The Seattle Kraken goaltending situation should be cut and dry for next season.
Philipp Grubauer, the team’s number-one netminder coming off an impressive postseason, will make $5.9-million next season and three more beyond that.
Martin Jones, signed prior to this past season as a replacement for injured back-up Chris Driedger, made $2-million for 2022-’23 and his contract is up.
Driedger, 100-percent healthy following knee surgery and rehabilitation that forced him to miss all of this past season at the NHL level, is ready moving forward and is presently backing-up Joey Daccord in the playoffs for the AHL’s Coachella Valley Firebirds. Driedger is under contract with the Kraken for one more season at $3.5-million.
The Firebirds starter at the moment, Daccord is what’s called a Group-6 unrestricted free agent (UFA), meaning the 26-year-old, based on a special set of criteria, has the same UFA rights typical of one 27 or older. The technicalities as to why he earned this status aren’t important, what’s important is the fact that the Kraken will want to sign him to a new deal prior to him hitting the open market with the other NHL UFA’s on July 1st.
So that’s it, eh?. Bye bye “Jonesy” and we’re back to the original Kraken tandem of Grubauer and Driedger, right General Manager Ron Francis??
“We’ve got some decisions to make there and we’ll work through those in the next few days here and make sure we’re all comfortable in the direction we want to go and address it accordingly,” Francis told us Thursday.
A diplomatic response, but it’s not that simple.
Kraken Contract Gymnastics
Just how much faith does the club have in Driedger and do they want to spend that much on their back-up. In a perfect world, nope. They’d love to be out from under that deal, signed in the early days of expansion, thinking at the time that Driedger might be “their guy”, or at least a key part of a tandem.
Let’s face it, if the Kraken could move his salary, they would, but what would you have to throw in to entice a team to take on that cap hit for a 28-year-old goalie coming off knee surgery. The other option is to send him to the minors and eat what in this case would be about $2.5-million in salary for Driedger as he plays in the AHL next season.
Regardless of the size of a player’s salary, it’s essentially a flat rate of about $1.1-million that a team is allowed to deduct from the cap hit when waiving and sending a player down. That would mean not only finding a replacement, but also paying that replacement on top of what you’re still having to play Driedger.
The buy-out option would mean paying Driedger 2/3rds of his salary spread out over the next two seasons. That would be a salary cap hit of just less than $1.2-million for each of the next two seasons for a player that’s no longer playing for the club. Again, are the Kraken that desperate to get rid of Chris Driedger, if they’re wanting to get rid of him at all?
For a Seattle team that has some cap flexibility, the decision ultimately comes down to one major factor; what goalie set and what scenario gives the Kraken the best odds of making the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2024.
It sounds like if he’s healthy, “Grooby” would like to start somewhere in the neighbourhood of 55 games next season. So how much do you pay the back-up for his 25-odd games, and which back-up gives you the best chance of reaching the team’s goal.
Could that answer be Daccord? Could it be Jones again? As of Thursday, the Kraken weren’t ruling out any options.
Stay tuned, because the name of the game is “goalie”, and winning and losing begins in the crease.