The expansion draft has come and gone, and things are about to get interesting.
The Kraken officially unveiled its 30-man roster on Wednesday evening, consisting of three goalies, 12 defensemen and 15 forwards. With any expansion team, there’s a lot of intrigue at every position, and that certainly is the case in the crease.
Seattle’s three goaltenders at the moment are Chris Driedger, Vitek Vanecek and Joey Daccord. Between the three, none of them have been full-season NHL starters and only have 84 games between them, with nearly all of them coming this past season. That’s not exactly a lot of experience and leaves many questions as to what’s next: including the obvious inquiry into who the team will target via free agency.
It’s too early to determine that just yet, so we can only work with what we know. Here’s a look at the goaltending situation to date in Seattle:
Chris Driedger, Florida Panthers
This one wasn’t exactly surprising, with rumors connecting the Panthers goaltender to Seattle for a few weeks now. And after reportedly agreeing to a three-year deal worth $3.5 million, it seems like the Kraken are committed to making him a big piece of the puzzle in the team’s formative years.
For his production a year ago, that’s a mighty fine price, but also a sign that both parties know Driedger’s sample size is still rather small. It’s a contract that, if needed, Seattle could ship out rather easily. But the Kraken are likely going to stick with him considering they had a deal lined up right away. Even if he’s a 1B, Driedger proved last season he’s one of the best in that role and can really take control when needed.
As it stands, Driedger is the team’s No. 1. Let’s see how long that lasts.
Vitek Vanecek, Washington Capitals
In a similar vein to Seattle, Vanecek arrived unexpectedly to become his team’s top goaltender throughout most of the season and didn’t disappoint. Vanecek went 21-10-4 for the Capitals in his first full season as an NHLer and won rookie of the month in January. Vanecek may have not gotten the opportunity had Henrik Lundqvist, who signed with the Caps last off-season, hadn’t had heart surgery in January and had Ilya Samsonov not gotten COVID-19 just days into the campaign.
The Capitals knew it was a possibility they’d lose Vanecek, especially with a year left on a deal worth $716,000. Vanecek is just 25 and showed flashes of brilliance last season. Driedger seems like the No. 1 guy and Vanecek could end up becoming trade bait, but at this point, this is a pretty solid pickup for the Kraken. At the very least, he’s a good backup.
Joey Daccord, Ottawa Senators
This one was a bit more of a surprise. The Senators opted to protect Filip Gustavsson over the weekend, making starter Matt Murray available. Evgenii Dadonov and Chris Tierney seemed like the prime candidates to go to Seattle, but the Kraken decided to go the goalie route and made Daccord one of the team’s three goaltenders.
On the surface, it looks like the plan is to make Daccord the team’s AHL starter. I fully expect Seattle to go the UFA route to bring in another goalie to solidify the team’s options and while Daccord, 24, is still young, he doesn’t have a ton of trade value. As Seattle looks to build a goalie depth chart, he’s a nice guy to have in the system. It’s a tough blow for the Senators, however, who, despite looking to free up a bit of the team’s goalie logjam, likely didn’t want to lose Daccord in particular.
Don’t expect these to be the three goaltenders in the top three depth chart spots come training camp. With an abundance of UFA goaltenders to choose from, expect the Kraken to target at least one veteran, and potentially move out a guy like Vanecek if needed. Marc-Andre Fleury was the only goalie of the three selected by Vegas to play a game with the team – albeit, he kinda became one of the franchise’s best players. I’d expect a similar thing to happen here.
As to who the Kraken could grab? Jaroslav Halak, Frederik Andersen, Jonathan Bernier and Petr Mrazek are among the names available on the market and all should be had at an available price. Anderson might have the most NHL-starter-caliber resume of the group, but is coming off of a rocky season for Toronto. Mrazek seems like the next logical choice, but there are injury concerns there and Carolina still might have interest in him. You should expect the Kraken to select a goalie or two at the draft as well – maybe they trade for a second pick in the first and take Sebastian Cossa?
Regardless, among the other major storylines to watch this off-season for the Kraken, the team’s net situation is another big one to follow.