Welcome to the Seattle Kraken Mailbag here at The Hockey Writers. This monthly column will allow members of the Kraken team to answer any Kraken based questions from social media. Make sure to keep an eye out for next’s month call for questions at the beginning of September.
In this inaugural edition of the mailbag, we will answer six varying questions surrounding the Kraken. This includes discussions on Shane Wright, Matty Beniers and Adam Larsson.
Which Players Should the Kraken Be Signing To PTOs For Camp?
The Kraken have a full roster at the moment, but that shouldn’t stop them from signing players to professional tryouts (PTOs). Last season, they invited three players to camp in Brent Gates, Ryan Lohin and Scott Wilson, with all three not receiving NHL contracts. In total, only 11 players received contracts who were on PTOs during the 2021-22 season showing how difficult it is to earn a job during the preseason.
That being said, there are a few NHL veterans the Kraken could bring in on a PTO once training camp starts. One is Nate Thompson who will be turning 38 at the beginning of the season and could be looking at one final contract before retiring. The Alaska native has played 844 regular season games and would be a useful addition as a fourth-line center or 13th forward.
The other player I would have my eye on is Paul LaDue. The Kraken need to add right-shot defencemen to the organization so bringing in the 29-year-old to training camp just makes sense. He is a player I believe could leave with at least an American Hockey League contract if brought in on a PTO.
Who Will Matty Beniers Play With Next Season, & Will He Be in the Running for the Calder Trophy?
To answer the first part of the question, Beniers should start the season centring a line of Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle. The former 2021 second overall pick showed in his 10 games last season that he could center a top line and is able to generate offence to match the role with nine points during his short late-season stint. Placing him with two veteran wingers who already have built some chemistry together last season should give him the best chance to succeed in 2022-23.
As for the Calder Trophy, there will be a lot of competition, but Beniers could easily be a finalist by the end of the year. Other preseason contenders include Owen Power, Mason McTavish, Jake Sanderson and Kent Johnson. To be a finalist, he will need to be in the 50-60 point range while also contributing to special teams based on the projected high-performance level of his competition in 2022-23.
Does Shane Wright Make the Team This Season? And if So, Which Line/Linemates Make the Most Sense for Him?
Seattle is in a tricky position when it comes to Wright. If they send him back to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the narrative will turn negative as people may argue that he wasn’t ready and that’s why he fell in the draft. The same could be true if he makes the team but struggles in the NHL. That could lead some to write him off way too early, no pun intended. Regardless, he should start the season with Seattle as he is ready to take the next step in his playing career.
As for Wright’s linemates, putting him on a line with André Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand makes a ton of sense. All three are offensively minded players, and placing the 2022 fourth overall pick with NHL veterans will help his transition to the pro game. This trio also has the potential to stick together long-term as all three will be with the organization for the next three years, barring a trade. If they mesh the way I think they will, Beniers won’t be the only Kraken in the Calder race by the end of the season.
What Should Reasonable Expectations Be for the Team This Season (Obviously a Step Forward From Last Year’s Disappointing Debut, but What Should Fans Hope For?)
Seattle is still building their team, so fans should expect another year of missed playoffs. That being said, there are some areas that the organization should be focused on improving this season. The first is winning at home, as the Kraken finished the 2021-22 campaign with a record of 16-22-3 at Climate Pledge Arena. The hype of having a new team only lasts so long, especially when it can’t win in its own building. The organization should strive for 20 wins next season at home in order to keep the fans engaged and coming back throughout the season.
The other expectation is being able to beat teams in the Pacific Division. If Seattle wants to start building up rivalries, they need to be able to beat the teams they play the most. In 2021-22, the Kraken went 6-20 against the Pacific Division, with three of those wins coming against the San Jose Sharks. They also went 0-4 against each of the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Vegas Golden Knights. Winning should always be an expectation, especially when it comes within the division.
Yes Or No: The Kraken Will Make The Playoffs Next Season
Based on the current roster the Kraken have put together as of Aug. 3, 2022, I do not think the Kraken will make the playoffs. I have them projected to finish higher in the standings this season, but don’t see them ending up above sixth in the Pacific Division or 12th in the conference. The team will take a step forward this season, just not a big enough one to make the postseason.
All that being said, anything is possible. So let’s go down the road of how the Kraken could make the playoffs. First, goaltender Philipp Grubauer will need to play at a Vezina calibre again and shake off what was a horrific 2021-22 season. They will also need Martin Jones to bounce back and provide some much need relief as the backup next season. The Kraken were one of the worst teams in the league with an overall team save percentage of .880. They need to find a way to be above .900 this season if they want a shot at the postseason.
Second, Seattle will need their offensive players to step up massively. Last season, the Kraken only had one 50-point player in Jared McCann, which is a big reason why they missed the playoffs. Every team that qualified for the postseason in 2021-22 had at least one 60-plus point player with all but the Los Angeles Kings having at least two. Only three Kraken players have ever eclipsed 60 points in their career, with Burakovsky being the most recently last season. This means new career highs by members of the top six will be needed to achieve this baseline.
Lastly, they need their special teams to produce. Last season, they had the fourth-worst power play and second-worst penalty kill in the league. If they can get their powerplay to around the 20 percent efficiency mark and penalty kill above 80 percent, they may have a chance. In short, there is a lot of improvement needed, and despite the additions, it may not be enough, especially with a lot of new faces entering the organization.
What Would It Take for the Canucks to Pry Larsson Away From the Kraken?
The Kraken and Vancouver Canucks are in a similar boat with a desperate need to improve their right-shot defensive depth, so a trade involving Adam Larsson would be tricky. He was Seattle’s best defenceman last season, so they may not be too keen to trade him away. There are also some salary cap gymnastics that would need to be done as Vancouver cannot afford his $4 million cap hit while Seattle can’t afford to take on additional salary as they only have a projected $1 million in cap space for next season. He also has a no-trade clause which adds an extra layer of complexity to any deal that is made.
If the financials work themselves out and one or both sides clear cap space, there are a few trade scenarios that make sense for the Kraken. The first would be the Canucks sending Travis Dermott along with a second-round pick to Seattle. If Vancouver does not want to send a draft pick over, the price may jump up to a player like Jack Rathbone to make the deal work. The price for Larsson is going to be high, especially considering the Canucks play in the same division. Although there are trade avenues to explore, few make sense for both clubs.
Thank you for all your questions this month. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled early in September when we will once again look to fill the mailbag with inquiries and debates. In the meantime, make sure to keep it locked here on The Hockey Writers for all your Seattle Kraken and hockey needs.
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 area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.