No conundrum and no controversy; what the Seattle Kraken now possess are two experienced NHL goalkeepers at a reasonable price.
Between the two of them, Phillip Grubauer, out since late October and just back from injured reserve, and Martin Jones, carrying the load very effectively in “Grooby’s” absence, will earn a total of $7.9-million this season.
That’s a great deal for a team sitting in 3rd place in the Pacific Division, two points behind 2nd place Los Angeles, the team the Kraken play Saturday night. A regulation win for Seattle means a tie for 2nd place with the Kraken holding three games in hand.
Except for a couple of rare blips, goaltending has been the least of the Kraken’s problems. Never a bad thing when you’re talking about the most important position on the ice.
“Jonesy’s been rock solid and really sound, he’s been great over this stretch here, his performance has been very, very consistent,” Kraken Head Coach Dave Hakstol said after the morning skate Saturday. “Grooby’s healthy, he’s coming in today, backing up tonight, he’s a guy that’s going to come in and add to the team concept and to continue and strengthen the goaltending group that we have.”
“Just being on the ice, battling and competing with them” Grubauer said is the thing he missed the most. “It’s tough to watch from the sidelines, or if you have to watch behind the scenes. You want to be out there with the guys, win those games, and go to battle, so happy to be back.”
Grubauer is the big ticket item, making $5.9-million for this season plus four more, signed as a free agent before the inaugural campaign to be the franchise’s number-one goalie. Hakstol wouldn’t allude to whether or not there’s a management plan for sharing starts with his two veterans, or if he’s more of a “stick with the hot guy as long as he’s hot” type coach.
Part of it may be his lack of background with the scenario. During his three-and-a-half seasons running the Philadelphia Flyers bench, Hakstol found himself either with a clear number-one, such as Brian Elliott or Steve Mason, or with the more traditional Flyers goaltending mess. The year Hakstol was relieved of his duties, 2018-’19, the franchise dressed eight different netminders, including upstart Carter Hart.
So far the Kraken situation, other than season-one back-up Chris Driedger presently being on long term injured reserve, has been anything but messy.
“We’ve also gotten good contributions from Joey Daccord, he came into a tough spot in Calgary and won a game for our hockey team,” Hakstol said. “Helly’s (Magnus Hellberg) been good, it’s been in a back-up role, he’s been a good teammate and that doesn’t go unnoticed.”
What Hakstol has now is a 32-year-old in Jones who has deep playoff experience and a Stanley Cup in LA as a rookie, who has re-proven himself this season, and 30-year-old Grubauer, a Stanley Cup winner in 2018 with the Washington Capitals who played the first two playoff games for the champs that season. Coincidentally, Jones also played in two playoff games during his 2014 Cup postseason behind Jonathan Quick.
Grubauer played 55 games for Seattle last season and his numbers weren’t very good, but then again, neither was his team. Things have changed.
“The way we play structurally, I don’t think we give up too many Grade-A chances anymore,” Grubauer said of the current Kraken. “Everybody feels like they can trust each other, trust the system, and everybody does the right thing over and over again. Huge wins and huge couple points the last couple games.”
The Kraken are looking pretty good, and so is Hakstol’s goalie problem.