coming in will win the draft lottery for the second straight year, though. The Montreal Canadiens will pick first overall in their own building, the first time such an occurrence has happened since 1985 when the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted Wendel Clark at Maple Leaf Gardens. The New Jersey Devils moved up from fifth overall to second overall, bumping down the Arizona Coyotes, Seattle Kraken, and Philadelphia Flyers down one spot each.
The order for the top 16 picks of the 2022 NHL Draft is as follows:
- Montreal Canadiens
- New Jersey Devils
- Arizona Coyotes
- Seattle Kraken
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Columbus Blue Jackets (via Chicago Blackhawks)
- Ottawa Senators
- Detroit Red Wings
- Buffalo Sabres
- Anaheim Ducks
- San Jose Sharks
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- New York Islanders
- Winnipeg Jets
- Vancouver Canucks
- Buffalo Sabres (via Vegas Golden Knights)
While Shane Wright is still the consensus no. 1 overall selection across public draft boards (and NHL Central Scouting), there’s been recent noise about players like Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley potentially challenging him for first overall. That’s an upset unlikely to happen, though, as Wright had a terrific second half of the 2021-22 campaign, finishing with 32 goals, 62 assists, and 94 points in 63 games with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. He also has 10 points in eight playoff games at the time of writing. While teams will draft him for his elite playmaking ability, he’s got an underrated shot when he chooses to use it as well. Standout Slovak defenseman Simon Nemec, Czech defenseman David Jiricek, Canadian forward Matthew Savoie, and Finnish forward Joakim Kemell are also names to watch for near the top of the draft board.