2021-22 Team: Washington Capitals (NHL), Hershey Bears (AHL)
2021-22 Season: Kempny split time between the Capitals and Bears, playing 15 games, scoring two points in the NHL, and tallying seven assists in 24 American Hockey League (AHL) games. He didn’t see playoff action in either league.
Type of Acquisition: Signed on July 25, 2022.
Kempny’s Pre-Kraken Career
Michal Kempny didn’t come over to the NHL until he was 25 years old, as the majority of his pre-NHL career was spent playing in his native Czechia. He spent most of his time in the Czech Extraliga for Brno Kometa, where he was held scoreless in his first two seasons from 2009-2011 and finished with 32 penalty minutes (PIMs) and a minus-22 in 45 games. He also contributed two assists in six games at the 2010 World Juniors. He finally scored the first goal of his career during the 2011-12 season and finished with a goal and an assist in 23 games.
Kempny played the 2012-13 season with Slavia Praha HC and saw an increase in both games and offensive output. He scored five goals and 14 points in 51 games and was a plus-16. He returned to Brno Kometa for two seasons from 2013-2015 and combined for 44 points in 94 games. He finished his play overseas the next year with the Kontinental Hockey League’s (KHL) Omsk Avangard and scored 21 points in 59 games.
Kempny started off his NHL career playing for the Chicago Blackhawks before being traded to the Capitals after just 81 games and 15 points. I think it’s safe to say the trade worked out for him, as he played 22 games for the Capitals that year before joining them on their Stanley Cup run. Five points and 24 games later, he became a Stanley Cup champion in just his second NHL season.
Kempny played with the Capitals and Bears from that point until now when he was signed as a free agent by the Kraken. He has totaled 15 goals and 63 points, with 146 PIMs, in 247 career NHL games thus far, and played in three World Championships – winning bronze in 2022 – and one World Cup of Hockey tournament for Czechia.
Kempny’s Fit With the Kraken
Kempny joins a logjam of defensemen that the Kraken have added to the organization, whether it be prospects or as free agents. There are some younger defensemen in their system who could benefit from his experience, but he may end up with the parent club for a majority of the 2022-23 season. A lot of this is going to depend on how training camp goes. While I’m personally really high on Ryker Evans’ potential, starting the year in the AHL would be beneficial to him as he adjusts to the pace of professional hockey.
The Kraken’s top-four seems to be set with Vince Dunn, Adam Larsson, Jamie Oleksiak, and newly signed Justin Schultz. Carson Soucy, the team’s leading goal scorer on defense last year, and Will Borgen look to be his immediate competition for ice time.
Personally, I think Soucy’s spot is set. So it would be between Borgen and Kempny for that sixth/seventh defenseman slot. Whoever shows that they’re the more proficient penalty killer could have an edge. Aside from on-ice play, his championship experience could be an important factor for this team. Here’s a fun note to add, he’s now reunited with Cup-winning teammate André Burakovsky.
Was Signing Kempny a Hit or a Miss?
Another day, another article where I’m saying general manager Ron Francis hit on a signing. For whatever reason, head coach Dave Hakstol didn’t want to play Cale Fleury much last season. Yes, he averaged 14:34 time on ice, but that was just over nine games. Kempny gives the team a defensive-minded option to come in if the team is struggling defensively or in case of an injury. Additionally, something I’ve harped on many times here, championship experience is invaluable. This is even more important considering the assumption that the Kraken’s top two prospects, Shane Wright and Matty Beniers, will likely be on the team.
Kempny could get in just 20 games and split time between the Kraken and AHL’s Coachella Valley Firebirds, or he could be this season’s Borgen. Borgen wasn’t expected to make the roster, let alone become their seventh defenseman. He got into 36 games last year and established career-highs across the board.
The Kraken have made additions over this offseason to take steps towards being a better team. They didn’t sell the house and the farm for the biggest-named players, but they signed players who can help the team in the long run. Kempny’s contract is just a single year. To me, that says that the Kraken are still committed to putting a good team on the ice now, as they continue to build for that long run in the playoffs to come to fruition.
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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.