Kraken general manager Ron Francis hung up the phone for a few minutes during Wednesday’s cluster of free-agent signings and presented last week’s fourth-overall draft pick Shane Wright with a wad of papers between the benches.
Wright signed a three-year, entry-level contract on the ice as soon as he and his fellow prospects finished a scrimmage on the third day of development camp at Kraken Community Iceplex.
Wright then swung a stuffed fish into the delighted crowd.
“Little bit of a surprise,” Wright said. “I kind of knew I was going to sign sometime this week — I didn’t know that it was going to be like that.
“Obviously super honored, super excited.”
Wright had 32 goals and 94 points through 63 games last season with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. Granted exceptional status to join the OHL a year early, Wright was long expected to go first or second in the draft but didn’t hear his name called right away in Montreal.
The Kraken didn’t hesitate in taking him off the board, then putting pen to paper.
“This kid’s been under the microscope for a lot of years. I had a chat with him the other day and just said all I want for him is to play hockey and have some fun,” Francis said. “The pressure’s gone of whether he’s the No. 1 or not. The fact that he went to No. 4 is irrelevant.
“He’s ultra talented. He can do a lot of really good things, and that’s what we’re trying to do — just make him comfortable and let him do what he does best.”
Francis said Wright’s unexpected drop changed Seattle’s approach at center as the free-agent market opened. There was less temptation to pay up for a high-priced option there.
The Kraken instead went for an NHL-regular defenseman, left winger and goaltender on Wednesday.
“With him and Matty down the middle, the future looks pretty good at that position for the Kraken,” Francis said.
Wright indicated the goal is to crack the Kraken roster next season, well before his 19th birthday. The 6-foot, 198-pound center spoke of the work he needs to put in before training camp.
“It’s just another step in my journey,” Wright said. “The first step is to get drafted, the next step is to sign the contract. The next step is to play my first game and to be a regular on the team.”
Players still debut at 18, Francis pointed out. He did, with the Hartford Whalers in late 1981.
“If he does, I’m not worried about the youth aspect,” Francis said. “We’ve got some really solid veteran guys around those kids. I think they’re more than capable of handling themselves.”