Kraken Should Extend Ryan Donato

The Seattle Kraken are nautical miles away from a chance at the playoffs. Moving out players for draft capital and future assets should be strongly considered by general manager Ron Francis. However, he needs to look to extend upcoming restricted free agent (RFA) Ryan Donato this offseason. Donato received a one-year contract, one of the many one-year deals they handed out ahead of this season, as Francis looked to assemble a team. 

Ryan Donato, Seattle Kraken
Ryan Donato, Seattle Kraken (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Kraken are so far out of the wild card hunt that even if they catch some of that 2018-19 St. Louis Blues magic, they would need a lot more luck than they’re going to get in order to make the playoffs. With the trade deadline coming up, and eventually the draft, they should be looking to further build for the future; a future Donato should be part of. 

Donato Has Been Steady for Kraken

Donato will forever be etched into Kraken history, as he scored the first regular-season goal in team history. Despite having been a healthy scratch at one point earlier in the season, he responded by scoring a goal in his next game. He’s having himself a steady 2021-22 and looks to be trending upwards.

He’s played in 35 games and scored nine goals and 15 points. Those nine goals tie him for third on the team with the injured Brandon Tanev. If he plays in all of the Kraken’s 42 remaining games, he’s on pace for 11 goals and 18 points over those remaining games. He would finish the season with 20 goals and 33 points, both career-highs, and his first 20-goal season.

Donato sees minor power-play time, having played just over 63 minutes this season. He’s typically on the second unit and has scored a lone power-play goal. He likes to plant himself in front of the net, generating high-danger chances from that area. 

The Case To Keep Donato

Donato has become a lineup regular and has even seen a season-high ice time in recent contests. What’s interesting is that he’s a second-round draft pick and has been in the league since the tail-end of the 2017-18 season, but he’s had trouble finding a home. He’s played on three teams over the past four seasons, including two American Hockey League (AHL) clubs for brief stints. 

This is significant because now Donato is in a situation where all of these players have had to make Seattle their home. He’s played himself into a position where he can be an asset as this team continues to build. If he continues to establish himself with the Kraken and prove that he belongs here, that type of commitment and work ethic should prove as inspiration to other players, especially younger players.

Ryan Donato, Seattle Kraken
Ryan Donato celebrated the first goal in Seattle Kraken history (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Kraken need someone to be their emotional leader and fill the void left by Tanev’s injury. A player who has never seemed to find a fit now joins a team of (evidently) misfits and is becoming a consistent and dependable part of the lineup. 

Francis will have cap space to work with, but what’s even better is that Donato is an RFA and likely won’t require an exorbitant amount of money to extend. He signed this past offseason for $750,000, and his highest-paying contract was from the Minnesota Wild ahead of the 2019-20 season — the Wild gave him $3.8 million over two seasons before dealing him to the San Jose Sharks.

Related: Kraken Getting Great Value for Signing Ryan Donato

If the Kraken could extend him for two to three years, at even $1.5 million a year, that could turn into a very valuable contract for them as they look to build themselves into a contender in the Pacific Division. It’s relatively short-term with a lower cap hit. Yet, it’d be a raise and offer more stability for the now-25-year-old rather than potentially testing the market. And it’d keep the Kraken’s inaugural goal-scorer in the Emerald City for the foreseeable future.

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