SEATTLE — When all the moves by the Seattle Kraken were finally wrapped up on Monday, Ron Francis went to a few key players whom he sees as part of the team’s future with a very clear message.
The general manager wanted them to know his goal is for Seattle to be a playoff contender next year, not several years down the road.
“It’s important for me and the coaches to have conversations, and I’ve already started having some this morning with some guys, just to make them aware that we didn’t do all this to draft and develop and be good five years from now,” Francis said. “We did this to give us the tools to try and be better next season and that’s what our goal is between now and the start of next season.”
Seattle got rid of key pieces from its roster in recent days, highlighted by the trade of defenseman and team captain Mark Giordano and forward Colin Blackwell to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Seattle also dealt forwards Calle Jarnkrok to Calgary, Mason Appleton to Winnipeg, Marcus Johansson to Washington, and defenseman Jeremy Lauzon to Nashville before the NHL trade deadline Monday.
In return, Seattle got exactly two players. The Kraken acquired Daniel Sprong from Washington as part of the Johansson trade, and landed forward Victor Rask from Minnesota for future considerations. Rask is headed to Seattle’s AHL affiliate.
But Seattle also landed a boatload of future draft picks. The trades netted the Kraken 10 future draft selections, giving them 34 picks over the next three drafts, including eight second-round picks.
So while the actual player return was negligible in this trade window, Francis believes he now owns enough assets between draft picks and salary cap room to be active in player acquisitions this summer.
“I’m not hoping to use all of those, but we do think we can get some good players for those picks,” Francis said. “And we’re hoping that we can move some of those, along with free agency, to help retool our franchise as we move into next year. We want to be every bit as competitive as any other team in the league as we start next season moving forward.”
Seattle’s 44 points through 63 games are tied for second-worst in the league and just one point ahead of Montreal. On top of all the picks in rounds 2-7, the Kraken will also be in the draft lottery this season for a chance at another high draft selection after picking No. 2 last year.
The trades also removed a bit of the uncertainty for the offseason as Seattle has only one player -- forward Riley Sheahan -- who is an unrestricted free agent.
The moves will also create opportunities for some younger players over the final five weeks of the season. Francis said forward Kole Lind will be with the team for the remainder of the season, and defensemen Will Borgen and Haydn Fleury will get more consistent playing time.
There’s also the chance that forward Matty Beniers — the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft — could get time with the Kraken after Michigan’s run in the NCAA Tournament concludes.
“We still have good players and we still expect to compete hard every night,” Francis said.
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