Kraken send Alex Wennberg to the Rangers in Wednesday trade

Calgary Flames v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 04: Alex Wennberg #21 of the Seattle Kraken warms up before the game against the Calgary Flames at Climate Pledge Arena on November 04, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

The Seattle Kraken have dealt center Alex Wennberg, a key member of their inaugural expansion roster, to the New York Rangers in a trade on Wednesday, in exchange for a pair of draft picks including a second rounder coming this summer.

What we know:

  • The Rangers get Wennberg, with 9 goals and 25 points in 60 games this season
  • The Kraken have received the Rangers' second round pick this summer and a conditional pick in 2025 (the pick right now is a fourth rounder, but is tied to the performance of a previous trade involving Dallas Stars defenseman Nils Lundkvist. The pick will upgrade to a third rounder if Lundkvist reaches 55 combined points, from last season and this season. He has 31 points in 105 combined games.)
  • The Kraken will retain 50 percent of Wennberg's $4.5 million annual salary, which expires this summer and will make Wennberg a free agent.

Analysis by 93.3 KJR-FM:

The trade was a matter of time, closing on early Wednesday afternoon after the Kraken sat Wennberg in wins on Monday at Calgary and Tuesday at Winnipeg, purely for health management reasons. Assuming Wennberg became injured in either game, the chances of finishing a trade would have completely cratered by the Friday Noon PT deadline, and the Kraken would have risked losing Wennberg at the end of the season to free agency for nothing in return. Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic reported that Wennberg's camp and the Kraken weren't able to reach a contract extension.

The Kraken move on from a center who was an integral part of their top nine forward corps in two-plus seasons, blessed with top-end skating ability, on-ice intelligence, and penalty kill aptitude, but has topped out only at 17 goals and hasn't reached 40 points since his career-high of 59 set seven years ago. Wennberg's fit on the Rangers is likely to be used in a depth and penalty kill role, with general manager Chris Drury looking to strengthen his core of forwards ahead of the postseason.

Kraken general manager Ron Francis signed Wennberg after the expansion draft as a free agent on a three-year contract, following the career-high 17 goals he scored with the Florida Panthers in 2020-21.

What happens in the immediate future to the vacated center position is up to a few options. The Kraken moved winger Jared McCann to Wennberg's spot starting Monday, and hasn't skipped a beat - he has five points in the last two games, and had a three-point effort in arguably one of the biggest wins of the season on Tuesday night at Winnipeg.

They could also engineer a call-up from AHL Coachella Valley to fill the spot. One of those call-up options, naturally, is budding first round prospect and center Shane Wright, a large part of their core's future who is second on the Firebirds with 19 goals in 46 games for his rookie campaign (also as an underage 19-year old) and showing strong signs of progress with his shot selection and adaptation to the pro level. The risk would then fall on the Kraken to decide if it's worth calling up Wright before the end of the season, and reward his production, or continue to let him develop as a top-six center for the rest of the regular season and playoffs in the AHL, and reset his NHL timeline for next year. Coachella Valley is tied for the top record in the AHL's Western Conference.

Francis has already paved a clear path of building through the draft, now owning five picks in the first three rounds of this summer's NHL Draft in Las Vegas, including a pair of second round picks. He can use those picks for more talent in the pipeline, or package them if trade activity intensifies for a need in the offseason.

The Kraken are six points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with 20 games remaining in the regular season.

“Alex has been with our team since day one and was an important part of establishing our franchise. We wish him well in New York.” - Ron Francis, in a team statement


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