The Seattle Kraken effectively utilized their cap space to acquire Oliver Bjorkstrand from the Columbus Blue Jackets for pennies on the dollar. The Danish forward who scored 28 goals and recorded 57 points in 80 games last season was brought in for a 2023 third and fourth-round pick which was considered well below market price. Ron Francis and the entire Seattle staff should be commended for this trade, as they were able to take advantage of a team who was up against the cap to bring in a player that should have an impact on the organization for the foreseeable future.
How the Kraken Acquired Bjorkstrand
The reason behind how the Kraken were able to acquire such a talented forward for cheap is cap space. Before the trade, the Blue Jackets were approximately $6 million over the cap ceiling. This came after they signed Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine and Erik Gudbranson to long-term deals worth a total cap hit of $22.45 million for next season. While there were other players like Gustav Nyquist or Jacob Voracek that could have been traded to clear the space, Bjorkstrand was the player Seattle wanted, which led to Columbus trading him.
Bjorkstrand signed a new contract back in 2021 that carried a cap hit of $5.4 million until the 2025-26 season. Within the deal, there is also a no-trade clause that allows him to select ten teams where he cannot be traded. The Kraken were able to fit his deal in as they had around $9 million in available cap space before the deal. This trade along with the Max Pacioretty and Matt Murray deals from this offseason and the Shayne Gostisbehere trade from last offseason shows that in this day in age, cap space is the best asset a team can have as it allows an organization to bring in quality players for little to no return.
Bjorkstrand Returns to the West Coast
Bjorkstrand has a lot of experience scoring goals in the Seattle area as he was a star in the Western Hockey League (WHL) for the Portland Winterhawks from 2012-15. During his 193 regular season games for the storied junior team, he scored 144 goals and recorded 290 points. He also helped Portland to within one win of a Memorial Cup Championship in 2013 and was named WHL MVP for the 2014-15 season, finishing with 63 goals and 118 points in 59 games. Luckily for Seattle fans, this time, he will be scoring for them rather than against them as he loved scoring against the Seattle Thunderbirds, putting up multiple multi-goal games and knocking them out of the playoffs during the 2014-15 season.
Bjorkstrand’s success in Seattle didn’t stop there, as during his first visit to Climate Pledge Arena, he recorded a goal, an assist and four shots in a 5-4 overtime victory. There is just something about playing in the Seattle area that kicks his game up a notch. Hopefully, for the Kraken, he can continue his long history of scoring success on the West Coast, but this time in a Seattle uniform.
What Bjorkstrand Brings to the Kraken
Bjorkstrand is a play-driving winger with good speed who is defensively responsible. He isn’t afraid to get in on the forecheck, and he is able to create scoring chances thanks to his shot and ability to get to open areas in the offensive zone. Overall, he is a player that works his tail off every shift and adds some much-needed offence to a Kraken forward group that had trouble scoring goals last season.
The fact that it is hard to pinpoint weaknesses in his game emphasizes how good of a player the Kraken are getting. Yes, he did have a minus-35 plus/minus rating from last season, but that was predominantly due to his goaltenders posting a .878 save percentage when he was on the ice. He is going to make a great linemate for either Matty Beniers or Shane Wright over the next few years, and if he stays healthy, should push the 30-goal mark during the 2022-23 season.
Huge Win For the Kraken
It cannot be understated how massive a win for the Kraken this trade is. Players like Bjorkstrand, who are entering their prime, do not become available often for this big of a discount which is why Seattle should be commended for this move. He is sure to become a fan favourite, especially at the Northwest Danish Association, which is located in Seattle, as he looks to continue his trend of scoring big goals in the Pacific Northwest.