The Seattle Kraken are at the bottom of the Western Conference and last in the Pacific Division by a long shot. The first season hasn’t gone as planned after building what they thought was a competitive team focused on stopping pucks.The Edmonton Oilers, still in a playoff spot despite losing 11 of their last 13 games, have lots of time to right the ship and take advantage of a Kraken team that is sure to be sellers at the trade deadline.
The Oilers can address any or all of their needs with one team. Though that is unlikely, there are still four possible players the the team can target to improve not only this season, but possibly set themselves up for the future.
The first player that could address an issue with the Oilers’ forward group is Calle Jarnkrok. He can play the wing or centre, but if the Oilers decide to target him, he would more than likely be utilized in a third-line centre role.
Jarnkrok got off to a tough start with the Kraken — dealing with COVID-19 and an injury, he struggled to put up points in a lineup that is still changing. He put up five points in the first 19 games of the season, but has really picked up his game over the past three outings. He’s scored two goals and five points in the past three games while playing significantly more, exceeding 18:00 time on ice in two of those games. He won’t see the same time in Edmonton if he is traded due to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl centering the first two lines, but he could even be shifted around and play the wing in the top-6.
Jarnkrok led the way in December for Seattle, recording the most points on the team with seven in just seven games, and was one of seven Kraken players to finish the month with a positive plus/minus. The experience he brings at age 30 — not only in the regular season, but also the playoffs — would be a welcomed addition to an Oilers’ locker room that is looking for answers.
Jarnkrok is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after this season, making only $2 million. That won’t break the bank and the ask won’t be huge, but the Oilers would have to include a roster player, most likely a forward, back to complete the deal. If he continues to elevate his play, the cost will go up, but so should the reward.
To make things clear, Mark Giordano has a 19-team no-trade clause. This may come into effect only if he doesn’t choose to waive it and be traded to any contender in an attempt to win a Stanley Cup. He is nearing the end of his career and nobody knows how many more chances he will get while still being able to play at a high enough level.
One of the positions that needs to be addressed is the left defence — the second/third pairing to be exact. This season, the Oilers have had many injuries and players enter COVID protocol from the left side of their defence. This has forced the team to use a number of players to fill in. The list includes Slater Koekkoek, Kris Russell, Markus Niemelainen, William Lagesson, and Dmitri Samorukov.
This screams upgrade, and who better than a veteran who can be relied on defensively to be paired with either Tyson Barrie or Evan Bouchard. This will allow the Oilers to lessen the playing time of Darnell Nurse before he completely wears himself out and provide either offensively-minded, right-shot defenceman to have a partner who is reliable in his own end.
Salary cap would have to be retained since Giordano makes $6.75 million. The Oilers will also likely be sending back one of Russell or Koekkoek in the deal to free up that roster spot. Giordano is a UFA after this season, so if the Oilers feel they can bolster that left defence position and contend this season, a return to Alberta may be in order for the veteran.
Chris Driedger hasn’t got in a ton of games this season to really make a fair evaluation of him just yet. Though starting goaltender for the Kraken, Philipp Grubauer, hasn’t played much better, they have run with him more due to a couple injuries and poor performances by Driedger.
The Kraken do have him under contract for two more seasons at $3.5 million per season, but early on the team has to be asking if they spent too much on goaltending that has been the weakest position on their team. The team also has Joey Daccord who looks to be progressing well and has even gotten in some action this season with a spot opening up briefly. If they decide to sell a piece in Driedger, even if his stock is a bit lower based off of his performance, two years under contract would be enticing for some teams, including the Oilers who are looking for younger and talented solutions in net.
One problem that may present itself is the 10-team no-trade clause that Driedger has in his contract. But the Oilers may not make it on that list if he sees the goaltending situation and his opportunity to be a No. 1 on a team that can typically have goal support at the other end.
Driedger’s .892 save percentage (SV%) and 3.49 goals-against average (GAA) doesn’t pop as someone who will make an immediate difference in Edmonton, but he was lights out in Florida, posting a record of 21-8-4, four shutouts, 2.07 GAA and .931 SV% in two seasons. Mikko Koskinen and something extra, whether it’s a pick or prospect would probably be the cost due to the money and term left on Driedger’s deal.
The fourth and very cheap option that the Oilers could be interested in acquiring is Ryan Donato. He was a late signee by the Kraken for just $750,000. His contract is up at the end of the season, but the 25-year-old remains a restricted free agent, giving whoever trades for him the option to re-up him if he produces.
Donato has been a nice surprise for the Kraken, recording eight goals and 13 points in 28 games while playing bottom-6 minutes on a bottom-of-the-league team. That sort of production from a depth player is something the Oilers lack this season and have for a long time. Donato is doing so averaging under 12:30 a game, so if he is utilized in a third- or fourth-line role on the wing or centre, he can still be effective. (from ‘Analysis: Kraken’s addition of Ryan Donato could shake up bottom-six forward’, The Seattle Times, Sept. 13, 2021)
With a $750,000 contract, Donato is fighting every game for the chance to continue making life in the NHL a permanent fixture. He isn’t at the end of his career, he is young and hungry and still looking for his payday. In a contract year, you generally see players step up their game.
More than just this season, Donato could be an effective player in the bottom six for the Oilers due to his effort and goal-scoring ability. After breaking into the league with the Boston Bruins, scoring nine points in 12 games, he has since recorded at least 20 points in the following three seasons and is well on his way to do so again. In Edmonton, the bottom six typically don’t play as much as other teams’ bottom six, so it won’t be a change from what he’s been able to do now on four different teams in four seasons. (from ‘After leaving his native Massachusetts, the Kraken’s Ryan Donato hopes to have found a home in Seattle’, The Seattle Times, Sept. 1, 2021)
Any of these four players could be the piece that is missing to shake things up a bit in Edmonton. It may not just take a trade, but a fresh start or a wakeup call for the Oilers’ players could do the same trick. The Oilers are still in the race and there’s a long season ahead.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.
You can find more of his work here.