Seattle Needs A Veteran Top Six Centre
There is plenty going wrong for the Seattle Kraken right now; a lack of goal scoring, too many goals against. While last season the team was firing on all cylinders, this year they can't seem to buy a goal. One of the biggest issues? None of their centres are producing.
Let's look at Beniers, Gourde, and Wennberg - the top three centers. Here were their numbers last season.
Beniers: 80GP 24-33-57 0.71ppg
Gourde: 81GP 14-34-48 0.59ppg
Wennberg: 82GP 13-25-38 0.46ppg
Now here is how they are producing this season:
Beniers: 30GP 4-9-13 0.43ppg
Gourde: 30GP 4-7-11 0.36ppg
Wennberg: 30GP 4-8-12 0.4 ppg
Scoring is down across the board for Seattle's centers with Beniers obviously suffering the most significant setback. The sophomore is struggling and moving forward the plan must be to shelter him more and not have him be the top line centre. Beniers needs to be the second line centre with another veteran taking on the top line duties.
The good news? Seattle is going to have over 25 million dollars in cap space next season to completely re-invent this roster. Wennberg and Eberle will likely both be gone. The only big RFA signings this team needs to make a decision on are Beniers and Tolvanen. If the team wants to bring Tolvanen back it's not going to break the bank and Beniers at this point is likely looking at a bridge deal. Regardless expect the Kraken to have well over 20 million in space to play with.
So today we are going to take a way too early look at some of the centers that could be available to Seattle in Free Agency.
Bring Gourde and Stamkos back together for one last hurrah? This is a fun one to think about but likely the least realistic of any option here. For starters, Stamkos is likely looking at a final contract that places him with a Cup contender and sadly that just isn't the Kraken at this stage. Secondly, Stamkos will be 34 years old next season and with his injury history is entering the downhill portion of his career.
Obviously having a big name like Stamkos to mentor Beniers and Wright would be phenomenal but for the long term future of the team I just don't see a fit.
A similar but lesser note to Stamkos. Duchene is still proving he is a top six center in the NHL, having a successful year with the Stars. Duchene would be 33 next season but if the Kraken could find a way to have him agree to a two year deal than he could be a stop gap solution until we know if Beniers and Wright are ready.
Here is the long term option that makes a ton of sense for Seattle. Lindholm is likely going to get moved prior to the deadline so the Flames don't let him walk for nothing. If Lindholm stays with that team as a rental only, than he could still be a free agent. Lindholm has been a fantastic two way center for years but has struggled recently with the lack of scoring wingers now available in Calgary.
Lindholm just turned 29 and has many years of good hockey left in him and Seattle has the cap space to offer him a competitive salary. There are going to be plenty of teams (looking at you Boston) who are going to be in on this player but he would certainly be at the top of my list for Seattle.
Another interesting option. Stephenson doesn't turn 30 until April and was a key part of the Golden Knights and their Cup win last season. Stephenson may not stand out as a true #1 center but he has certainly taken on top competition in Vegas and would at least help to shelter the young guys until they are ready to take that next step.
I'm not writing the Kraken off yet for this season but it's clear to me that Seattle needs veteran help at center that can produce. There aren't many top end centers available in free agency but there are plenty of elite wingers (hello Nylander). Lindholm would be the only legitimate #1 center available and guys like Stephenson and Duchene are decent stop gap options.
Who is on your list?