When it comes to low-risk, high-reward signing opportunities this offseason, Sven Baertschi has to be near the top of the list. The former 13th overall pick needs a fresh start after his five-plus seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, and although he might not be at the top of their free-agent wish list, the Seattle Kraken should seriously consider adding him.
As an expansion team, the Kraken have no pre-assigned roles or positions on their yet-to-be-determined roster. A bottom-six player could become a first-line winger, or a depth defenceman, who can’t crack the lineup, could become a valuable member of the team’s top-six. That’s why bringing in Baertschi would be a great move by the Kraken. If he has a strong training camp, he could solidify himself as a power-play specialist or find chemistry with new linemates. He has the potential to be next season’s Carter Verhaeghe if he’s put in a position to succeed.
The main concern is Baertschi’s concussion and injury history that forced him to miss most of the 2018-19 season and part of the 2019-20 season. As Chris Faber mentioned in his article, ”Once somebody’s got their mind made up it’s hard’: Sven Baertschi spoke candidly about his tough past two seasons,’ post-concussion symptoms made everyday activities difficult for him, had a negative impact on his mental health and slowed his recovery process. Unfortunately, despite that he worked hard to get back in the lineup, the Canucks sent him to minors and did not recall him.
Baertschi continued to work hard and became a leader for the Utica Comets. He had 46 points in 43 games in 2019-20, showing he was still willing to put in the time and effort needed to succeed. This is another reason he would be a great addition to the expansion franchise. He deserves a second chance in the NHL and should excel as a mentor.
Looking at Baertschi’s time with the Canucks shows he can produce offensively. He is not the best in his own zone, but he put up good numbers on the scoresheet. During his time in Vancouver from 2014-2020, he ranks seventh in points with 110, fourth in goals with 58 and tenth in assists with 52 in 225 games, which ranks 11th in games played during that time, despite the injuries.
Baertschi could also help Seattle on the power play. He had 14 goals and 31 power-play points with the Canucks, and although those numbers may seem low, he ranks in the top eight in both categories. His game is not suited for bottom-six assignments because of his defensive flaws. If he can improve his two-way game and find chemistry with more offensively-inclined players, he could re-establish himself as a power-play specialist and perhaps find himself on one of the Kraken’s top two lines.
If Seattle decides to sign Baertschi, his contract would likely be close to the league-minimum on a one-year, two-way deal. Not only would that be a bargain if he lights the league on fire, but the Kraken would also get a foundational piece for their franchise. If he doesn’t fit with the team, they have flexibility to send him to the minors.
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A two-way contract would allow Seattle to do this without putting Baertschi on waivers and call him up as needed. Finally, if he plays well but the team doesn’t have a great season, the can trade him for an asset. Either way, this is a win-win situation.
Having experienced players on two-way deals is beneficial for any team regardless of their financial situation. This type of contract gives them roster flexibility and the ability to fill a short-term need if injuries occur. Unfortunately, it will be difficult for Baertschi to earn a one-way deal given his injury and recent playing history, but a two-way deal is still positive for a player who has not played in the NHL since 2019.
Worth the Risk
Signing Baertschi may not be as exciting as bringing in Dougie Hamilton or Taylor Hall, but he is still worth discussing. He will be motivated and should be able to compete for a spot next season. If he doesn’t crack the lineup, then the Kraken still have a player who can bring leadership to their AHL team. It’s something they should consider heading into the first free-agent market of their inaugural season.
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 dubnetwork.ca where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.