28-In-28: It's Krunch Time!by SICHL Insider | August 5, 2015, 11:41 PM ET
Now a look at the Krunch of Kansas City *cough basement dwellers *cough. Their owner Kirk is the self-proclaimed better half of the MacRae brothers (he may be right) in the SICHL and one of the league's original owners.
If I had a million dollars, I'd be rich! Well this team has a whopping $117M dollars!!! You heard that right. Kirk is going to buy every UFA this year, buy everyone's picks, and buy, well everything!
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Only one worth noting will be starting goalie Pekka Rinne. This is a no brainer when Kirk exercises his FP tag. Acquired by trade last season, Rinne will shoulder the bulk of the goaltending duties in 15/16 for the Krunch. Kansas City will wave goodbye to Dvorak, Kostopoulos, McGrattan, Taffe, Brookbank and Jacques.
Restricted Free Agents:
Easy offseason for the Krunch as there are only six RFAs to contend with. The most important being Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who will be commanding dollars in the 5-6 million range. No problem for Mr. MacRae and his fat stacks of Benjis sitting in the vault.
Strength on this team is the goaltending and the young up and coming defensive group. The future looks bright on the blueline with the likes of Ekblad, Fowler, Gudas and Leddy. Injuries has slowed the development of Ryan Murray, but he is another big minute d-man prospect.
Current weakness is at the forward position. After guys like Spezza, RNH, Schenn and Hayes, scoring starts to get thin. Rychel, Goldobin and Duclair are more suited for the GHA this coming season but will play more of a role in seasons to come. If the Krunch want to push for a playoff spot, Kirk will have to open the chequebook in free agency or look at dealing a guy like Murray or one of the young forwards along with something to land a top 6 type forward. However, if this were my team, I would stay the course. Let the young guys develop and see were the team is at a few months into the season. Grab a few FA vets to compliment the roster, but not go gangbusters just yet.
In the System:
Top 3 prospects include:
1. Aaron Ekblad - All round defenseman with huge upside! Drafted 2nd overall by the Krunch in 2014, it appears Ekblad is ready for primetime and some consider him possible rookie of the year material in the upcoming SICHL season. The complete package. Great size and excellent skating, passing and stickhandling ability. Look for him to grab top pairing minutes this season.
2. C Kevin Hayes - Big forward with offensive ability. Has the potential to become a solid 2-way player. Compliments skilled linemates and has the ability to create offensive chances. Expected to play at least a 2nd line role in Kansas City next season.
3. RW Oliver Bjorkstrand - Quick release, hard shot, basically a pure sniper. Above average hockey sense. He is coming off a 63 goal, 118 point season with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL taking home WHL Player of the Year honors. Needs to get stronger.
In additional to the aforementioned, the Krunch have players like Anthony Duclair, Sebastian Collberg, Charles Hudon, Kerby Rychel and Oscar Dansk knocking on the doorstep ready to play for the GHA Titans this coming season.
Kirk has eight picks in the 2015 SICHL draft, none more important than his 1st and 2nd rounders which will give the Krunch the 4th and 32nd overall picks. Possible target at the #4 will be Hanifin, Marner, Zacha or Crouse. Not too shabby for a team that continues to grow.
"So Kirk, just what do you think of your team," I asked! He says "I'm excited for next season. We finally have a legitimate starting goaltender, we have a phenomenal young D core and I like our depth down the middle. These are all great starting points for us to build on and I expect with a few additions we will be back in the playoff picture."
Well I caught up with a good buddy of mine at a marina in TO to get his thoughts on this team of young guns. He says "Will this finally be the year that Scrooge MacRae opens the purse strings? I think a lot will depend on how well his new all-star goalie is re-rated. If Rinne is rated as one of the top 5 goalies in the league, we should all be scared. The Krunch have enough money to buy all the top UFAs and immediately become a cup favourite.
Personally, I doubt he'd ever actually do it though since he will still refuse to overpay on any UFA."
Well there you have it. A team that has built quietly over the past 4-5 seasons, and has the means to put in into contender mode right now if Kirk decides to overpay in the FA market, or make some trades. Will he stand pat or wait it out until the time is right? The Krunch are in the most interesting position this offseason with a high draft pick and bags of money!
Watch the following video, this is us (Skyler) asking Kirk "How much is enough?"