Kraken signs defenseman Brandon Montour, makes big splash to open free agency

Kraken general manager Ron Francis made a major move in the opening of NHL free agency on Monday by signing Florida Panthers right-handed shot defenseman Brandon Montour to a seven-year, $50 million contract.

“Brandon is a proven winner, and we are thrilled to have him join our organization,” Francis said in a release. “We look forward to his debut with the Kraken in front of the best fans in the NHL.”

The deal, previously reported by Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic and Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, adds the 30-year-old offensive talent Montour to a Kraken team that already has its top scorer in defenseman Vince Dunn. The free agency period opens at 9 a.m. PT, at which time teams are expected to announce multiple player signings.

Montour had eight goals and 25 assists in 66 games for the Panthers last season and added 11 more playoff points in winning the Stanley Cup. He led all Panthers in ice time, averaging 23:37 per contest. Last season, he had 16 goals and 57 assists, ranking as one of the league's top defensive point-getters.

Entering the free agency period, Montour was widely viewed as the top non-forward available. A Kraken team that finished with the NHL's fourth-worst goals-per-game total at 2.61 looked to bolster the offense with acquisitions this summer.

While many expect to add an additional forward or two via free agency or trade, the Montour acquisition will address some offensive needs while also restoring balance to the left-right tandem of the defensive pairings. Some of that was lost when right guard Justin Schultz was not retained and became an unrestricted free agent.

Right-handed shot defenders are a rarity in the NHL compared to left-handed versions. Montour gives the Kraken three right-handed defensemen with Adam Larsson and Will Borgen, while there are three left-handed players in Dunn, Jamie Oleksiak and Ryker Evans.

Several top free agent forwards were immediately off the board on Monday after winger Sam Reinhart resigned from the Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos and Vegas Golden Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault signed with the Nashville Predators. Carolina Hurricanes winger Jake Guentzel immediately signed with Tampa Bay, which had freed up cap space over the weekend by letting Stamkos go and trading defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Utah.

Vancouver centreman Elias Lindholm moved to Boston on the same day the Bruins also signed Canucks defenceman Nikita Zadorov. On the other side, the Canucks signed Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk.

Soon after, Winnipeg Jets centre Sean Monahan signed with Columbus, while Los Angeles Kings forward Viktor Arvidsson signed with Edmonton.

The Kraken had about $10 million in salary cap space to add players before this $7.14 million annual contract expired. That means they will either target cheaper forwards from here on out or free up cap space by selling existing players.

By signing Montour rather than adding a top forward for roughly the same free agent dollars and contract length, the Kraken have left themselves trade options on the defensive front to free up cap space.

The 31-year-old Larsson has one year, $4 million remaining on his contract and multiple teams are said to be interested in taking him back at the March trade deadline. If Larsson is moved, the Kraken have another right-handed defenseman in AHL prospect Cale Fleury who could replace him after a limited Kraken tenure in the past.

The Kraken have already been linked in trade talks with the Columbus Blue Jackets for winger Patrik Laine, 26, who has two more seasons to go on his contract worth $8.7 million annually. With Montour's signing, the Kraken would need to trade someone from the current roster to be able to accommodate the Laine contract.

There was talk that the Kraken would transfer the remaining year and $3.5 million of Brandon Tanev's contract to Ottawa in a bid to entice the Senators to sign his brother, marquee free agent defender Chris Tanev from the Dallas Stars. But that scenario ended Monday when Chris Tanev signed with Toronto.

They are looking to make big changes this summer, on and off the ice, to strengthen their presence in the crowded Seattle sports market after a disappointing, non-playoff season of 81 points. The changes began with the decision in late April to drop Root Sports as their broadcast partner two years ago and produce their own game telecasts to be shown on “free” channels owned by Tegna and streamed by Amazon Prime.

Coach Dave Hakstol was fired shortly thereafter and replaced by Coachella Valley AHL affiliate coach Dan Bylsma – a former Stanley Cup winner with Pittsburgh. In addition, the team had indicated it would be very aggressive this summer in its efforts to get back to playoff contender status a year after advancing to the second round.

The NHL also announced all teams' home matches on Monday, with the Kraken's first 2024-25 regular season match set to be played at Climate Pledge Arena on Oct. 8 against St. Louis.

This story will be updated.

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