There are going to be some interesting selections at this year’s NHL Expansion Draft and Seattle should come away with a pretty good team. It might not be as strong as the Vegas Golden Knights official starting roster, which included Marc-Andre Fleury, but the the Kraken won’t be pressed for talent, veteran leadership and experience. In fact, it sounds like they already have their sights set on their goaltender of the future.
Interestingly, that starter won’t come via the draft, but via free agency.
According to a report from James Mirtle of The Athletic, the Kraken have set their sights on a netminder out of the Florida Panthers organization. While talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending issues, Mirtle writes:
Big Save Dave Rittich hasn’t been particularly impressive so far in his brief time as a Leaf so I’d be surprised if he’s who they turn to alongside Campbell, but there are going to be all kinds of goalies available between the expansion draft and free agency. (Sources say Seattle likes Chris Driedger as one of their goalies, by the way.)
As Mirtle was talking about the Leafs plans for next season, he nonchalantly threw in that Seattle has apparently keyed in on Driedger as their top goaltending target, making it less likely the pending UFA will be available to Toronto should they decide to change things up between the pipes.
That means, Toronto might target one of the many other free-agent options for the team: Philipp Grubauer, Tuukka Rask, Linus Ullmark, Antti Raanta, Mike Smith, and Jonathan Bernier.
Not Surprising Seattle Would Target Driedger
Driedger has been a revelation for the Panthers. He seized his opportunity after the team signed Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70MM contract back in 2019 but didn’t live up to expectations. When the team called upon the backup to give them some sort of consistency, the 26-year-old shined in 12 appearances in 2019-20 with a 2.05 GAA and a .938 save percentage. It wasn’t just a fluke either as he’s posted a 2.17 and .923 save percentage in 22 appearances this year.
It seems obvious that Driedger will move on at the end of this season. With the Panthers committed to Bobrovsky, this summer is Driedger’s chance to prove he’s a legit starter for an NHL club and had he been traded at this year’s deadline, there would have been a lineup to acquire him. Florida also signed top goalie prospect Spencer Knight, and he’s next in line to step into the backup role.
With over $80 million in cap space, Seattle provides the goalie with the best chances of being paid well this offseason. In a flat-cap salary world where players are keenly aware of short-term deals being the window to home run contracts in a year or two, Driedger is in a position to capitalize now.
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