For the most part, the last several days of the offseason went through with silence for the Seattle Kraken.
Then, their noise in the transaction mill went to a whole new volume.
Continuing to work on upgrades, Kraken general manager Ron Francis pulled off one of his more clever moves to date, trading for winger Oliver Bjorkstrand from the Columbus Blue Jackets, who comes off a career-high and team leading 28 goals while giving the Kraken long term contract security.
Bjorkstrand, 27, will be entering the second year of a five-year contract worth $5.4 million annually, according to capfriendy.com. In exchange for Bjorkstrand, the Kraken will surrender a third and fourth round pick in next year’s NHL Entry Draft.
“He’s coming off of a career year offensively playing top minutes in Columbus,” said Francis in a team statement.
“His creativity and hockey sense will be good additions to our forward group.”
Francis maneuvered a salary cap-squeezed Blue Jackets team that was $6.3 million over the limit just before the trade, largely in part to landing superstar free agent forward Johnny Gaudreau, the prize catch of the offseason who went on Columbus’ books at $9.7 million per season.
Forward Patrik Laine, entering this summer as a restricted free agent, also inked a new deal with the Blue Jackets on Friday for a four-year extension worth $8.7 million annually.
Columbus, while securing two massive pieces for their offensive plans in Gaudreau and Laine, also fell into a roster crunch. The Kraken weaponized their cap space to take advantage of the situation, plugging in Bjorkstrand's contract.
"It was a difficult decision to trade Oliver, who has given so much to our organization over the past seven years," said Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen in a team statement.
"However, a move like this needed to be made in order for us to be salary cap compliant after the Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine signings.”
The Kraken, working with a little under $10 million in available cap space and a stable of draft picks that had nine slots in the first four rounds next summer, swung the trade to add an alternate captain from the Blue Jackets dressing room and has surpassed the 20-goal plateau in three of the last four seasons.
The native of Denmark led the Blue Jackets in scoring two seasons ago during the pandemic-shortened campaign with 44 points and 18 goals in 56 games. He rewarded the Blue Jackets after his five-year extension, signed after New Year’s Day in 2021 with a career year and 28 goals, 57 points, nine power play goals, and 19 power play points.
The only two forwards earning more ice time than Bjorkstrand (17:57 per game) in Columbus last season were Laine (18:50) and Boone Jenner (20:28).
Those metrics will now be installed into a Kraken offense that has undergone noticeable upgrades in the last 15 days. Top prospect and center Shane Wright, projected for months to go first overall, slid into Kraken hands at fourth overall in the NHL Draft. Francis followed by opening the first day of free agency by adding streaky but electrifying forward Andre Burakovsky, coming off a Stanley Cup title and career-best 22 goals and 61 points with Colorado.
All of that will now be added around Jared McCann’s career-high 27 goal season, Jordan Eberle’s 21-goal campaign, an expectedly healthier Jaden Schwartz, returning center Yanni Gourde, and phenom center Matty Beniers, bursting onto the NHL scene from Michigan after nine points in ten NHL games.
Bjorkstrand, a native of Herning, Denmark, will also be making a return to the Pacific Northwest as previously proven grounds of success.
He suited up for three electrifying seasons at the major junior level with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, winning a league title in 2012-13 while twice cracking the 100-point barrier, notching 290 points in 193 career games, and leading the league with 63 goals in 2014-15, his final WHL season.
Bjorkstrand, over seven full or partial NHL seasons, has 111 goals and 234 points in 382 career games, all with Columbus.
The Kraken now stand at a projected $3.6 million left in available salary cap space.