The Tampa Bay Lightning have been the class of the NHL during the past few seasons not just by making smart trades and signings, but in their player development. Based on their current roster, they have just over $4 million in cap space to spend this offseason and need to sign five restricted free agents and nine unrestricted free agents. Whether it is salary cap constraints or playing time, there will be some strong free agents available from the Lightning organization this offseason. Here are three the Seattle Kraken should be targeting.
2021-22 Cap Hit: $1.35 Million
Nick Paul is a player I wrote about before the Kraken Expansion Draft as someone Seattle should have targeted. Unfortunately, he was on the Ottawa Senators’ protected list, which meant they wouldn’t have been able to select him. Fast forward a year, and the plucky forward may be hitting the open market in free agency. He is a versatile center/winger that can play anywhere in the lineup while providing more depth at the center position.
Before making his way over to Tampa Bay, Paul was having a good season with the Senators. Some stats that stuck out were his 48 takeaways and 41 blocks in 59 games. He then continued his strong play in Tampa with 11 takeaways and 15 blocks in 21 games. In the playoffs, he seems to have stepped his game up to another level in a shutdown role; he has 22 blocks and 15 takeaways in 21 games. From a defensive side, he is the type of player every team wishes they could add, as his positioning, pursuit and ability to make a difference in his own zone make him one of the best defensive forwards in the league.
Paul would be a great addition to the Kraken not just because of his defence, but his ability to add 20-30 points in a season as a primarily bottom-six player. Seattle also has an advantage as they can offer him somewhere in the $3-3.5 million per season range, which is what he is projected to demand this offseason. Although this number is a bit high for a third or fourth-line player, he will make the Kraken faster and harder to play against, which are two areas they need to improve upon in 2022-23.
2021-22 Cap Hit: $750,000
Although Darren Raddysh has spent the majority of his time at the pro level, there is some potential upside, especially with an organization such as the Seattle Kraken. First off, he is a right-shot defenceman which the club desperately needs, but he has shown consistent play at the American Hockey League (AHL) level and even got a chance in the NHL this season, playing in a total of four games. Lastly, at 26, he fits the age group of players the Kraken should be focused on when bringing in free agents.
Raddysh has a strong pedigree from his junior days. Not only did he help the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) make the Memorial Cup during the 2016-17 season, but he was also named OHL defenceman of the year as well as OHL overager of the year. Since then, he has played with the Rockford IceHogs and Hartford Wolfpack before signing a one-year deal with the Lightning organization this past offseason. In the AHL this season, he scored seven goals and added 25 points in 61 games for the Syracuse Crunch.
Although he does not have a long history in the NHL, these are types of players Seattle should be bringing in. Players that may have not been given an opportunity elsewhere but have shown signs their game could translate to the NHL. A good example is Nick Holden who spent the majority of his first seven seasons at the pro level in the AHL before he became an everyday NHLer. Bringing in someone like Raddysh is a win-win scenario for the Kraken and a player they should seriously consider.
2021-22 Cap Hit: $750,000
A fifth-round draft pick in 2012 by the Montreal Canadiens, Charles Hudon has had an up and down career. After a stellar junior career which saw him win Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) rookie of the year and play for Team Canada at the World Juniors, he has split time between the AHL and NHL within the Canadiens organization before departing for Switzerland during the 2020-21 season. Now back in North America, he is showing why he was such a promising prospect back in the early 2010s.
This past season with the Syracuse Crunch, Hudon finished tied for first in goals with 30 and third in points with 57. He was a force on the power play with 13 goals and also scored once shorthanded. A leader on the team, he helped the Crunch finish second in the North Division and qualify for the playoffs.
Hudon would be a great addition to the Kraken organization as he provides value on and off the ice. He showed he can still produce at the pro level as evidenced by his 2021-22 season and he has a pedigree of playing consistently at the NHL level. Lastly, this is a player that can help the prospects in the system as he has been in their shoes and understands the ups and downs of being called up and sent down. He would be a great addition to either the main or AHL roster, and one the Kraken should explore.
Kraken Need More Depth
Two things were clear from last season. The Kraken need depth for when injuries occur and need to improve their defensive play as well as special teams. These three players can provide the organization with value if brought in. Seattle needs to be smart in free agency this season and ensure they are getting value from each signing.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.