It wasn’t quite one of the big names they’d been linked to, but the Kraken added some scoring punch up front Wednesday by signing Colorado Avalanche left wing Andre Burakovsky to a five-year, $27.5 million deal.
“Andre brings offensive skill and creativity to our forward group,” Kraken General Manager Ron Francis said in a release. “He has won two Stanley Cups, has good size and has been a very productive offensive contributor. We are excited he is signing with us.”
Former Sportsnet reporter Chris Johnston first reported the deal. The Kraken began the NHL free agency period Wednesday by inking former Washington Capitals defenseman Justin Schultz to a two-year, $6 million contract.
Later, they added goalie Martin Jones, 32, from the Philadelphia Flyers on a one-year, $2 million contract to serve as a backup to netminder Philipp Grubauer with Chris Driedger expected to miss much of the season following knee surgery.
Burakovsky, 27, tallied a career-high 22 goals and 61 points last season in helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup, his second league championship with as many teams. He played a particularly key role in the Cup final, scoring twice the first two games and adding an assist in eventual Avalanche victories that gave them a series lead they never relinquished.
He injured his hand in Game 2 and was sidelined the final four games of the series.
The native of Austria broke in with the Washington Capitals in 2014 after being drafted 23rd overall the prior year. He won the Cup with them in 2018 before moving on to Colorado a year later and scoring a career-high 20 goals in his first of three seasons with the team.
The Kraken had been linked through various national media reports to a host of big-name free agent forwards, including left wing Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames and center Nazem Kadri of the Avalanche. They cleared their roster of a pair of restricted free agent wingers, Ryan Donato and Daniel Sprong, on Monday, leading to speculation they’d add pieces when the free agent market opened.
The CapFriendly website estimates the Kraken have about $10.6 million in salary cap space left after all the day’s moves are factored in, including an entry-level contract given to top draft pick Shane Wright. The team still has restricted free agents Morgan Geekie, Kole Lind, Cale Fleury and Carsen Twarynski left to sign.
Later in the day, the Kraken signed three lesser one-year, $750,000 deals with former Kontinental Hockey League netminder Magnus Hellberg, 31, winger Jesper Froden, 27, a Bruins farmhand, and defenseman Brogan Rafferty, 27, who spent time in the Vancouver Canucks system. All could be headed to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Coachella Valley, California, though Hellberg’s deal is one-way, while Froden and Rafferty are on two-way contracts paying one amount in the NHL and far less in the minors.
The Kraken had been in the market for a right-handed defender with puck-moving skills, and Schultz, who compiled combined 50 points his last two seasons with the Caps, does fit that criteria.
Schultz once had a 51-point season with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016-17 — including 12 goals — at a time Kraken assistant general manager Jason Botterill was in an identical position with that franchise. After five seasons in Pittsburgh, winning a pair of Stanley Cups, Schultz moved on to the Capitals the past two seasons.
British Columbia native Schultz was initially drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, by Anaheim in 2008 after a standout career at the University of Wisconsin. But the Ducks failed to sign him, leading to a bidding war among NHL teams with the Edmonton Oilers eventually signing him as a free agent.
Schultz went on to play parts of four seasons with the Oilers before being traded to the Penguins.
Kraken GM Ron Francis had expressed an interest in acquiring another right-handed defender who could help offensively. By opting for the lower cost of Schultz — as opposed for a bigger ticket such as Dallas Stars free agent John Klingberg — Francis has left himself salary cap room to potentially go after bigger names or multiple players on the forward side of things.
The Kraken freed up some roster space to add defenders this week, declining to tender contracts to restricted free agents Haydn Fleury and Dennis Cholowski.