So it hasn't necessarily gone according to plan for the Seattle Kraken. Only the Arizona Coyotes and Montreal Canadiens have worse records than the expansion side, which has neither been immediately competitive or able to show meaningful progression through the balance of the season. While there was a thought — and prior precedent — to suggest that competing right away was possible, it's really the latter which is concerning. This team should be slotting some bricks into the foundation by now.
The big-picture items are still to come. There probably has to be a discussion about Dave Hakstol's work behind the bench. It's fair to scrutinize and maybe take a real look at the management team, too. But in the meantime, this organization has to explore every avenue over the next four weeks to build what it hadn't through the expansion draft, which is to say it should be tearing down to aggressively add to its base of futures capital.
Despite their issues, the Kraken have the strongest collection of trade candidates league wide. And yet, there hasn't been a great deal of noise emanating from the Pacific Northwest.
It could be that the Kraken do well to keep a lid on things and haven't fallen victim to insider leaks. It also could be that their optimism remains a touch misplaced and they are prepared to once again let an opportunity pass with the chance to make the sort of trades that will benefit them for the long term.
Let's break down who might be available ahead of the NHL trade deadline.
The straight rentals
Seattle has two players with which there are no excuses to hold on to — even if one of them happens to be the first captain in franchise history. Mark Giordano and Calle Jarnkrok are both on expiring deals and will likely never be in position to help the franchise truly contend. Ron Francis should be doing all he can to maximize the return on these assets.
Giordano, 38, is just three seasons removed from winning the Norris Trophy but figures to be more of a high-end depth option for a contender at this point. Still, Seattle should command a solid return, as it would likely have to retain 50 percent of his $6.75-million salary to make the dollars work. Jarnkrok, meanwhile, is reaching the end of one of the strangest contracts in history. He'll be looking to maximize his earning potential on his next contract after earning a flat $2 million in each of the last six seasons. But in the meantime he can fit into just about any team's salary structure as an accurately-priced and useful depth option who could switch teams for as little as $1 million.
The multi-year rentals
There are a couple other short-term fixes for teams within their championship contention windows. Joonas Donskoi is not having a strong campaign with just a single goal after being plucked away from the Colorado Avalanche, but is a proven postseason performer with one season remaining on his deal after this year. He might be considered steep at $3.9 million, but if his cost was retained, Donskoi could potentially assist on two postseason runs at less than $2 million for a contender looking to bolster a middle six.
Carson Soucy could also apply here. The depth defender has one more season at $2.75 million following this one and could be an option for teams looking to round out a defensive corps.
The big fish
There are also a few options if Seattle really wants to make a splash.
Jared McCann is on pace for almost 40 goals on the final season of a deal that pays him less than $3 million. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, meaning that a suitor will have to be prepared to pay for his production to keep him in the fold. It's possible that Seattle will want to avoid being sucked into a big-money commitment with McCann, who has never scored more than 15 goals in a season, and instead cash in while his value is at its peak.
The same can't be said for Alexander Wennberg, Adam Larsson and Jamie Oleksiak, who are among the few who signed multi-year extensions to stick around in Seattle for the long term. There is neither a rush to move these players or danger with keeping them, but if there's an opportunity to take back something meaningful for a player who may not be moving the needle or whose value will only depreciate, it's worth considering.
The elephant in the room
Can the Kraken take advantage of another team's desperation?
Philipp Grubauer has been an unmitigated disaster after Ron Francis outbid other interested parties for the services of the No. 1 free agent netminder on the board. Is it possible they have the opportunity to cut bait and move him and his full cost to a team like the Edmonton Oilers, which is desperate for help in net and may be willing to make excuses for his performance?
Probably not. But that might be as important as any deal they can make.
Other potential trade candidates
Marcus Johansson: An unrestricted free agent at the end of the season on $1.5 million salary, he has just six goals and 18 points in 41 games.
Mason Appleton: Hasn't had the impact some anticipated. A restricted free agent making less than $1 million.
Colin Blackwell: See: Appleton. Only he's unrestricted.
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