The holidays are here, which means the halfway point of the NHL season is right around the corner. While extension talks with players are often put off until the end of the season, it’s never too early to look at who might be re-signing in 2023. Several Seattle Kraken restricted free agents are extension-eligible (RFA), as well as a few unrestricted free agents (UFA) that could return next season.
After some strong starts, it may be time for the Kraken to start having discussions with these players, as they’ve had a significant impact on the team’s early success. Many of these players will likely get re-signed for next season, but there are a few who have earned that possible extension.
After several seasons of uncertainty, it appears as if Daniel Sprong has found his groove in Seattle. With that in mind, the 25-year-old may have finally found the fit that could keep him around for several years. Currently sitting fifth in team scoring, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Sprong isn’t offered an extension after this season.
With ten goals and nine assists, Sprong sits behind only Andre Burakovsky, Matty Beniers, Jordan Eberle, and Jared McCann on the team scoring leaderboard. Given his past experience in the NHL, it’s somewhat shocking to see how successful he’s been in the 2022-23 season.
Before he arrived in Seattle in the trade that sent Marcus Johansson to the Washington Capitals, Sprong was unable to get consistent minutes or opportunities on several teams. He was drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015 and played 18 NHL games that season. Following his NHL time, he was sent back to the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
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From that point forward, Sprong found himself as the regular call-up, spending several stints in the American Hockey League (AHL) in the Penguins, Capitals, and Anaheim Ducks’ systems. It felt as if he was beginning to run out of time to stick with a team, which made that trade to the Kraken especially important.
Now, he plays a valuable role in the Kraken’s bottom-six while also spending time on the team’s top power-play unit. His 19 points on the season are already approaching a career-best. His 20 points in 2020-21 currently rank first among his point totals, but he should soon pass that based on his current numbers.
Sprong is currently earning $750,000, with his RFA contract expiring at the end of this season, but he’s likely earned himself a raise. He should continue to play a role on this Kraken team, and that role has been key to the success of the team.
An original pick in the expansion draft, Carson Soucy is currently set to hit unrestricted free agency at the conclusion of the 2022-23 season. His contract, which was a three-year deal signed with the Minnesota Wild in 2020, has spanned his two years with the Kraken.
Soucy is the only pending UFA on this list, but he’s done well to help anchor the bottom pairing of the defensive group. His play with Will Borgen has been a pleasant surprise but has also helped in creating a consistent standard of solid performances from that third pairing.
He’s not going to wow you with his offensive game, but he’s a sturdy defender who adds a level of stability on the ice. The duo of Soucy and Borgen do a great job of limiting the chances while also helping their forwards turn the puck up ice. Borgen is an RFA at the end of this season as well, so it will be interesting to see if the Kraken look to keep both players.
Among defensive pairings with 300 or more minutes played, Soucy and Borgen rank in the top ten in expected goals against per 60 (Money Puck). This displays the ability to limit chances from opponents, and they do so on a consistent basis. Soucy did struggle at times in 2021-22, as he played with Jamie Oleksiak for the bulk of his season, so his resurgence has been a welcome addition to their blue-line depth.
While it remains to be seen if Soucy can consistently defend as well as he has this season, it feels like a safe bet to extend an offer to him after this season as a way to keep that stability he’s displayed. His expiring contract pays him $2.75 million annually, so his next offer will be somewhere in that range as well if they wish to extend him.
Sticking with the defensive group, top-pairing defenseman Vince Dunn is due for a new deal after this season, as his previous RFA contract will expire. After leading the Kraken in defensive scoring in 2021-22, Dunn appears on pace to do so yet again and has become a valuable part of this team’s core group.
The 26-year-old Dunn is now in his sixth full NHL season, and he’s proven himself worthy of a top-pairing spot. Sitting seventh in team scoring, he has registered 18 points in 32 games to begin the season. He’s also second on the team in average ice time, which shows he can handle the load while also producing at a fairly notable level.
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It’s easy to argue for a team to extend a 26-year-old defender who puts up points, but he has struggled defensively at times this year. With that said, he’s paired with Adam Larsson, who is significantly better in his own end. This could be a situation where it’s a matter of circumstance, but these two seem to thrive together.
With Dunn’s offense-first style, Larsson plays the role of a safety net, hanging back to ensure players don’t get a clear look at a chance if Dunn jumps into the rush. This is something the NHL often rewards, with many offensive defenders getting their opportunity to thrive when they play with a defensive defender.
With Larsson locked up for another two seasons after this one, it could be a wise decision to do the same for Dunn. That pairing can be a major component of the team’s roster makeup for several seasons to come. If Dunn can continue to be a contributor, it makes a lot of sense to find terms that work for both parties as he plays through his prime.
All three of these players have played a key role in the Kraken’s success this season. Both Dunn and Sprong remain under team control until they turn 28, but this is a situation where both players are at a point where a multi-year extension feels like the possible outcome. Soucy is the outlier here as the only UFA, but he does well to fit his role. He would be a valuable player to hold onto for at least another season, as his stability can be an asset to younger defensemen who may make their way into the NHL.
It’s likely that contract talks are put off until the end of the season, but don’t be surprised to hear any of these three names as players putting pen to paper for the Kraken.