Kraken Mailbag: Answer your questions about center depth, playoff aspirations, vaccine needs and more
With the Kraken now less than six weeks away from training camp, the team continues to seek roster upgrades with roughly $ 16 million in salary cap space.
He made deep and routine contract moves this week, signing restricted free agent defenseman Will Borgen, 24, on Thursday to a two-year contract averaging $ 900,000 a year after selecting the Buffalo’s right-handed shooter in last month’s expansion draft. Borgen has appeared in 14 games with the Sabers over a stretch of two seasons and the Kraken love his advantage and the fact that he’s a right-handed shooter on a team needing such a deep blue line.
On Wednesday, the Kraken signed former Seattle Thunderbirds center Alex True, 24, retired from San Jose in the same draft, and unrestricted free agent defenseman Connor Carrick, 27, each one year old, from contracts. bidirectional with both probably for the American Hockey League. Granted, 24, would make $ 750,000 if he played in the NHL, while Carrick, 27, another right-hander blue line shooter who spent the last three years with New Jersey, would earn $ 800,000, well that both will receive much less if they are assigned to the AHL affiliate.
The team will likely take a long look at True at training camp given the shortlist at his central position. Unlike True, who has only played 19 games in the NHL, the older Carrick has appeared in 241 with four teams in seven-season games and could frequently help the Kraken with the depth of injury.
In fact, some of you have questions about depth, centers, and other elements of the Kraken. So let’s go to them.
You asked two questions for the price of one, but given the importance of vaccinations, I will answer both.
Yes, the team is considering at least a proof of vaccination requirement and is holding internal meetings this week and next on such pandemic protocols. It’s a very fluid situation, obviously, and the team will be looking for further advice from the state regarding their home arena with over 17,000 seats and the Community Iceplex training center with a capacity for 1,000 spectators. Right now, everyone is waiting to see how serious the new Delta variant cases get and if health officials start shutting things down again. But yes, the Kraken are aware that they have to address vaccinations very soon.
On your question about crosses, no, I don’t think the team is comfortable in the short term. It would be different if Yanni Gourde started the season healthy, but after surgery he will have minimal impact on the ice before December or January.
The Kraken are essentially betting on former Florida third-row center Alex Wennberg, who jumps to the first row. That’s a big demand, even after scoring a career-high 17 goals in a cropped season.
Gourde will also be asked to take on a larger leading role in the same way, which is already a lot of finger crosses in a position.
Yet many NHL teams don’t have a true No.1 center. And the Kraken just drafted a potential future in Matty Beniers of the University of Michigan. There’s still a chance Beniers will start with the Kraken this fall and help close the gap until Gourde’s planned return.
As an NCAA prospect, Beniers is eligible for the AHL even as a teenager. So the Kraken could keep it for a month or two and then, if needed, ship it to the AHL for more seasoning once Gourde returns. It could also prevent the True Center from training camp like this bridge to Gourde if Beniers goes back to school.
As you mention, the Kraken also has several wingers who can play center. Some are more experienced in key tasks like faceoffs, which Mason Appleton and Morgan Geekie haven’t done much at the NHL level. So it depends on what the Kraken prioritizes, but there is flexibility.
That said, the flexibility doesn’t go any further. Do the Kraken have four centers for four lines that have done it consistently in the NHL? Right now, the team seems at least a short man.
I would expect the Kraken to blow up Beniers in the NHL or trade for a cross in training camp as other teams scramble to meet the cap. There is nothing in free agency that the Kraken doesn’t already have.
I think he’s got a chance, but at the moment I’m not planning the Kraken for a playoff spot. Goalkeeper tandem Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger could be the best in the league while top four defenders Adam Larsson, Jamie Oleksiak, Mark Giordano and Vince Dunn also look strong. Two-way attacking play brings an additional element of goal prevention that’s important for playoff teams. Offensively, I recently wrote about the team’s potential 20-goal scorers and it’s impressive – concerns about center depth aside.
So I don’t think the team is far behind in a relatively weak Pacific division. But importing another proven 25 or 30 goal scorer would alleviate my concerns considerably. Even if it’s a two-year flyer about Vladimir Tarasenko if the St. Louis Blues ate money to lower his annual cap to $ 4 or $ 5 million. Right now, with offense, there’s a problem with the center depth and elite-level goal production, and it was already going to take a while for an unknown team to fit in. Additionally, the Kraken requires a number of players to take on additional responsibilities, and they are unlikely to all be successful.
Part of this proven scoring lack can be made up with a tenacious and forceful forward failure. We’ve seen how well this has worked out for teams in the last playoffs. It’s just hard to play over 82 games intensely without injuries and burnout. I would love to see more points added before calling it a playoff team.
The Kraken hired former Buffalo Sabers goaltender coach Andrew Allen as a professional scout a while back and I assumed he would have the goalie coach job once he showed up.
Allen was right in town for the recent team meetings and I was told he was pretty positive about the goalies the team ended up with. Who wouldn’t, right? Kraken general manager Ron Francis told me Allen is definitely in the coaching group and expects to announce something within a week.
The Penguins have just fired goalie coach Mike Buckley and he’s been linked to Kraken since assistant general manager Jason Botterill’s time in Pittsburgh. In addition, Francis is very close to former Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, himself a goaltender in the NHL and a great supporter of Buckley. And Stéphane Waite lost his job in Montreal mid-season, so there are some important names if you’re looking beyond Allen.
I told people the recent playoffs seemed like a last hurray as a fan of the Montreal Canadiens. It was great to see them advance to the final, reconnect with longtime friends during games and see how happy they made people in my hometown. But there can’t be outright fandom in a team when you cover a sport professionally.
I compare him a bit to the Quebec-born players involved in big games against Montreal in the playoffs for Vegas and Tampa Bay. Although he grew up cheering on Montreal, I doubt Marc-André Fleury was happy for the Canadiens when his mishandling of the puck late in Game 3 cost the Golden Knights the game and possibly an appearance in the final of the Stanley Cup.
And I doubt Gourde felt any sentimentality about the first Montreal Cup final since 1993 when he scored a key goal in Game 1 for the Lightning. Fleury and Gourde both had personal interests in different teams which outweighed the earlier Canadiens fandom.
Likewise, I feel personally concerned with the Kraken, even though my work does not allow me to take root in them. I’ve spent years recounting the birth of the team and I’ll be paid to criticize them up close for a whole new fanbase. There is no more room to encourage Canadians. My life revolves around another NHL team.