There was some buzz around the Kraken’s decision not to extend restricted free agent Ryan Donato a qualifying offer, but he’s back in the fold as of Wednesday.
“Obviously it wasn’t what I wanted, but I ended up back there, and I couldn’t be happier,” Donato said.
Seattle announced it had re-signed the forward to a one-year contract worth $1.2 million. Donato, 26, put up a career-high 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists) last season. His goal total was good for fourth on the team.
Boston native Donato made stops in San Jose, Minnesota and Boston before joining the Kraken. He scored the first goal in franchise history Oct. 12, tracking a rebound and shoveling it past lunging Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner.
He became an unrestricted free agent July 13 — something of a surprise. Kraken general manager Ron Francis said on that day that after looking at Donato’s potential salary-arbitration case following “a hell of a season,” the team didn’t want to go down that road.
“It did catch me a little off guard, but I understand the business side of it,” Donato said.
Donato said he had brief conversations with other teams but talked to Seattle the most.
“I didn’t close my options. I kept my ears open,” he said. “I always had a special place for Seattle, and that’s somewhere I knew that if I had the option, I’d like to be back there 100%. And that’s what happened.”
Signed by Seattle as a free agent on Sept. 12, 2021, Donato was third on the team in shots on goal (159). The center was a shootout go-to and had the team’s most attempts (four). He beat the goalie twice, which tied for the team lead. Both decided the shootout and secured the extra standings point.
His 16 goals and 74 games were also career bests. There was a midseason slowdown, but overall Donato was a consistent point producer for a Kraken team that needed them.
“Ryan elevated his game last season, and we’re happy to have him return to the Kraken,” Francis said in a team statement. “He completed a career year and will hopefully eclipse that in 2022-23.”
Donato recently bought a house near Boston and is training at his usual spot about five minutes from the New England Patriots’ facilities in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Soon enough it will be time to figure out Seattle lodgings, prepare for training camp and show what he’s worked on this summer.
“Step off the foot that I left the end of [last] season,” he said.