The trade deadline is quickly approaching. March 21 is just over a week away now. It’s going to be an extremely busy day in the NHL, and for the Kraken, it’s going to involve shipping out a lot of players. That’s what happens when a team underperforms — players get shipped out in return for assets that can hopefully build the team up to success. If the Kraken do acquire any players, it’s most likely going to be in the form of prospects.
But who is leaving? Mark Giordano is pretty much confirmed to be gone by the deadline. Calle Järnkrok’s name has been tossed around a few times as a player that other teams might want. Sky has already pointed out that the Kraken have many UFA and RFA players that could always become prime rental material for the trade deadline.
However, the need to retool this team has to be balanced with one major factor: the Kraken need to keep a core together. Part of this is that it makes it easier to figure out what you need to add if you have a base to build off of. Another reason the Kraken need a core, though, is because of their status as an expansion franchise.
Fanbases get attached to players (see: the speed at which everyone grew to love Brandon Tanev). While no team is ever static and having to say goodbye to players is part of the long-haul of being a hockey fan, it would look bad for the Kraken to overhaul its roster too quickly and alienate the fans who finally got to hear, “These are your players.”
Ron Francis made it clear in his March 1 press conference that he has already determined a dividing line of who makes up the core of the team and who he is willing to part with. I’m going to take a crack as to which players he’s thinking make up this core. You may agree with me, or you may not. That’s okay! That’s part of the fun at the trade deadline, watching the debates around certain players break out. We could have many of them with this team.
This is the biggest no-brainer on this list. You don’t a sign a player to a five-year $5 million AAV extension and let him say things about being excited to finally buy a house instead of renting and then trade him at the deadline. This is a move that screams “core player.”
Even if this signing didn’t happen already, I’d still be pushing for keeping him. McCann leads the team in goals and has put up a pretty consistent performance all season. On a team that only has so many consistent goal scorers, this is someone you need to keep around.
Right behind McCann in goals is Eberle, and he’s another player worth continuing to build the team around. He’s been in a bit of a goal scoring slump as of late, but the Kraken as a whole are in a goal scoring slump. It’s hard to blame him for underperforming when it’s an across-the-board issue. He’s still performed well enough to be the team’s first ever All-Star Game representative, and while teams may like a player like him for the playoffs, I think the Kraken would be foolish to trade one of their top-two scorers.
His importance to the team has only increased since Tanev’s injury, but he’s another infectious, high-energy player for the Kraken. As seen in mic’d up content, Gourde is full of energy, compete, and drive, and he’s a player the Kraken need to keep for that reason alone. He’s also got a skill in agitating the opponent that really can’t be taught in the same way other hockey skills can. You either have the knack for it as part of your personality or you don’t. He’s also ranked third in scoring on the team.
Between him, McCann, and Eberle, that’s a foundational trio of forwards the Kraken can build the rest of the team off of. This isn’t to say that these three should always be the Kraken’s best forwards. If they can improve upon this foundation, that’s great. Yet, starting with the top three point producers is the way to go.
Do I need to actually write up why?
Beyond the fact that he’s out for the season and trading for him now would serve no team any favors, I’m pretty sure Francis would need to sleep with one eye open if he thought about trading Tanev any time soon.
He is extremely beloved by fans, and it’s hard not to feel the impact of losing him in each game. The jolt of energy Tanev provided to the team has yet to be fully reclaimed. Even in a loss, it was at least fun to watch Tanev on the ice with his speed and physicality. He’s just not someone the Kraken should be trading.
In general, the Kraken’s defense has been solid. For as often as the Kraken get scored on, the defensive work of this team has allowed for them to suppress total chances at a high frequency. Additionally, Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson have enough term on their contracts that they probably aren’t going to be shipped out at the deadline, so I could probably include them as well in talks of a defensive core. However, I single out Dunn as a defenseman to keep solely because of the fact that he’s a dynamic offensive defenseman.
There’s a two-way strength to his game that only Mark Giordano rivals. With Giordano due to be traded at the deadline, the Kraken really can’t afford to lose Dunn’s ability to use his position on the blue line to jumpstart offense. After all, one of the largest flaws surrounding this Kraken team is a lack of offense. I’m not saying to go out and get a bunch of Roman Josi types, but it doesn’t hurt for the Kraken to do what they can to build up offense in all positions.
This one might get me some heat. After all, this is a goaltender who went from Vezina Trophy finalist to possessing some of the worst stats in the entire NHL. Why would the Kraken want to keep him?
Goaltending can be streaky. Just because Grubauer severely underperformed this season, it doesn’t mean he’s going to be this bad forever. The team in front of him as well hasn’t always done him favors. If the Kraken make upgrades, having a better supporting cast might elevate his goaltending stats. I’m of the belief that the Kraken should keep Grubauer around for next season to better evaluate how much of his performance this year was on him and how much of it was just the poor construction of this inaugural roster. Theoretically, if Francis and company can make the upgrades they want to, then Grubauer should bounce back. If the bounce back doesn’t happen, that’s when it’ll be time to ship him out.
With that, I’m freely saying that anyone left off this list can go. Don’t confuse this with a desire for a full-blown fire sale. I’m not advocating to ship out every player I left off this list. Plus, even if I were, there are usually only so many trades a team can make. This is instead me saying that I’m willing to part with anyone else if it means the Kraken can get better.
Now, there are definitely players that I can admit I’d selfishly like to keep even if I didn’t list them as being a candidate as a core player. For example, Calle Järnkrok has been rolling as of late, and if he can keep building upon this, it’d be great to have him around into next season. But he’s also on an expiring deal and is a player that playoff teams looking for a little extra scoring depth would love to have. Teams are going to be knocking on Francis’s door for him. At the end of the day, you gotta give up some decent players to get anything worthwhile in return.
But who should the Kraken give up? Dan has some suggestions in mind, so keep an eye out for our follow-up.