The Seattle Kraken, like all NHL organizations, are going to need a quality leadership group next season if they are going to be successful in their inaugural year. When looking back on the Carolina Hurricanes team that general manager Ron Francis had managed, they always consisted of a well-respected leadership group.
Whether it was the group led by Eric Staal and Jordan Staal in 2014, or the 2017 group with Jordan Staal and Justin Williams, Francis always had two core veterans he could rely on. The same will be expected as he approaches the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft in July.
Francis is going to have to search for a core group that has a lot of NHL experience to help aid in a smooth inaugural period. It would also be a major bonus for Francis’s Kraken if one of those experienced players had a Cup under their belt.
Shattenkirk to Lead as an NHL Veteran
There may be no better target than Kevin Shattenkirk from the Anaheim Ducks. Shattenkirk’s contract has him making $11.7 million over three years for an average annual value (AAV) of $3.9 million a year. He will also become a UFA in 2023, which would allow for Francis to re-sign him if all is going well at that point in time.
For a veteran, puck-moving defender who is coming off a Stanley Cup year with the Lightning, he would be an ideal fit to help build the back end and core of the Kraken lineup. Shattenkirk has 13 points in 35 games this season in a rebuilding Ducks lineup. (from ‘Ducks agree to deal with Kevin Shattenkirk; Kings make no moves,’ LA Times, 10/09/2020) In the Stanley Cup run with the Lightning, he managed to put up 34 points in 70 games while providing veteran leadership to a high-powered back end in Tampa.
With Shattenkirk being only 32 years old and still playing like a reliable, puck-moving veteran, there is no reason to think he could not provide those services in Seattle for the next five to seven years. If the Kraken choose to act on Shattenkirk, he would be the perfect player to create an identity around on the blue line. He should be seen as the ideal fit to man the ship in Seattle as a veteran of the league and someone they can build their organization around.
T.J Oshie Could Return Home
Finally, you cannot win hockey games if you do not put the puck in the net. Oftentimes, good leaders will show it with their play on the ice and contribute on the stat sheet. Someone who fits that identity would be T.J Oshie, as he has been a consistent point-getter and two-way forward for the Washington Capitals since 2015. For a 34-year-old who still has four years left on his contract that holds a $5.75 million dollar cap hit, he’s the most likely target to be taken from the Capitals.
As a true leader on the Capitals and someone who also had a significant role when he was in St. Louis, the Kraken could expect major leadership from Oshie. Furthermore, in regards to selling tickets and merchandise in Seattle, who better to do it than a native of the Washington state. Francis should be licking his chops with the chance to draft Oshie.
Since Oshie entered the league back in 2008, the lowest point total he’s ever had in a season outside of his rookie year was 20 in the 2012-13 season. That was only because he suffered an injury resulting in 30 games played on the season. Similar to Shattenkirk, Oshie also won a Stanley Cup recently back in 2018. He was a significant part of the Capitals’ playoff run, tallying 8 goals, 13 assists for 21 points in 24 games on route to lifting Lord Stanley.
This season, Oshie has netted 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points in 39 games in a very tough conference schedule. If the Kraken are looking to have a top-end winger they can rely upon from the get-go and help lead the direction of the team, then Oshie may be the best target across the whole board.
To sum things up, it is pretty tough to determine this season which players will and will not be protected by each team, but the two guys mentioned above are highly likely not to be protected by their current clubs. With that said, both veteran players are going to be key pieces for Francis’s Kraken if they choose to select them. One thing will be for sure, though, if the Kraken choose to pass on them, all of their current clubs will be more than happy to take back the highly regarded veterans.