The Seattle Kraken have a handful of defensemen approaching free agency. Organizationally, they have three pending unrestricted free agents (UFA), and three pending restricted free agents (RFA); all three of which are arbitration eligible. Four of them are currently rostered with the Kraken, while the pair playing for the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Coachella Valley Firebirds are pending UFAs.
I’m going to take a look at three of their NHL defensemen and whether or not they could receive extensions in the coming offseason. I’ve touched upon how Vince Dunn’s performance will impact his future with the team, and more recently how Carson Soucy’s could be impacted by the recent Jaycob Megna trade. Though one player I’m really curious to dive into is Will Borgen. Let’s get things started.
Arbitration Eligible RFA Vince Dunn Should Remain a Kraken
I feel that it’s only fitting to start with Dunn, considering how I started the season feeling like he needed to have a big year or he’d be moved at the deadline. Now, I think he should stick around a bit longer. He’s in the midst of a career year offensively, and is on pace to achieve career highs across the three major offensive categories.
One of the biggest things I looked at with Dunn was how his secondary assists far outweighed his primary assists. In my eyes, he’d get more primary assists if he took more charge offensively and initiated more plays. I think he’s done that very well so far this season. He looks a lot more offensively involved, and I feel like both he and the team look noticeably faster and sharper when in the offensive zone than they did last season.
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He’s nearly at a 50-50 split between primary and secondary assists at all strengths, but eight of his 11 assists on the power play are primary. He’s on pace to spend more ice time on the power play this season than in any of his first five NHL seasons. He’s additionally on pace for 13 goals and 58 points this season.
If he breaks the 50-point plateau (and he has more than enough games left to do so), he should absolutely be brought back next season. I emphasize this more when you consider that he’s also more than doubled last season’s penalty killing time on ice. Look at how well he and Adam Larsson have played together; you may not want to break up a good thing when you have it, especially when it’s your top defensive pair.
UFA Carson Soucy May Be the Odd Man Out
Soucy is someone whose future I have much trepidation about. Last season, he enjoyed a career year offensively with 10 goals and 21 points in 64 games, and was the team’s plus/minus leader, which was honestly a pretty decent achievement. He’s only tallied two goals and 10 points this season, but to be fair his job isn’t to put up numbers on the blue line.
His power play time is definitely down this season, he’s currently seen roughly a quarter of the time he saw last season, and a lot of that could probably be attributed to the addition of Justin Schultz this past offseason. On the flip side, he’s just about to surpass his career high for total shorthanded time, albeit their penalty killing has been abysmal this season.
While Soucy is someone I’d personally look to bring back, he could be looking at a bit of a raise from his $2.75 million cap hit. If that’s the case, the Kraken may be priced out. I think that the Megna trade could be an indication that they’ll be moving on from Soucy one way or another, as he’s making well under a million and has an extra year of term on his contract. If that’s the case, I’d hope for a trade so they can at least get something back for losing a player who’s been a consistent member of their bottom defensive pair. Based on the surrounding context, I think they’d have to let him go.
Arbitration Eligible RFA Will Borgen Should Be Back Next Season
Borgen is someone I was really impressed with last season. He didn’t receive much NHL action when he was with the Buffalo Sabres, who drafted him 92nd-overall in 2015, but came to the Kraken in the Expansion Draft and earned his 36 games. Not only did he go on to earn a starting role on the team’s third defensive pair, but he stepped up when Schultz was injured and played on the second pair with Jamie Oleksiak.
He’s now tied his career high in goals and has set new ones in assists and points. His power play time is extremely limited, sitting at around three minutes total, but it’s still higher than last season. As I alluded to with Soucy, it’s tough to determine his value as a penalty killer. He’s spent around 87 minutes killing penalties this season. Prior to this season, he combined for roughly 47 minutes over 49 games; which demonstrates the increased trust that head coach Dave Hakstol has in him and is a testament to his growth.
His age is on his side as he’s just 26 years old, and given his $900,000 cap hit and role, he may not be seeing a huge raise coming his way. Combine that with the fact that the Kraken are lacking in top six-ready right-handed defensemen, and a new contract should be strongly considered. That’s not to throw any shade toward their current seventh/eighth defenseman in Cale Fleury, it just doesn’t look like he has a real fit on this team. Borgen still has room to grow, is showing that he has grown, and could learn from an ineffective penalty kill to be even more valuable to the Kraken long-term. Just like his playing time, he has earned his new contract.
Upcoming UFA Defensemen Across the NHL
The last thing I wanted to take a look at was some pending UFAs from around the NHL. However, I hesitate to stake a claim on any of them as I’d want to see how the Kraken fare in the postseason before really making that assertion. I wouldn’t want the Kraken to go for an older veteran, say a Kevin Shattenkirk or a Nick Jensen. Someone like Ryan Graves or Damon Severson could be interesting, but I think a lot of it depends on the money.
Either way, I’d like to see the Kraken stay in-house off the hop, rather than try and swing a home run free agent. Their offensive depth is a major part of their success, and they’re doing it without that point-per-game, superstar-caliber player. Could that be the piece to put them over the edge, whoever that may be? Maybe. Is it worth losing the depth and four-line chemistry they’ve created? I’m not so sure.
I think that Soucy could be the odd man out of the trio discussed. The other two are a player who is currently establishing himself as their No. 1 defenseman, and one who plays Soucy’s role on the right side and is a bit younger. The Kraken will have decisions to make on the blue line, and I’m excited to see if some of them are made at the trade deadline, or if we’ll be waiting until the summer.