Kraken: 4 High-Profile UFAs to Target

Fom July 18 to July 21, the Seattle Kraken will be able to speak with and potentially sign any unrestricted or restricted free agents around the league. Any signed players will count as the selection from their former team, but the key advantage here is the ability to court players before any other team.

In 2017, with few impressive free agents on the market, the Vegas Golden Knights did not do much with their negotiating period, signing only depth players. However, 2021’s free-agent class is rich with talent, and the flat salary cap will make it difficult for teams to retain their prized free agents, leaving room for the Kraken to big players in the market.

With the negotiating period roughly a month away, here’s a look at some pending unrestricted free agents who could be a good fit in Seattle. However, I omitted players who are likely to re-sign with their teams, such as Taylor Hall (Boston Bruins), Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche), and Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals).

Tomas Tatar

After unexpectedly reaching the third round of the playoffs, the Montreal Canadiens have several high-end players set to hit the market this summer. The most exciting name, center Phillip Danault, will likely re-sign in Montreal, while right-winger Joel Armia is an interesting option, but the best available player is left-winger Tomas Tatar.

Tomas Tatar Montreal Canadiens
Tomas Tatar, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tatar has been fantastic in Montreal since he was acquired in 2018, finding his niche on a line with Danault and Brendan Gallagher on one of the most dominant lines in the league in terms of possession. However, he’s been scratched since Game 5 of Montreal’s first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs and may have fallen out of favour with the team.

To many, scratching Tatar is a curious decision. Despite his production issues to begin the playoffs, his underlying numbers remained strong. He also had another strong regular season, posting ten goals and 20 assists in 50 games while dominating possession and expected goal share.

With the way things are trending, it seems unlikely that Tatar will return to Montreal. The Kraken would be wise to target him, considering his excellent results, and his lack of playing time should drive down his price tag.

Brandon Saad

After a disappointing finish to a promising season, the Colorado Avalanche have a difficult offseason ahead of them. Norris Trophy finalist Cale Makar and captain Gabriel Landeskog need new contracts. With the Avs already up tight against the cap, there may not be room to re-sign winger Brandon Saad.

Brandon Saad Colorado Avalanche
Brandon Saad, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

Saad was a key part of Colorado’s playoff run, with seven goals in ten games. He finished the regular season with 15 goals and 24 points in 44 games. Like Tatar, he should not be expected to blow up the scoresheet, but he is a good top-six winger with strong underlying numbers.

At the right price, Saad would be a great add for Seattle. His veteran presence and playoff pedigree would be especially valuable given his 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup runs with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Blake Coleman

Since joining the Tampa Bay Lightning at the 2020 trade deadline, Blake Coleman has been an effective middle-six player. He has provided vital versatility for the defending champions given his ability to play both on the wing and at center.

Blake Coleman Tampa Bay Lightning
Blake Coleman, Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Scott Audette /NHLI via Getty Images)

The Bolts appreciate what Coleman brings to the table, and it took a hefty price to acquire him, as the New Jersey Devils received a first-round pick and highly-touted prospect Nolan Foote in return. However, they are already well over the cap, a fact which has been a major source of controversy in the playoffs. Re-signing Coleman will be almost impossible.

Coleman put up a respectable 14 goals and 31 points in 55 games this season, but his real impact comes at the other end of the ice. He has been among the best defensive forwards in the league for several seasons, and the Kraken should jump at the chance to sign him.

Dougie Hamilton

The biggest name in free agency is Dougie Hamilton, who has had a spectacular couple of seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes. Over the past three seasons, he ranks 14th among all blueliners in points and first in xWAR, a stat from Evolving Hockey that quantifies a player’s overall impact relative to a replacement-level player. Many consider him to be the best defenseman in the league.

Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes
Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Hamilton is an integral part of the Hurricanes’ blue line and might be the best player on the team, but his excellent play has made him too expensive for the recently eliminated ‘Canes. In fact, as of Monday morning, Carolina has given Hamilton permission to speak with other teams.

Hamilton will not come cheap, but he could be a cornerstone for the NHL’s newest franchise. With cap space to spare, the Kraken should do whatever it takes to sign him.

Though the expansion draft will offer plenty of NHL talent for Seattle to choose from, the best opportunity to contend may be through wooing high-end free agents mentioned here. Given how weak the Pacific Division appears to be for the foreseeable future, the Kraken have a chance to contend immediately.

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