Seattle Kraken: 2021-22 NHL Season Preview

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The 2021-22 NHL season is coming and it’s time to take a look at all 32 teams. We’ll examine best- and worst-case scenarios, looking at the biggest questions, breakout candidates, and more for each franchise. Today, we preview the Seattle Kraken.

2020-21 Season Review

• Record: 0-0-0.
• Postseason: Received the second pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, selected Matty Beniers.
• Offensive leaders: It turns out, no one scored for (or against) the Kraken.

• Free Agent Additions: Check out their expansion draft list here, and their roster here. During free agency itself: Philipp Grubauer, Jaden Schwartz, Ryan Donato, Marcus Johansson, Alexander Wennberg, Connor Carrick.
• Free Agent Subtractions: Merely expansion draft picks they traded away: Vitek Vanecek (back to Capitals), Kurtis MacDermid (Avalanche), Tyler Pitlick (Flames).

Biggest question for Kraken

• Where are the goals coming from?

If their vision comes to fruition, teams will have trouble scoring against the 2021-22 Kraken. Unfortunately, that same Kraken team could really struggle to fill the net.

Maybe title it “Scoreless in Seattle?” Or “Sleepy in Seattle?”

(Granted, most nights, fans will probably be raucous enough to rouse you out of any dump-and-chase slumber.)

[PHT’s offseason trade tracker]

To be clear, the Kraken’s 2021-22 forward group isn’t bad. It’s just that they’re generally focused on two-way play, tenacity, and “little things” that rarely translate to easy goals.

Just picture what the 2021-22 Kraken power play might look like. Daily Faceoff provides a guess:

Joonas DonskoiJared McCann – Jaden Schwartz
Jordan EberleMark Giordano

Not exactly the 1956 Canadiens’ rule-changing power play, eh?

Of course, the Golden Knights didn’t look so hot heading into their debut season, yet they unearthed gem after gem. For all we know, players like Carsen Twarynski may go from “Who?” to “Wooo!”

As it stands, though? It sure looks like both the Kraken and their opponents could have a tough time scoring goals.

What’s the salary cap situation?

Heading into the expansion draft, the Kraken enjoyed something other teams can only dream of: a clean slate, and once-in-a-franchise leverage.

They could have gone bold, landing a big name like Vladimir Tarasenko, James van Riemsdyk, or even Carey Price. Alternatively, the Kraken could’ve exploited that clean slate, taking on other teams’ problems for bloated prices: draft picks and prospects.

Instead, they mostly emphasized cheap contracts during the expansion draft. Then they spent more money than expected in free agency.

The result? A team that’s not quite expensive, but not exactly cheap either. Rather than betting big on one extreme (straining to compete, embracing the tank), the Kraken instead seemingly aim for the middle.

[PHT’s 2021 NHL Free Agent Tracker]

By Cap Friendly’s estimation, the Kraken currently have about $8.4 million in salary cap space. With an extra roster spot covered, you can probably bump that room closer to $9M.

When it comes to early qualms about their cap, the worry isn’t about being sunk by a single sea monster of a deal. Mark Giordano’s $6.75M leads the pack, and his contract expires after this season. Not that bad.

The concern is that the Kraken piled up enough term that may eventually sink them. A bunch of tentacles possibly pulling the franchise down, essentially. Consider all of the term the Kraken already piled up:

Six years (through 2026-27): Grubauer, 29, $5.9M cap hit.

Five years (through 2025-26): Schwartz, 29, $5.5M; Jamie Oleksiak, 28, $4.6M.

Four years (through 2024-25): Yanni Gourde, 29, $5.17M; Brandon Tanev, 29, $3.5M; Adam Larsson, 28, $4M.

Three years (through 2023-24): Jordan Eberle, 31, $5.5M; Alexander Wennberg, 26, $4.5M; Chris Driedger, 27, $3.5M.

No one’s going to confuse the Kraken with the Sharks, a team that looks downright stuck with old players on disastrous deals. San Jose’s a team that took huge home-run swings, and is now coping with the stench of those whiffs. The Kraken? This looks more like a team that spent a fairly large amount of money on “small ball.” Maybe all of those bunts, singles, and doubles can stack up for the sort of wins the Kraken are hoping for?

Breakout Candidate

• Jared McCann

If Golden Knights history repeats itself with the Kraken, then the answer might be “almost everyone.”

Perhaps you thought Jonathan Marchessault was a real find. You might have believed the Ducks undervalued Shea Theodore way back when. But expecting all of those breakouts? Even Vegas didn’t see it coming.

The Kraken boast plenty of players who could thrive with a change of scenery. Vince Dunn may finally make the Blues regret shrugging their shoulders at him. Nice scorers such as Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz may find new gears in more featured roles.

But the stage is set especially well for Jared McCann. Consider his 15.1 shooting percentage from last season (14 goals on 93 SOG), maybe McCann is actually situated to disappoint. Yet, with Gourde out and a general lack of impact centers, McCann will get every chance to deliver on his recent history of impressive underlying numbers.

Best-Case Scenario for 2021-22 Kraken

Should we Xerox the Golden Knights’ debut season, or somehow go bolder with a win during that Stanley Cup Final appearance? More realistically, the Kraken could be competent out of the gate. The Pacific Division is especially ripe for their potential rise. What if the Golden Knights stumble or suffer a few brutal injuries?

Worst-Case Scenario for 2021-22 Kraken

Remember when people were confused about the Dave Hakstol hiring? That confusion ended up being justified. That offense ends up punchless, yet that defense isn’t nearly as promising on the ice as it is on paper. Two unproven goalies prove little. Patience is thin for expansion growing pains after watching the Golden Knights’ instant success. People even blurt out a few unfair memes about Oklahoma City.

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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.