Navigating their first time in free agency in franchise history, the Seattle Kraken certainly weren’t shy to make a splash and made some impactful moves today on day one of free agency in the National Hockey League. The Kraken went out and signed the best goalie on the free agent market in Philipp Grubauer, top six forward Jaden Schwartz, and skilled center Alexander Wennberg. Also, the Kraken traded recent expansion draft pick and goaltender Vitek Vanacek back to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a second round draft pick in 2023 (which was acquired by the Capitals from the Winnipeg Jets in the Brendon Dillion trade the other night). Below are the announcements on the free agent signings and trade of Vanacek as well as my thoughts on what the Seattle Kraken did on a very busy day for them:
Philipp Grubauer signing announcement
Jaden Schwartz signing announcement
Alexander Wennberg signing announcement
Vitek Vanacek trade announcement
What do I think?
As I said after the expansion draft recently, the Seattle Kraken had more moves up their sleeves to make. It wasn’t surprising to see them dive into the free agent market and pick up more players that can help make their team competitive this season and beyond. What was amazing was goalie plans changed for the Kraken as Philipp Grubauer hit the open market and leaving the Colorado Avalanche as it was expected for him to return there. It sounds like the Avalanche weren’t willing to pay what Grubauer was looking for and the Kraken certainly were as they have plenty of salary cap space available. Grubauer instantly becomes the number one goalie in Seattle and had a spectacular season for Colorado as he was nominated for the Vezina Trophy (finished third in the voting process) as the league’s top goaltender. Since winning the Stanley Cup as a former backup in Washington, Grubauer has kept on improving his play in between the pipes and has put himself in the conversation amongst the elite goaltenders in the league as shown by his Vezina nomination. This is a great move obviously for the Kraken getting a number one goalie to go along with a pretty good complimentary backup in Chris Driedger.
Next up, the Kraken went out and picked up top six forward Jayden Schwartz. He will be a big part of the Kraken’s top six by adding scoring, solid two-way play, and provide excellent leadership as a Stanley Cup champion from his time with the St. Louis Blues. Schwartz has demonstrated he can play with anybody and produce twenty or more goals and fifty or more points a season. I’ve always liked Schwartz’s game and think he’ll be a great fit in Seattle. It always helps to have wingers like him that can produce and has played great when the games get tough and who knows how to win. Great move here by GM Ron Francis.
Thirdly, the Seattle Kraken signed skilled forward Alexander Wennberg, formerly of the Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets. This signing is intriguing as Wennbeg has shown he has potential of being a top six center. He is a pure skilled forward who can put up points with his creativity and vision out on the ice. Wennberg’s best season was back in 2016-2017 with the Blue Jackets when he put up 59 points (13g-46a-59pts, +9). He set a career high in goals the past season with the Panthers by lighting the lamp seventeen times. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do in Seattle under coach Dave Hakstol’s system. Definitely an interesting signing that could lead to a high reward type of scenario.
Lastly, the Seattle Kraken traded their recent expansion draft pick, goaltender Vitek Vanacek back to the Washington Capitals who were definitely upset that he was picked by the Kraken instead of one of their high priced defensemen. As I mentioned earlier, it was surprising Philipp Grubauer hit the open market and did not re-sign with the Avalanche. The Kraken stepped up with the best offer and were able to convince the best free agent goalie to come to Seattle. After this signing happened, it definitely changed the plans in net for the Kraken. The Capitals certainly wanted Vanacek back and Seattle obliged and collected a second round draft pick in the 2023 draft in exchange for sending Vanacek back to Washington. Getting a second round pick for a goalie they no longer needed and who’s very good certainly will help the Kraken pick up more prospects for their minor league system. Good move in getting a valuable assist in return for something that another team desperately wanted back.
Overall, I thought the Seattle Kraken made some very good moves today and I am excited to see if they’ll be making any others this offseason. This team is starting to shape up and is looking like a competitive team that will be tough to play against. Stay tuned for more Kraken coverage from me right here at TXHT!