Kraken tender qualifying offers to Beniers, Tolvanen

Seattle Kraken v San Jose Sharks

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 01: Matty Beniers #10 of the Seattle Kraken is congratulated by Eeli Tolvanen #20 and Oliver Bjorkstrand #22 of the Seattle Kraken after he scored against the San Jose Sharks in the first period at SAP Center on April 01, 2024 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

On the eve of free agency Christmas in the National Hockey League, the Seattle Kraken made sure two keystone forwards wouldn’t even make it to another team’s wish list. 

In a mere formality, center Matty Beniers and winger Eeli Tolvanen each were tendered qualifying offers, securing negotiating rights before the July 1 deadline when otherwise they would have been sent to unrestricted free agency, and eligible to leave for any team without any compensation back to the Kraken. 

Technically, Beniers and Tolvanen can be pursued by other teams, but restricted free agency has more strings attached: any team extending an offer in the form of an “offer sheet” can be matched by the Kraken in the role of first right of refusal, or supply compensation to Seattle in the form of draft picks based on the offer sheet’s value. 

Minor league defenseman Peetro Seppala was also issued a qualifying offer, while AHL Coachella Valley also locked up pending free agents and forwards Max McCormick, John Hayden, Luke Henman, and goaltender Ales Stezka. All were issued one-year deals apart from McCormick, who signed a two-year deal, and captained the Firebirds to back-to-back Calder Cup Final appearances. 

Beniers is aiming for a bounce-back season when he endured a sophomore slump in a 37 point and 15 goal campaign through 77 games, a steep drop-off from his 24 goal and 57-point Calder Trophy season two years ago. Tolvanen, effectively used in a depth role, hit 16 goals and a career-high 41 points while missing just one game last season – though needed only 51 games to hit 18 goals two years ago, on a Kraken team that was famed for their offensive depth en route to their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance.   

Forward Kailer Yamamoto, the diminutive forward who had the honor as the first rostered Kraken player hailing from the state of Washington, was a pending restricted free agent but didn’t receive a qualifying offer and will enter the open market on Monday and likely headed for his third NHL team in three seasons. 

After coming over from the Edmonton Oilers last summer, Yamamoto managed just eight goals and 16 points in 59 games with the Kraken. 

With $22 million of available salary cap space and a need to address last season’s sputtering offense that finished 29th with 2.6 goals per game, the Kraken are expected to get busy with the goal of adding 1-2 new top-threat forwards through free agency or the trade market. 

Two potentially coveted upgrades will be off the market before Monday’s proverbial 9am PT opening bell. The Panthers reportedly secured forward Sam Reinhart, coming off a 57-goal and Cup winning season, with an eight-year extension according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. 

Winger Jake Guentzel, a rental by Carolina at the trade deadline, had his signing rights traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for a third-round pick, granting the Lightning a small 24-hour window to get a new deal done. They’ve apparently won the deadline race, agreeing in principle on a reported seven-year deal that should be announced Monday, according to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN. 

Notable forwards such as Steven Stamkos, Jake DeBrusk, Teuvo Teravainen, Anthony Duclair, Elias Lindholm, and Jonathan Marchessault will all hit the open market on Monday. 

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