The Seattle Kraken have carved themselves out a piece of the league with tons of players from everywhere. They have a few Pittsburgh connections, and most of them are interesting, so let’s look into what has happened since July’s expansion draft saw the Penguins lose two players (but gain a prospect).
Former Pens on Seattle
Riley Sheahan (18 games, 1 goal, 2 assists): Sheahan is the poster boy for why expansion is good for NHL players — it opens up more jobs. Sheahan was signed to a one-year deal on September 1st, fairly deep into free agency for a slightly above minimum salary $850,000. Ironically enough, Sheahan was traded out of Pittsburgh in 2019 in the deal that sent Jared McCann to the Pens; now the two are teammates.
Sheahan is just kinda hangin’ on at this point; he was waived on November 13th, went unclaimed and then played four games with AHL Charlotte. Sheahan got a recall on Nov. 27th due to some injuries in Seattle and is back on the fringes of the lineup.
Jamie Oleksiak (24gp, 1G+9A): Oleksiak has had a meandering career-path that saw him bounce from Dallas to Pittsburgh back to Dallas. At times he has been a strong contributor and performed very well in the NHL. At other times his play has dipped noticeably and he’s been down to healthy scratch territory. The Kraken were big believers in Oleksiak turning a corner, making him their selection in the expansion draft from the Stars and promptly signing the 28-year old to a five year, $23 million extension ($4.6 million cap hit).
Oleksiak has been Seattle’s fourth defenseman in TOI (19:18 per game) and chipped in a little on the penalty kill. He has become one of the league’s better defensive defensemen and driven impressive results for his team lately.
Jared McCann (19 gp, 10G+5A): McCann was traded away from Pittsburgh in the hours before the expansion draft to Toronto, due to concerns they would lose him to Seattle for nothing. Instead, Toronto didn’t protect McCann either, so they lost him for the cost of the trade to the Pens (AHL prospect Filip Hallander).
McCann has been tremendous for the Kraken, he ranks second on the team in goals and fourth in points. McCann was a Godsend to the Pens’ on the power play last season when the dealt with injuries, and he has picked up right where he left off with five PPG so far this season. His finishing ability has remained very high, and he looks in-line for a really good season and a big raise on his $2.9 million salary cap hit for this year.
Goals Scored Above Expected Leaders - December 4 pic.twitter.com/FYVwH4eJL8— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) December 4, 2021
One of the biggest failings of the Ron Hextall era to this point might be that he couldn’t find a spot to protect Jared McCann, who was one of the Pens’ best offensive players last season and has picked right back up this year again in Seattle. Was valuing
Jason Zucker (whoops, forgot Zucker was also exposed, nevermind!) — Jeff Carter, Teddy Blueger and Kasperi Kapanen over McCann a mistake, or a savvy move to align the team’s future salary cap structure? It’s certainly brought short-term pain, considering the season McCann is having compared against those names (except for possibly Blueger).
Either way, it’s no coincidence that Pittsburgh has had troubles with power play and middle-line production, which only makes the decision to move on from McCann look more painful in hindsight. There’s no doubt the Pens have missed the scoring contributions of McCann so far this season.
Brandon Tanev (24gp, 8G+5A): Seattle made Tanev their expansion selection from the Pens, absorbing the $3.5 million salary cap hit for four more seasons, which seemed to be a curious move. In the short term, however, it has paid off for the Kraken much like Tanev’s level of play met and exceeded expectations on the ice in Pittsburgh. Tanev is a popular player who stands out for his dogged work ethic and excellent speed. He finished and popped in more goals than expected in 2021 and has also picked up right back where he left off in Seattle, on a 27-goal pace a quarter into the season. The man of the funny headshot has brought some offense this year
The Pens have missed Tanev’s speed and personality to be sure, but they also still have the top ranked PK in the NHL so far and haven’t missed a beat without him in that department.
As always, the interesting question for Tanev will be how long he can sustain his output. Bottom-line players usually don’t get six year deals. 30+ year olds typically aren’t the fastest players on the ice as they age. Tanev had a light scoring touch in years’ prior, but now has 15 goals in his last 56 games, dating back to his 2020-21 season with the Pens. Tanev is a fascinating player, and just how much longer he will keep going will be interesting to see play out. So far he continues to bring it on the ice and a huge piece of his teams on and off the ice. His contract also isn’t even 50% done yet.
For now, he’s considered a “heart and soul” type player central to helping energize a team and fanbase. Due to expansion, it’s not just across the continent in Seattle and not in Pittsburgh any longer.