The United States grabbed a bronze medal at the 2021 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hockey World Championship. As a result, the Seattle Kraken should take a good look at acquiring some of the team’s key players based on their previous season’s performance and play in the tournament.
These players may not have received the most noticeable recognition, but it’s not always about finding the best players. Instead, it’s about finding the right ones.
1. Forward – Brian Boyle
Brian Boyle didn’t play in the NHL during the 2020-21 season but is looking to make his return and would be a good bottom-six signing for the Kraken. The 36-year-old would be a low-risk investment.
The Hingham, Mass. native brings veteran leadership in the form of 805 NHL games and 118 playoff games. Boyle was named captain of Team USA after Justin Abdelkader went down with a lower-body injury and was an alternate captain for three seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Boyle can be expected to see penalty killing time as Seattle will regularly have to face off against Connor McDavid and an Edmonton Oilers power play that led the league at 27.6% during the 2020-21 season. He hasn’t had a faceoff percentage below 50% since the 2014-15 season and won 55.42% during the tournament.
He most likely won’t be looking for a super lucrative contract, and it should serve the Kraken well to have a good locker room guy to help create chemistry off the hop.
2. Forward – Kevin Rooney
As the Stanley Cup Playoffs are showing us, depth wins championships. As Kevin Rooney showed in his second full-NHL season, he could provide that depth. The undrafted 28-year-old pivot from Canton, Mass. helped a New York Rangers penalty kill crack the top-10 for the first time since the 2014-15 season with an 82.2 penalty kill percentage.
Playing a predominantly bottom-six role didn’t stop Rooney from having career-highs with eight goals, six assists and 14 points. In addition, his 54 penalty minutes, partially due to a career-high four fights, added some grit that the Rangers desperately needed.
The reason the Kraken should target Rooney is for his penalty killing. He was third among Rangers forwards in shorthanded time on ice, spending 100:46 on the kill, and tied with Mika Zibanejad for second in shorthanded goals with two. The Rangers were third in the NHL with eight this season.
Rooney will likely be available for the expansion draft, and he’s a player the Kraken should take. His $750,000 cap hit is a good price to pay to have him killing penalties and further solidifying the bottom-six alongside Boyle.
3. Forward – Colin Blackwell
Colin Blackwell has overcome a lot of adversity en route to his first full season in the NHL, becoming an indispensable part of the New York Rangers lineup. Out of Lawrence, Mass., the 28-year-old missed an entire season at Harvard University due to a concussion but has battled his way to career-highs and potentially a new home.
Blackwell worked his way off the taxi squad at the start of the season and found himself playing in different roles throughout the Rangers lineup, including a home on the right wing alongside Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin. He netted 12 goals along with 10 assists and 22 points, more than doubling his production from the season prior, spent up and down with the Nashville Predators.
He was well disciplined, only taking five minor penalties on the year, aside from fighting former Ranger Carl Hagelin in the fight-night that followed the Tom Wilson incident. In addition, he was trusted in all situations, seeing the ice on special teams and in overtime.
Blackwell was an alternate captain in the tournament and scored four goals on 14 shots, a 28.57 shooting percentage. One of those goals was a game-winner.
It would’ve been easier to assume that the Rangers would protect Blackwell if then-coach David Quinn were still at the helm. However, assuming they do protect him, it may be worth moving a mid-to-late draft pick to acquire him and his team-friendly $725,000 cap hit. In addition, his ability to play up and down the lineup and be trusted in all situations can help take the pressure off some of the bigger guns the Kraken is sure to land.
4. Defenseman – Adam Clendening
Moving away from New England, this 28-year-old from Niagara Falls, N.Y. was second on Team USA in scoring among defensemen and looking to make a return to the NHL. Adam Clendening has spent most of the last four seasons in the AHL and has put up strong offensive numbers for a defenseman.
Clendening has only played one full season in the NHL and was in and out of the lineup for most of it. He dressed in 31 games for the Rangers during the 2016-17 season, scoring two goals, nine assists and 11 points, all career-highs. Despite this, he’s only played nine games in the NHL since, registering just two assists.
His play in the AHL is a different story. Over his last three seasons, he suited up for 109 games and tucked 12 goals to go with 70 assists. He heads into this offseason, scoring two goals, both game-winners, and recording three assists for Team USA while playing injured. He may have a case at being a 7th-defenseman on an up-and-coming team.
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Clendening will likely be up for grabs. He’s going to be a UFA and coming off a $700,000 cap hit, it’s a pretty good deal. He’s someone who can fill in on the bottom pair or use his 370-games of AHL experience to help lead and develop future Kraken as a member of their AHL team, the Palm Springs AHL team.
5. Goaltender – Cal Petersen
This 26-year-old Waterloo, Iowa native has emerged as the No.1 goaltender for the Los Angeles Kings. Despite the Kings being a sub-.500 team, Cal Petersen had a decent first full season as an NHLer, topped off with a dominant performance at the World Hockey Championship.
He was tied for first with Darcy Kuemper of Canada and Jussi Olkinuora of Finland with five wins and tied with Russia’s Alexander Samonov with two shutouts in the tournament. He owned a .953 save percentage (SV%) and 1.29 goals-against average (GAA), which led the tournament.
With the Kings, a team that only gave him 2.55 goals per game, he won the starting role from incumbent Jonathan Quick. He had a 2.89 GAA and a .911 SV% in 35 games. The 35 games nearly doubled his career total from playing parts of the previous two seasons with the Kings.
The Kings are almost certain to be keeping Petersen. He is the heir apparent to Quick and still a pretty cheap deal, having one year left at $858,333 before becoming UFA. The Kraken will have to make some moves and give up either a decent prospect or at least a second-round pick for him. Depending on how the expansion draft goes, it may be worth it to grab someone who could turn into a legitimate NHL starter.
Some of these names may not jump off the screen, but if the Kraken are looking to emulate the Vegas Golden Knights’ success in their inaugural year, these are the types of players they should look at. An inexpensive bottom-six, depth defenseman and starting-potential goalie is a great way to provide strong depth while saving the cap necessary to bring in bigger-named players that can carry the offense.
Sean Raggio lives for hockey. He will be covering the Seattle Kraken, and is a co-host of “What’s Kraken” for THW. Sean gained experience in writing for television, print and radio while studying journalism at Quinnipiac University and being an active member in the student media organizations there. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out on Twitter! A link can be found at the bottom of his articles, such as this one.