The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft is officially over, and the Seattle Kraken have their inaugural roster of players put together for the upcoming 2021-22 season. While their team could look a lot different when the season rolls around after the 2021 NHL Entry Draft later this week and any trades they might make with the other 31 teams, one area of the team looks solid and ready to go, at least for now: the goaltending position. And all things considered, the Kraken look like they aced their expansion goalie selections.
Kraken Had Lots of Goalies Available
There were loads of talented goalies available to the Kraken, with 30 exposed for the taking. Several teams around the NHL had tough decisions to make in forming their protection lists, and a number of high-caliber goalies were left available. Perhaps no unprotected goalie made as much noise, though, as Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens.
Price, the longtime Habs goalie who is widely considered to be one of the best of his era, if not among the best of all time, is fresh off of leading his team to the Stanley Cup Final, his first appearance in the Final and the Habs’ first since they last won the Cup in 1993. Unfortunately, Price and the Habs fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning, but that doesn’t mean that Price didn’t stand on his head to get them there.
Kraken general manager Ron Francis made the right decision in passing over Price, though, mostly because of his massive hit against the salary cap – $10.5 million for five more seasons – that would have handcuffed the team’s cap situation until Price turned 38.
It was rumored instead that Florida Panthers goalie Chris Driedger would be the Kraken’s top choice heading into the expansion draft, and that’s just how things panned out.
Kraken Select Chris Driedger from the Florida Panthers
Joining Francis and company on the draft stage after his name was called was Driedger, the 27-year-old native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and a goalie who caught a lot of people’s attention with his performance as a member of the Panthers last season.
Driedger was drafted way back in 2012 by the Ottawa Senators, with their third-round selection at 76th overall. Standing at 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds, he is a big body who covers a lot of the net whether he’s in position or not, and his long arms and legs help him get to the puck early to make the save.
In the 2020-21 season, Driedger played 23 games, and recorded a record of 14-6-3. He had a 2.07 goals against average (GAA), .927 save percentage (SV%), and three shutouts. While that stat line is impressive, the only concern is the lack of body of work he carries with him: Driedger has just 38 games of NHL experience.
Fresh off a two-year contract with the Panthers in which he was making just $850,000 AAV, Driedger just inked a new deal with his new team for three years, $3.5 million AAV. Driedger looks like he’ll be the starter for the Kraken heading into next season barring any significant trades, and Kraken fans should be excited about that. Even with his lack of experience, he is poised to have a breakout season, and with more responsibility in where his team finishes in the standings, expect him to thrive under the pressure.
Kraken Select Vitek Vanecek from the Washington Capitals
The second goalie the Kraken took at the expansion draft was Vitek Vanecek, a 25-year-old goalie from the Washington Capitals who made a name for himself this year as the Caps’ starter. Vanecek is a native of Havlickuv Brod in the Czech Republic, and was the Capitals’ pick in the second round of the 2014 draft, at 39th overall.
At 6-foot-2 and 187 pounds, Vanecek is also a big body, and showed he can jump into a high-pressure situation and be an effective goalie at the NHL level in the 2020-21 season. Last season, Vanecek played 37 games, and posted a 21-10-4 record in his rookie season. He recorded a 2.69 GAA, .908 SV%, and two shutouts.
Vanecek led all NHL rookie goaltenders last season in wins with 21, which was the second-most ever by a Capitals rookie, after Michael Neuvirth had 27 in the 2010-11 season.
Vanecek is signed for one more season at $716,667 AAV, and will become a restricted free agent (RFA) once his contract expires. If the Kraken don’t move him, they will retain his rights and have the first chance to sign him to a new deal. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him used as trade bait to add a forward in the coming months.
Kraken Select Joey Daccord from the Ottawa Senators
This was probably the most “off-the-board” selection as far as the goalies, but it’s one that I think could actually pay off, since Joey Daccord is still young and has tons of potential at the NHL level. The 24-year-old is a native of Boston, Massachusetts, and stands at 6-foot-2 and 197 pounds.
Drafted in 2015 by the Senators in the seventh round at 199th overall, Daccord did not make his way into an NHL goal crease until the 2019-20 season, and didn’t play more than one game until this past season, when he appeared in eight games for the Sens, going 1-3-1 with a 3.27 GAA and .897 SV%. He has just nine total games of NHL experience.
Daccord spend the past few seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL) and in the ECHL with the Belleville Senators and Brampton Beast, and is a former Arizona State University goalie from his NCAA college hockey days. In 2019, he was named to the NCAA (West) Second All-American Team.
Daccord is signed for two more seasons at a bargain rate of $750,000 AAV, and will become an RFA once his contract expires.
Francis Made Goaltending Kraken’s Strength
Kraken fans should expect the roster to change considerably in the coming days and weeks, since Francis drafted defense-heavy, and will likely look to flip many of those players for more roster pieces and draft picks. Whether you think that he drafted a good team or a questionable one though, goaltending appears to be the strength of this inaugural Kraken squad, and it’ll be exciting to see Driedger, Vanecek, and Daccord compete to break through and play to the best of their abilities.