ELMONT, N.Y. — One month after a trip that put their fledgling franchise on the NHL’s radar, the Kraken launch another here Tuesday that could chart the remaining course of their season.

This five-game swing through the New York area, Philadelphia and Winnipeg, Manitoba, won’t be as long as the seven road games the Kraken swept last month. But a 29-15-5, first-place team that entered the All-Star break looking somewhat tired and banged up now exits hoping to solidify the franchise’s first playoff berth by distancing from Pacific Division rivals.

Likewise, given the quality of opponents they’ll face — starting with the New York Islanders and newly acquired star center Bo Horvat on Tuesday — those playoff aspirations could grow murkier if the Kraken struggle for energy and goal-scoring that occasionally deserted them right before the break.

Just six points separate the division’s top five teams, with the Kraken holding games in hand on all. Several of those games will be made up this trip, so the Kraken can either pull away or backslide.

Therefore, they’ll use these games to gauge what weaknesses need addressing and how realistic doing any playoff damage might be.

“It’s about trying to see where we are, how we’re playing, what the lineup looks like and all the other things at that point before making that decision,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said after last month’s pivotal trip of his plans for the March 3 NHL trade deadline. “It’s a fine line, it’s a balance. You want to show your guys you believe in them and try to add something to help them.


“But it’s also understanding the importance of building the safe underneath them as well. And having a whole lot of [draft] picks gives us the ability to maybe do both.”

Francis on Sunday wouldn’t spell out where his first trade of the season fits within that descriptor, acquiring left-handed-shot defenseman Jaycob Megna, 30, from San Jose for a conditional fourth-round draft pick. There are several directions the Kraken can go with what Francis described as a “depth” move, including the increasingly popular view by some that he’ll trade left-handed defenseman Carson Soucy.

But whether he does could hinge on the team’s play during this trip.

Much has happened since Francis made last month’s statements about the trade deadline, including the Kraken going a less-energetic 3-3-1 in seven ensuing games after sweeping their historic trip. They scored two goals or fewer in four of those and three goals in a victory over stumbling Columbus.

Goal-scoring typically slows as NHL teams tighten into more playoff-style hockey. But the Kraken have seen production declines coincide with an injury — widely believed to be a concussion — suffered by rookie Matty Beniers, an apparent hand or wrist slash that hampered Andre Burakovsky before the break and the lack of availability of winger Jaden Schwartz.

Their status looms large for a Kraken team that already seemed poised for a scoring decline. Advanced statistics from Money Puck show their goals total is 24.63 above “expected” given shot quality — more than double next-closest Vancouver. Their league-high shooting percentage of 10.67 is also more than a full point higher than that of No. 2 San Jose, suggesting the Kraken were headed for regression even before health came into play.


All of which puts increased focus on how heavily they can count on defensive aspects. Justin Schultz is expected back from injury this trip, which should bolster the defensive core.

Then there’s where Megna fits and whether his acquisition is a precursor to a Soucy deal. It’s a natural assumption, because both are left-handed D-men, and Soucy, 28, is a pending unrestricted free agent earning $2.75 million. Megna costs just $762,500.

But Megna’s arrival doesn’t automatically mean Soucy is leaving. The Kraken have enjoyed a left-right shot combination on all three defensive pairings, but sometimes you just head to the playoffs with your best starting six defenders and top spare regardless of handedness.

What the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna brings is a physical dimension prized by playoff teams. He’s averaged 19 mostly top-pairing minutes of ice time per game and closer to 21 or 22 the past month — durability that again pays dividends come playoff time.

Soucy also plays a hard-nosed style, albeit at about 16 nightly minutes. Cale Fleury, 24, a restricted free agent this summer, is the least experienced and physical of the group.

But Fleury’s age also makes him likely to be desired by rebuilding teams the Kraken could partner with in trades. Not to mention, Fleury just got an extended NHL look both by the Kraken and other teams in replacing Schultz.


The Kraken have four stockpiled second-round picks that could help form a package to acquire more scoring thrust. But some teams want young NHL players in addition to picks, and other than Will Borgen — whom it’s doubtful the Kraken would part with — Fleury seems closest to that.

Not to mention, the Kraken could also add veteran right-handed defensive depth by the deadline, making Fleury theoretically more expendable. Much of this is about how far the Kraken are willing to go to better their playoff odds.

Typically, the postseason comes down to big bodies slamming into each other for up to two months, with even elite-skilled teams needing to grind things out.

Soucy has played a part in the Kraken’s success as one of the team’s better shot blockers and least likely to make a costly own-zone giveaway. The Kraken may have trepidation about disrupting chemistry between him and Borgen that’s helped put the team atop the division.

But if this deadline is also about the Kraken’s future, jettisoning Soucy for a higher pick than the fourth-rounder Megna was acquired for could happen. Going forward, the Kraken have left-handed defense prospect Ryker Evans — an American Hockey League All-Star selection — at Coachella Valley as a possibility for next season’s NHL lineup.

So between Evans and Megna, the future appears stable on the left side of the blue line. Also, any Soucy deal for a higher pick would add to the Kraken’s trade-deadline stockpile.

Which should make what happens these upcoming road games as Megna joins them very interesting. There will be only 28 games remaining once this trip ends. By then, the Kraken should have a much clearer idea about their playoff path and how strong a finishing kick they’ll need.