Defense wins championships, as we mentioned before. While that may be true, in the NHL, one hot goaltender at the right time can lead you to the promised land…. just ask the 1993 and 2001 Stanley Cup teams. The Seattle Kraken had a plethora of players to pick from in the Expansion Draft.
Seattle Kraken Choices (Not) Made
The biggest name the Kraken passed on in the expansion draft was Carey Price. Many fans, and pundits alike, were screaming for Francis to select him from the Canadiens. The smart choice was made. Looking forward, the $10.5 million cap hit would leave the Kraken in the same position the Vegas Golden Knights are in now… Cap Hell.
Prior to the draft, Kaapo Kahkonen of the Minnesota Wild was another name floated around. Despite a wonderful 9-game-winning streak in 2020-21, the jury is still out on whether he will be a solid starter or not. That is a huge reason the Kraken passed.
Teams left other veteran goaltenders exposed that were under contract. Stanely Cup winning names like Quick, Holtby, and Rask headlined that list. Also left unprotected included Frederik Andersen, Ben Bishop, and Matt Murray. As we will find out, the Kraken made the right choices in the end.
The fairly obvious reserves are Antoine Bibeau and Joey Daccord. Daccord was taken in the draft from Ottawa and at 25 years old, is the youngest of the goalie crop. Rightfully so, the Boston native has only a handful of NHL games to his name. There is nothing on his CV that stands out. While I don’t think this was a bad pick, there is nothing about it that is exciting.
As with Daccord, Bibeau is an in case of an emergency goalie. A 6th round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bibeau has made the rounds. After his term in Toronto ended, he signed a deal with San Jose. His time there was with the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL. While playing with San Jose, Bibeau posted unremarkable numbers. Life then swooped in and dropped him in Colorado. Playing in four games over two years. Bibeau’s next move was to Carolina and after 8 games last season, we find him on the Kraken roster.
Neither of the goalies will move the meter. What they will do is safeguard that someone with NHL experience can step in at any time. Conversely, what they will do, is light the fire under the next player in this story to step up his game.
Originally selected to be the Kraken starting goalie, Chris Driedger will make an amazing backup. The epitome of a late bloomer, Driedger comes to Seattle after a stellar season with the Florida Panthers. Starting 23 games for the Panthers, Driedger outplayed the $10 million-dollar-man, Sergei Bobrovsky.
Regardless of how well Driedger played, there was no room for him in Florida. The Panthers have Bobrovsky and young American phenom, Spencer Knight waiting in the wings. All of which opened the door for Seattle to snag the 27-year-old. Francis planned to use Driedger as their starting goaltender. And with his stat line of .927 save percentage and 2.07 goals against, not one fan would blame Francis for this thinking.
Driedger is a big body that all NHL scouts look for in starting goalies. While a 50/50 split is not in Chris’ future, he will be playing his fair share of games for Seattle.
Usually, goalies of Philipp Grubauer’s talent don’t hit the open market. His team and the Avs were negotiating down to the wire, but it never happened. Ron Francis and his team pounced without reservation. Grubauer signed with Seattle for 6 years at $5.9 million. And with that, Seattle had their starter.
“I didn’t expect Grubauer to get to the market.”-Ron Francis
Grubauer has a pedigree of excellence. In Washington, he won a cup. In Colorado, he was a Vezina finalist. And with Seattle, he will be the last line of defense behind a stellar defense.
Furthermore, with a career line of 2.34 goals against and a .920 save percentage, Grubauer shows he has always been solid. However, it’s not all roses and lollipops when it comes to Grubauer. Clearly, the talent is there, but at age 29, how much is left in the tank? For one thing, 40 games are the most Grubauer has played. Can he handle more? For this reason, having Driedger as the backup, or 1B if you will, is a huge advantage.
Surely it doesn’t hurt to have two competent goalies. Combined, the cap hit for Seattle’s goalies is less than Carey Price. And for that value, the amount of quality starts is more than worth the price. One analytic that shines is Quality Start % (QS%). Between the two, Driedger and Grubauer, their QS% is 66%. That stat is good for fourth among starting goalies in the NHL last year. Impressive and exciting for Kraken fans.
Seattle Kraken Team Summary
It’s fair to say that the team isn’t a star-studded roster. But in today’s NHL, the group assembled has to buy into the system and believe in their abilities. This team has no lack of drive or fire. In other words, don’t sleep on the Kraken this year. What Vegas accomplished was miraculous. That isn’t to say Seattle can’t replicate that. It goes without saying that the Kraken players will have the same chip on their shoulders the Golden Knights did. Buckle up Seattle, it’s going to be a wild ride.
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