Now that Seattle has announced our new team name, jersey, colors, and arena, what’s next? Players. As of now, we don’t know what players will be protected by their teams, but there are plenty of players who will have free agent status during the 2021 NHL draft. Out of our 30 picks, 10 of them can be free agents, so who doesn’t like to speculate, right? Club-optioned free agents will play a huge role in building the Seattle Kraken’s inaugural team, so let’s take a look at some of the best picks.
There are some big names in the goalie world who will be free agents, including Henrik Lundqvist (NYR), Pekka Rinne (NSH), and Tuukka Rask (BOS). Rask would be a hands down pick, but odds are Boston will want to keep their star goalie by re-signing him. Depending on Seattle’s spending cap, my picks would be Frederik Andersen (TOR) or Anthony Stolarz (ANA). With his seven years of NHL experience and career save percentage (SV%) at .917, Andersen would be a strong choice between the pipes. Alas, this is probably a dream pick as he is Toronto’s starting goalie. Our only chance would be if Toronto wants to protect star players like Austin Matthews, Mitch Marner, or their up-and-coming back-up goalie Jack Campbell. A less expensive, and more realistic, choice would be Anaheim’s farm team goalie, Anthony Stolarz. As we learned with the Matt Murray/Marc-Andre Fleury change for Pittsburgh, sometimes young skills will push out the older star player. Stolarz hasn’t had much experience in the majors but at 6’6”, 230 lbs with a .910 SV%, he could be the wall that Seattle needs.
Now I know I’m showcasing a lot of former Anaheim players, but this one is too hard to pass up. The 5’11”, 185 lb, tiny-but-mighty force that is, Kyle Palmieri (NJD). In his 10-year, 561 game career, Palmieri has accumulated 338 points. He could be a strong leader as well considering his time and knowledge in the league. With 280 blocks and 785 hits, Palmieri could bring the hurt to Seattle.
One of the biggest left wingers in the league, Alex Ovechkin (WAS), will be a free agent next year, but I highly doubt the Capitals will give up their captain and the 2004 first overall pick. I’m sorry to go back to former ANA players again, but if Andrew Cogliano (DAL) isn’t re-signed and protected, he should be our pick. He started his 13-year career in 2007-08, finishing that season with a nomination for the Calder Trophy. Some will argue that he’s too seasoned and slowing down, but I believe he could write a new story in Seattle, possibly finishing his career with an anchor on his shoulder. While he isn’t the biggest point leader (career: 399 PTS), his strengths are shown through his 1,042 hits in 1,012 games. Not to mention his outstanding feat of 890 consecutive games (including playoff games), spanning from his first NHL game to a somewhat controversial hit causing him to receive a two-game suspension, putting to end his nickname, “Iron Man”.
Okay, I won’t include a former Anaheim Duck this time. Although, I will mention that ANA’s current captain Ryan Getzlaf will be available, but he’s slowed down significantly over the years so if ANA doesn’t protect him, it wouldn’t be in our best interests to pick him up. After talking about all of these veteran players I want to take a risk and suggest a rookie for a possible center. Joseph Gambardella (EDM) has only played one year but appears to be a promising player. In 15 games, he has 3 points, 14 hits, and 5 takeaways in a total of 122 minutes on ice. It would be a gamble, but after reviewing his MIC’D up highlights from the Young Stars Classic in 2017, he sounds like a born leader and strong center.
Defenders are harder to rank because some of them are big scorers and some are bigger hit/blockers. A good option for a power blocker with free agent status would be veteran player Jordie Benn (VAN). In 517 games within his nine-year career, he’s accumulated 117 points and 856 blocks, averaging around almost 2 blocks per game. Benn is 33-years-old, so if Seattle wanted a younger player to grow with the team a bit, I would opt for Jamie Oleksiak (DAL). Oleksiak has proven himself in his 313 games by throwing down 354 blocks and a whopping 697 hits. He lacks in scoring ability, but not every player can be a point leader.
It’s still very early in the process to make any “perfect” picks, but this gives us the chance as fans to speculate wildly. I can’t wait to see how our new team progresses in the next year, let’s “Dive in” Seattle!