With the NHL Playoffs set to start in a few weeks, there is plenty of intrigue to be had. Will the Tampa Bay Lightning be able to three-peat, or will a new champion be crowned? For Seattle Kraken fans, this is a perfect opportunity to scout some potential unrestricted free agents (UFA) that could sign with the team this offseason. Here are five to watch.
Although the Predators haven’t officially claimed a playoff spot, they are projected to qualify for the postseason, and a big reason for that is the play of Filip Forsberg. The Swedish star is having a career year with 72 points in 60 games and is expected to cash in big on the free agency market. He could still re-sign in Nashville, but the Predators may not want to pay him more than Roman Josi’s $9.059 million cap hit. If Nashville decides to let him walk this offseason, the Kraken should be all-in on trying to sign him this offseason.
This season, Forsberg’s pace based on an 82-game schedule is 97 points. That means by the end of the season he would have finished somewhere in the top-10 for points in the NHL. A team will easily offer him over $10 million per season, and one of those teams should be the Kraken. Just imagining him on a line with Matty Beniers and Jordan Eberle should make fans in Seattle excited. The Kraken have the money and space to make a long-term deal work and should seriously consider it if he becomes a free agent this offseason.
One of the most heavily sought-after free agents this offseason will be Nick Paul. The former Ottawa Senator will be a key piece of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s bottom-six this postseason and could cash in big if he has a strong playoff. This season, he has 13 goals and 25 points in 71 games.
Related: Lightning and Senators Make Hockey Trade by Swapping Paul for Joseph
The debate around Paul is how much money the Kraken would be willing to spend on a penalty-killing third or fourth-line center. Seattle is ranked 27th in the league in penalty kill and faceoff win percentage. He would be able to help both of these categories improve as he has a career faceoff win percentage of over 50 percent, as well as significant time on the penalty kill. Despite most likely having to overpay for him, this is a signing the Kraken should seriously consider.
Josh Manson would be the perfect addition to this Kraken team next season. The 30-year-old right-shot defencemen could help form a pairing with Jamie Oleksiak and create a strong shutdown pair in the process. He is expected to play a key role in the Colorado Avalanche’s run to the Stanley Cup, not just at five-on-five but also on the penalty kill.
Currently, Manson carries a cap hit of $4.1 million per season but will be getting a raise based on the value right-shot defencemen have as well as the scarceness of availability on the free-agent market. The Kraken also have to be careful with the term, as he will be 31 once the season begins and they do not want to have an aging player on a big-ticket contract when they start contending for a playoff spot. Regardless, he is worth the risk even if they need to make him the highest-paid defenceman on the team.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are expected to have a busy offseason. Not only do Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Rickard Rakell and Bryan Rust need new contracts, but they also need to make a decision on Evan Rodrigues. He is expected to see a major raise from his current $1 million cap hit this offseason, which may make him too expensive for the Penguins. Based on his play from this season, he would be an intriguing player to add to the Kraken lineup.
Related: Penguins’ Rodrigues Is the NHL’s Most Improved Player
This season, Rodrigues is having a career year with 42 points in 75 games. One thing to remember, however, is he has been playing most of the season on Sidney Crosby’s wing, but it’s also important to note he has had success playing center with Jason Zucker and Kasperi Kapanen too. That versatility is key as it gives more options at center for the Kraken to experiment with. Even if it is a four-year deal worth somewhere in the $3 million per year range, they should seriously consider bringing in the former Boston University star as he has the potential to bring a lot of value to the team.
Maple Leafs defenceman Ilya Lybushkin could be a nice addition to the Kraken’s bottom-pairing. Just like Manson, he fills a need as a right shot, shut down defencemen and won’t carry a massive cap hit as he will fall in the $1.5-2 million range. Even though that is only a slight increase from the $1.35 million cap hit he has this season, a strong playoff should help increase his value.
While Lybushkin does not bring much offence, he makes up for it with his steady play on the blue line. He is expected to be on the Leafs’ first penalty-killing unit and will have some experience playing with an offensively-minded defenceman too as he is currently paired up with former Kraken captain Mark Giordano. Seattle needs to improve their right-shot depth and signing the big Russian this offseason on a relatively cheap deal would be one way to do that.
Huge Offseason Approaching For the Kraken
The Kraken can make a huge splash this offseason depending on what moves they make. They have the ability to rebuild their roster after a disappointing season and build a playoff contender if they make the right decisions. Seattle has the cap space to make their team stronger, and these five pending UFAs are perfect examples of players they should be bringing in.