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Alex Wennberg held out tonight for “trade-related reasons”

Player photography provided by @Jennthulhu_Photos on Instagram

As reported by Kate Schefte of the Seattle Times, Coach Dave Hakstol held center Alex Wennberg out of morning skate and is out of the lineup for “trade-related reasons.”

Seattle, alongside a cluster of other teams for most of the season, had been fighting for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the out-of-town scoreboard has not been kind to the Kraken.

Three weeks ago today, the Kraken sat with about a 14% playoff chance when aggregating across five different public models. They went 5-2-1 and…lost 5 points in the standings race to Nashville, which has won an infuriating eight games in a row and Seattle’s playoff probability is now…13.5%.

With Wennberg as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, Seattle would benefit from trading him for assets at the deadline if they are throwing in the towel on making the playoffs, and his versatility would be valuable to a team looking to make a playoff run. The center of last year’s Booktok drama will take his handsome, handsome, handsome face elsewhere. (So handsome.)

If Seattle goes into sell mode, Wennberg’s trade is probably not going to be the only one. Forwards Jordan Eberle andTomáš Tatar are also unrestricted free agents this offseason, as is defenseman Justin Schultz. Pierre-Édouard Bellemare (forward) and Chris Driedger (goalie) are UFAs this offseason as well, but I don’t anticipate either of those two getting much trade interest barring someone doing something pretty weird.

Last year’s playoff run notwithstanding, the Seattle Kraken’s MO has always been to build assets so that they can build a core to contend for many years while shrewdly looking for value opportunities when they come up. Eeli Tolvanen, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Tatar are examples of players who weren’t part of the plan but came available for a cheap price and Seattle pounced. The Kraken have a deep prospect pool. Seattle went from not having a franchise to being 9th in prospect pool rankings($) in just three drafts. Shane Wright, their most valuable prospect, isn’t even in the NHL full-time yet.

What they get in return from any trades will give them more ammunition if they want to continue to develop the farm system or use those picks/prospects to trade for players in the future. With Seattle not likely to make the postseason, the smartest thing to do is to turn expiring assets into future assets, which gives them a lot of flexibility in their roster construction approach.

If I had to predict, I think Wennberg ends up on the New York Rangers and his 2C spot will be filled by calling up Shane Wright, who plays out the remainder of the season in the NHL, then is on the Kraken full-time starting next year. Chris Johnston of The Athletic is reporting that the Avalanche and Rangers are interested in Wennberg.

Trade deadlines and heart-wrenching decisions go hand-in-hand. Prepare yourselves emotionally, Kraken fans.

Wennberg is the first domino to fall. There will probably be more.

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