General manager Ron Francis started his Saturday afternoon availability fresh off the phone lines, already setting the wheels in motion for the transformation of the Seattle Kraken coming off a playoff berth in their second year.
There will be wheels in motion for a moving truck, helping out defenseman Brian Dumoulin. The brawny, big, 6-foot-4 and 207-pound defenseman, who has won two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh, is headed to Seattle on a two-year deal worth $3.15 million annually, agreed to on the first day of NHL free agency.
A connection between Dumoulin and Francis already exists. Dumoulin was a second round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009, when Francis was just starting out in management with the Hurricanes in player development.
“Small world,” said Francis.
“He went onto have a great career and won two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh, so we add that to our locker room.”
Dumoulin never played a game for Carolina, who dealt him to Pittsburgh 11 years ago in the Jordan Staal trade after he finished a prolific career at Boston College. He went onto be a fixture on the Penguins defensive corps, emerging as a full time NHL’er in 2015-16 when the Penguins started their run of back-to-back Stanley Cup titles.
Dumoulin played in 79 games that season and added eight points in 24 playoff games as the Penguins knocked out the Sharks in the Cup Final. The following season, Dumoulin had 18 points in a career-high 80 games (broken this season when he played in all 82), then earning six points in 25 games.
The Kraken, who lost defenseman Carson Soucy to the Canucks, just minutes into free agency on Saturday morning, as of now replace the vacated left side slot with a shutdown defenseman in Dumoulin, who with the offensively gifted Kris Letang became a defensive pairing institution with the Penguins.
At age 31, the Kraken hope his foot speed can hold up as he’s racked up mileage north of 500 NHL games and has 139 points for his career along with 25 points in 81 career Stanley Cup Playoff games. But the Kraken get a potential bedrock on defense, extra experience, and leadership for Ryker Evans, who could still realistically make the Kraken roster and not have a burden of minutes put on his shoulders. Francis sees potential where he fits.
“Terrific person, and a really good player,” said Francis. “We think he helps us. Overall, his game’s real solid. He can kill penalties. Good stick. He can play a lot of positions for us. We’re excited to add him to the mix.”
Dumoulin had a career high 23 points in 76 games along with a +31 rating in 2018-19. It won’t be hard for Dumoulin to settle into the workplace, either.
He’ll get to call Jared McCann, Brandon Tanev, Justin Schultz, Jamie Oleksiak teammates once again. All four of them played with Dumoulin in Pittsburgh.
Free agency began with the Kraken letting go of free agent departures such as Daniel Sprong to Detroit, Ryan Donato to Chicago, Morgan Geekie to Boston and Soucy. The Kraken have $17 million of cap space available, prioritizing defensemen Vince Dunn and Will Borgen, who are restricted free agents and eligible for arbitration.
Pierre LeBrun of TSN reported on Saturday morning that the Kraken were in on trade talks with the San Jose Sharks to acquire superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson. The Kraken have a significant chunk of last season’s playoff roster returning. Matty Beniers will be entering the final year of his contract.
What does that mean with more possible upgrades?
“We’ve had the green light from owners from day one to do what we think is right,” said Francis, noting it was important to “take a deep breath” with day one of free agency activity while monitoring additional moves.
“We do have some cap space here now, and we do have the ability to go sign somebody if we think it makes our team better.”