The Seattle Kraken opening night roster is truly starting to take shape.
Training camp is now less than two months away, and GM Ron Francis & Co. have been busy addressing any and all outstanding lineup needs.
Both the expansion draft and the entry draft were important days, but their work was far from over. July 28th saw the Kraken open up free agency with a bang—signing Philipp Grubauer, Jaden Schwartz, and Alexander Wennberg in the same hour. Not a bad haul to say the least.
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) July 31, 2021
What Have The Kraken Been Up To Since July 28th?
Things were quiet for the next few days, until August 4th when the team announced that they had signed UFA defenseman Connor Carrick to a one-year, two-way contract ($800,000 AAV).
The 27-year-old right shot rearguard has racked up 13 goals and 49 points over 241 career NHL games, although he only got into 11 games with the New Jersey Devils last season. He may be in tough when it comes to making the opening night roster, but he’ll definitely have a chance to prove himself in training camp. The risk of giving him a shot is low, considering it’s a two-way contract.
“Connor is a mobile, dependable defenseman who will be helpful to our team in all facets of the game,” said Francis. “His skill set and experience will make him a valuable asset to our organization.”
When I catch something that’s falling out of a kitchen cabinet I didn’t expect, I feel pretty awesome. Ryan Pulock must feel that exponentially to like the 1,000th power. #AnalyticsTweet #Exponents #MrsBennett8thGradeAlgebra
— Connor Carrick (@connorcarrick) June 20, 2021
Seattle also signed forward Alexander True to a one-year, two-way contract ($750,000 AAV) that day. The 24-year-old center was the player the Kraken selected from the San Jose Sharks’ roster during the expansion draft. His size is very intriguing at 6’5, and he’s also familiar with the city as he played for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League (WHL) for three seasons before turning pro.
True is perhaps a couple of years away from fully losing the ‘prospect’ label, but he still has some time to develop in the AHL—which is where he’ll likely begin the season. The Copenhagen native has registered five assists in 19 career NHL games, and 128 points in 203 AHL games. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Sharks back in 2018.
“Alex brings some size and skill to our team at the center position,” said Francis. “He’s young and has a successful hockey history in Seattle, scoring some big goals playing in the WHL with the Thunderbirds. We’re looking forward to him continuing that success with our organization.”
One thing the Kraken still lack is depth up the middle—especially until Yanni Gourde returns from injury. If True has a solid training camp, he could very well be first-in-line as a center injury replacement. Best case scenario: he opens the year at 4C.
— Kraken Stats (@KrakenStats) August 5, 2021
Seattle Agrees To Terms With Two More Defensemen
The next day (August 5th), Seattle signed defenseman Will Borgen to a two-year contract ($900,000 AAV). Standing at 6’3, the 24-year-old joins a roster with size to burn. He’s only played 14 career NHL games, but racked up 42 hits and 17 blocked shots during that sample size. Fearlessness can’t be taught, and Borgen will do whatever it takes to help his team win. He’s no shoo-in to make the team, but he plays a game Francis likes.
“Will is a responsible, defensive defenseman whose size and physical style of play can add a spark to a lineup,” said Francis. “He’s still young and developing, and we believe in his upside.”
Welcome to the 206!
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) August 5, 2021
August 6th saw the Kraken lock up another 24-year-old defenseman in Vince Dunn. The young Canadian signed a two-year contract ($4 million AAV) and arguably has the highest potential of any rearguard on the roster. He’s scored 32 goals and 102 points in 267 career NHL games—reaching the 20-point plateau in each of his first four seasons. He’s very likely to open the year on the top pairing alongside Mark Giordano.
“Vince is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman that can help generate offense from our blueline,” said Francis. “He’s a smooth skater that helps drive possession and plays a physical game.”
We’ve got a *Dunn* deal! 🤝
— Seattle Kraken (@SeattleKraken) August 6, 2021
The Kraken End Things Off (For Now) By Signing A Free Agent Forward
Later that same day (August 6th), Francis made another shrewd move by bringing in free agent forward Marcus Johansson on a one-year contract ($1.5 million AAV).
The 30-year-old spent last season with the Minnesota Wild, recording six goals and 14 points in 36 games. He’s been over a half-point-per-game player throughout the course of his career, which is impressive given that he’s played 684 regular-season games. He’s also totaled 13 goals and 41 points in 97 career playoff games.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) August 6, 2021
What Could Seattle’s Hypothetical Opening Night Lineup Look Like Now?
The Kraken have made some good moves, but how will it all come together? Below is a hypothetical opening-night lineup:
Projecting The Kraken Forwards
Schwartz and Jordan Eberle will naturally flank their respective sides on the top line. The center that will play with them remains to be seen. Wennberg seems to have the inside track given the current state of the depth chart.
Calle Jarnkrok hasn’t played much center over the past couple of seasons, but he’s been utilized there a lot throughout his career. He’s a solid candidate to slot in at 2C. His flank mates, Johansson and Joonas Donskoi aren’t necessarily bonafide second-line wingers; however, they’ve both excelled there at points in the past. It may be one of the weaker second lines in the league, but they should still provide a decent amount of offense.
The Seattle Kraken have selected Calle Jarnkrok in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
— Nashville Predators (@PredsNHL) July 22, 2021
The third line is optimistic as it assumes that Matthew Beniers (the player Seattle took with the second overall pick at the entry draft) will make the team out of training camp. Players of his pedigree always have a chance to immediately make the pro jump, although Francis hasn’t shed much light on what Beniers’ chances of cracking the roster actually are.
He’s only spent one season in the NCAA (Big-10), but it already feels like another year at the University of Michigan may not be optimal for his development. He dominated the league throughout last season and could see himself start the year in the AHL, if not with the big club. He’ll certainly attract a lot of attention come training camp, as many eventual star players have had successful NHL rookie seasons playing sheltered third-line minutes.
His potential linemates, Jared McCann and Mason Appleton, both possess a solid all-around game with a decent amount of offensive acumen. This line could definitely be an x-factor, should it ever come to fruition. If Beniers does not make the team, Appleton could always slide over to 3C. From there, Colin Blackwell could jump from RW4 to RW3, with Nathan Bastian or someone else taking over his previous spot.
The fourth line features players who could potentially play a bit higher in the lineup, such as the aforementioned Blackwell, Morgan Geekie, and Brandon Tanev. This is always a nice luxury to have, and could also be a serious x-factor. All four lines will need to contribute in order to make up for the lack of high-end, top-six talent.
From Zach Aston-Reese’s Instagram story, at Teddy Blueger’s wedding. They’re missing Brandon Tanev. pic.twitter.com/zpzqpApZT0
— Taylor Haase (@TaylorHaasePGH) August 7, 2021
Projecting The Kraken Defense
Giordano may be at the twilight of his career, but he’s still a top-pairing defenseman until further notice. As previously mentioned, Dunn will likely be his partner and the contrast of their differing playing styles should mesh nicely.
Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson were both brought in to shut things down, so a second pairing featuring the two of them seems like a natural fit. The only concern would be footspeed, as neither is exactly known for their ability to turn on the jets. They could potentially play on separate pairings, reuniting in situations such as the penalty kill.
The third pairing will certainly be a battle to watch, although Carson Soucy and Jeremy Lauzon look to be the current front runners. Each could potentially slot higher in the lineup, and having them both in utility roles is a beautiful thing depth-wise. Oleksiak and Larsson may even be split up amongst Soucy and Lauzon to give the pairings better balance.
Carson Soucy, reportedly selected by SEA, is a solid depth two-way defenceman. Fun fact: he has the highest on-ice shooting percentage and PDO of any D in the past two seasons combined (11.5% and 105.9). #SeaKraken pic.twitter.com/hcNpi3zul1
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 21, 2021
Projecting The Goaltending
What was initially a murky crease situation is now quite clear-cut following the signing of Grubauer. The 29-year-old is coming off a Vezina finalist season and was inked to a huge contract with a lot of term; however, he’s never played more than 40 games in a season. Having a backup goalie of Chris Driedger‘s caliber is very comforting in case of injury. Not to mention a solid number-three in Joey Daccord. Either way, goaltending certainly looks to be one of Seattle’s biggest strengths.
Philipp Grubauer will wear #31 for the #SeaKraken.
— CapFriendly Depth Charts (@CF_DepthCharts) August 6, 2021