TORONTO — Kraken forward Jared McCann has little doubt about the biggest changes to his game that now have brought some long-term security he’d coveted.
Now with his fourth organization at age 25, McCann on Tuesday was awarded a five-year, $25 million contract extension that keeps the team’s top scorer with the organization through what would have been four of his unrestricted-free-agency seasons. It’s a statement move by an organization that wants to build for the future with players who’ve proven themselves and are committed to staying.
McCann, who leads the Kraken with 21 goals and has 12 assists, made little secret of his desire for stability. And he showed the Kraken he was more than a player with a reputation for a resounding shot that couldn’t quite put his entire game together night in, night out.
“It’s consistency,” McCann said of a growth process that began his final season with the Pittsburgh Penguins last year. “That’s definitely the hardest thing to do in the NHL, is be a consistent player. I feel like the last two years I’ve grown a lot in that area.”
McCann said the deal, which the website CapFriendly reported has a 10-team no-trade clause from 2023-27, “is a lot of pressure off my shoulders. Now I can just focus on playing hockey.”
Some players might feel pressure to live up to their first big contract. But McCann said “it’s more motivation than pressure” and added that the deal won’t change him at all.
“I really wanted some (contract) term, to be able to stay in one place for a while,” McCann said. “They were more than welcome and accommodating to that fact. So it was great.”
McCann and his longtime girlfriend, Valerie Vanderkuylen, have been renting a place in Seattle while remodeling a farmhouse in Ontario, about 90 minutes south of Toronto. The couple enjoys the city — McCann said he’s a “big sushi fan” and likes it in Seattle — and are looking forward to finding more permanent living arrangements for during the season.
“I’ve rented my whole career in the NHL,” McCann said. “To be able to kind of maybe own something would take a lot of weight off my shoulders as well.”
Kraken general manager Ron Francis said talks about an extension began right before the All-Star break.
“This the first restricted free-agent signing for the organization, so I think it sends a message,” Francis said. “In Jared’s case, he’s excited to be in Seattle. A lot of our players are happy with the way the ownership and management treats the players. They’re excited about the passionate fan base and the city itself. They want to be here as you become more successful.”
Francis added: “And he’s a guy that has a shot that can beat the goaltender from a distance. And that’s not something everybody has. We like the goal-scoring aspect to his game as well.”
A first-round draft pick, 24th overall, by the Vancouver Canucks in 2014, McCann spent only one season with that team at age 19, two more in Florida and then parts of three in Pittsburgh before being selected by the Kraken last summer. McCann had been dealt to Toronto just before the draft and was left unprotected by the Maple Leafs.
McCann has had his share of adversity this season. He was in COVID-19 protocol and released only hours before the team’s franchise opener in Vegas. A few weeks later, he went into COVID protocol again and was out 10 days because of what he described as a bout that left him physically depleted.
But he scored two goals his first game back.
“Those are growth opportunities,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “I think back to Game 1 in Vegas. … We flew him and a couple of guys in the afternoon of the game after not being with the team the previous couple of days.
“So all of those opportunities — whether it’s injuries or different adversities — are growth opportunities, and it’s about how you handle them. If you’re able to handle them in a positive way, that’s part of your growth and development not only as a player but as part of a leadership group as well.”