Should the Kraken trade for Evgenii Dadonov?

The trade deadline has passed, but there’s still one name that could be on the move this season — Evgenii Dadonov. It’s a bizarre situation for all those involved, and with some measure of resolution coming on Wednesday, there’s now a chance that the Seattle Kraken could become another team joining in the chaos. Let’s back up for a second to discuss how we got here.

What happened with the Dadonov trade?

The Vegas Golden Knights and the Anaheim Ducks agreed to a trade minutes before Monday’s deadline that involved Dadonov and a 2nd-round draft pick heading to Anaheim in exchange for injured AHL defenseman John Moore and the contract of the very much retired forward Ryan Kesler. After two full days of discussions and investigations, the NHL officially invalidated the transaction. This happened because Dadonov has a modified no-trade clause in his contract which allows him to submit a list of 10 teams to which he cannot be traded. Anaheim is on that list.

Knowing this, it’s unclear exactly how the Ducks and the Knights were able to agree to terms on a trade. Dadonov signed the contract with the Ottawa Senators and submitted his list to them prior to a July 1st deadline last year, but that list apparently either never made it to Vegas or was completely overlooked in Vegas. We may never know the entire story, but the NHL has made it clear that because his contract states he can’t be traded to Anaheim, he, you know, can’t be traded to Anaheim.

Why did Vegas try to send him and a draft pick to Anaheim for nothing?

This is where it gets complicated. The Knights traded for Dadonov last July because they thought he would make their team better. He had three straight seasons of 20+ goals with the Florida Panthers before a disappointing season on a bad Ottawa Senators team. Vegas believed in him enough to send a third round pick and prospect Nick Holden to acquire his services. He’s only managed 27 points in 62 games this year, very much not in line with his $5 million cap hit. But shipping him off at the deadline wasn’t simply because “he’s not good.” It’s about the salary cap.

Vegas currently has a total salary of $92 million on their roster. That’s a problem, considering the upper limit of the NHL salary cap this year is only $81.5 million. The reason they are allowed to be above it is due to the players on Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) — namely captain Mark Stone ($9 million cap it) and Alec Martinez ($5.25 million). Players on LTIR are expected to miss at least 10 games or 24 calendar days of the NHL season. Their salaries don’t come off the books, but teams are allowed to spend more than the salary cap while they are injured. But once the players are healthy enough to be activated from LTIR, the team has to get back down to the normal upper limit. Right now, Vegas does not have the space to activate either of Stone or Martinez.

The situation is dire in Vegas when it comes to the salary cap, and moving Dadonov’s contract would give them the flexibility they desperately need as they fight for the final playoff spot in the West.

How does this involve the Kraken?

This is where things get really interesting. The trade deadline has passed, but that doesn’t actually mean teams can’t make trades. Teams can still make trades, but any player traded after the deadline is ineligible to play in any regular season or playoff games for the rest of this season. Essentially, there’s no reason a team would trade for a player after the deadline if they can’t use him, so it rarely happens.

Vegas, however, might be just desperate enough to free up cap space that they’ll throw in some sweeteners for a team to take on Dadonov’s contract. They were already willing to give up a 2nd-round pick for the Ducks to take him when the Ducks could actually get some games out of him this year. With Dadonov not able to play anymore this season in the event of a trade, the team acquiring him would likely require an even larger return. And more importantly, the team acquiring him would need the cap space to take on his contract that runs not just through this year, but through the end of the 2022-23 season as well. Two teams come to mind when people think about weaponizing their significant cap space this year: the Coyotes, and the Seattle Kraken.

The Kraken front office has made it clear that they are willing to utilize their cap space in order to gain draft capital and build for the future. They have retained salaries on three players that were traded away this week (Calle Järnkrok, Mark Giordano, and Marcus Johansson). They’ve still got $8 million in space to work with this year, with much more available next season — plenty of room to incorporate Dadonov this year and next. Elliotte Friedman speculated on Wednesday that Seattle really could be a possible destination if Vegas wants to make a trade.

The real question is what it would take on the Knights’ behalf to get a division rival to help them out of a cap crunch of their own making. Seattle needs help in the goal-scoring department, no doubt, but Dadonov can’t help them this year. Does Ron Francis really have any motivation to make a play here that would help what has been the powerhouse of his own division these past four years? My first thought is no, of course not. But then again, everything has a price.

Francis and co. came away with an enormous haul of draft capital at the deadline — 34 picks over the next three seasons. That’s essentially an extra two entire draft classes over three years. But the one thing they couldn’t snag is an extra 1st-round pick. Frank Seravalli is reporting that multiple teams have explored trading for Dadonov, but that the Knights would need to throw in a 1st-round pick to get the deal done.

If the Knights are willing to part with a 1st-round pick (and maybe more), is there really any reason the Kraken shouldn’t be in on that? That alone would be a huge get for Seattle, and that’s not even counting the fact that they’d be adding another forward to the team next season. Again, Dadonov hasn’t played up to his contract this year, but he’s still scored as many goals as Seattle’s all-star Jordan Eberle. Seattle wants draft capital, but what they really need is someone who can score goals. An Evgenii Dadonov experiment in 2022-23 could provide some of that. If Vegas really is desperate enough to offload his contract, the Kraken should absolutely make an attempt to acquire Dadonov.

That is, so long as he doesn’t have Seattle on his no-trade list.