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Kraken Refrain from Trade Deadline “Arms Race,” Inactivity Deemed Best Option For Short and Long Term

Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Around eight a.m. Friday morning, Jordan Eberle inked a two-year, $4.75 million AAV extension, and the Kraken front office clocked out for the day, four hours ahead of the trade deadline. Re-signing the winger and dealing Alex Wennberg to the New York Rangers– exchanging the centerman on 50% of his salary for a couple of draft picks– sum up Seattle’s annual deadline activity. Or, lack thereof.

“It seemed like it was an arms race there for a little bit,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said at his press conference minutes after the noon deadline had passed. “As one of my staff said: we didn’t do anything stupid today, so I guess that’s a positive.”

Call it gallows humor. Stuck between waving a white flag on the season or rallying what’s left of an inconsistently healthy, productive roster to vie for a berth is how Seattle entered the deadline feeding frenzy, what Francis calls the “worst spot” to be in.

Any other GM would’ve taken the Kraken’s 7-2-1 stretch leading to the deadline as a green light to spend. But the turnaround’s late arrival renders postseason aims dependent upon perfect success from the Kraken as well as the failure of their Wild Card competitors, the latter as unreliable a source of good fortune as they come. Nashville’s ascended to the first spot, 8-0-2 over their last 10. Behind them in the second spot is Vegas, still enjoying a six-point advantage over the next-in-line Minnesota Wild, and an eight-point advantage over Seattle, Calgary, and St Louis, all tied.

Safe to say the season hasn’t gone as planned. Francis is willing to admit it.

“We really haven’t played with the roster we thought we’d have all year,” he said. “The season’s a long one and you have your ups and downs, right? We went 0-6-2 early, think we’re done, and then we go 11-0-2, got stopped by some kind of weird bug– we had like 10 guys sick– end up losing four more in a row.”

“They’re a resilient group, they’re not throwing in the towel and I expect them to continue to battle.”

Tough to say whether that sentiment survived the aftermath of a crushing 3-0 shutout loss to the Winnipeg Jets Friday night, whom Seattle had beaten mere days prior.

Head coach Dave Hakstol wasn’t “disappointed” in his team’s effort, citing low energy as responsible for the defeat. Even a nuanced read of the situation, one acknowledging lacking energy and effort are not mutually exclusive, understands the performance was a continuation of wildly inconsistent play dragging them down in the standings.

A dogged focus on securing points has been duly preached behind closed doors of the Kraken locker room, or so the pre-and post-game comments made over the last three months indicate. Regardless, Winnipeg was the only team that wanted the win, and should this carelessness persist Seattle can kiss the postseason goodbye. Eliminations are already being dished out, with the Chicago Blackhawks the first to fall on Saturday.

But the season’s not over until it’s over, and if anything, the remaining 19 games provide a wealth of opportunity to determine which personnel adjustments for which the roster yearns to get back on track with long term goals.

Resisting deadline hysteria may be the most important thing they could have done to ensure a brighter immediate future’s possibility. Any move wilder than re-signing an important character asset and moving a defensive forward logging too many minutes would’ve decomposed down the stretch.

Over the next three drafts, the Kraken front office owns only four surplus picks: an extra second, third, and seventh in 2024 (without a fifth-rounder), and an extra fourth in 2025. Three skaters on the roster have breached 40 points 63 games in: Jared McCann (52), Oliver Bjorkstrand (45), and Vince Dunn (45).

Buying and selling in-season requires depth of assets and depth of talent. Seattle does not own enough of either to afford an acquisition capable of singlehandedly turning the season around without purging their wallets and hindering offseason flexibility– a lack of options and a multiplicity of the roster’s vulnerabilities assures this. Besides, it doesn’t make sense to accumulate rentals for a postseason campaign that may not exist.

“I don’t think we’re in any position to start throwing firsts and seconds around. I don’t think that made any sense for us at this point,” Francis said.

For what it’s worth, the moves Seattle did make were fitting independent of their lukewarm quality.

Finagling team-friendly term with 33-year-old Eberle stood as the biggest obstacle Seattle faced in negotiations with the winger, who can now plan on sticking around until the 2025-26 season’s run its course. Compromise on contract length came in the form of an extra digit of salary, the “7” in his $4.75 million, still amounting to a $750,000 pay cut.

Money will be moving this offseason, given the size of the upcoming class of pending free agents– sized at over $11 million altogether annually– and the NHL preparedness of several top prospects, cheaper sources of bottom-six talent. Of the eight forwards signed next season, Eberle’s contract will be the sixth-most expensive; his AAV is hardly concerning so long as he can continue to prove this season’s slow start was an outlier. Looking at his track record that’s a fairly safe bet.

“Ebs had a realization,” Hakstol said, “the start of the year wasn’t what he wanted it to be.”

“You look at his performance over the last 20 games and he’s nearly a point-per-game guy. He’s playing his best hockey when we need it the most, and I think that probably speaks to his mental makeup and what makes him tick. He’s a very competitive guy.”

Fourth in goals (14) and points (37), projected to hit 18 and 48, respectively, at the 82-game mark, Eberles’ persistence to improve, as well as his invaluable chemistry and leadership, makes forking over a check easier.

As for Wennberg, an extension was discussed before the decision to trade him was made. The deal never came to fruition, Francis revealed, with “back and forth” negotiations making it impossible for the team to get “comfortable” with the commitment.

Alex Wennberg called it a “dream come true playing for the Rangers.” Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

As one of the weaker offensive facets of the team, moving him was the best option. Criticism of the trade is fallaciously concerned with what could’ve been.

Witnessing Adam Henrique, Elias Lindholm, and Sean Monahan each reap a first-round pick set a deceptively high price for centers at this season’s market. Wennberg, sought after for a bottom-six role by his Rangers suitors, was never going to fetch such a glamorous return. Those who did were part of package deals.

Centermen dealt alone– Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jack Roslovic, Connor Dewar, Ben Myers, Nic Petan, and Casey Mittelstadt– received picks exclusively in the third and fourth rounds, sometimes accompanied by a prospect or player of equal strength. Seattle was the only team to receive more than one pick and a pick in the second round for a center.

With the dust settled the deal’s looking like the best of its kind, tepid as it is. Especially if the wiggle room spurs an onslaught of moves this offseason.

From the sound of it, that’s exactly the plan for the Kraken: forge ahead with what they’ve got and reevaluate come summer. At this point, it’s all they can do.


  • Shane Wright is not anticipated to be recalled anytime soon, even if Wennberg’s absence opens up a space for him. Ron Francis and the team like “the way he’s playing” with the Coachella Valley Firebirds, and can’t guarantee he’ll be seen with the Kraken at all this season. Development was cited as the biggest reason behind that move, although with Wright six games away from burning the first year of his ELC, contractual navigation does factor in.
  • Francis told reporters he had “conversations” with Matty Beniers regarding an extension “last summer” which will be “pick[ed] up” once again this offseason.

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