Or at least the Kraken could and they should.
The should part is self-explanatory. With a soon to be 32-year-old starter, an often injured back-up under a pretty fat contract, and a lack of legitimate depth below that, if would be a big surprise if the Kraken didn’t draft another goaltender next week, despite selecting one in the 2nd-round last summer.
That would be Niklas Kokko, the Finn picked by the Seattle Kraken 58th-overall out of the Karpat program in his native country where he’s seen a total of ten top tier professional games in his career. When he wasn’t getting a taste of that SM Liiga action, he was playing a level below in the Mestis league, or representing his country in juniors.
Kokko, who signed his three-year entry-level contract with the Kraken in early May, was Finland’s third goalie for the 2023 World Junior Championship and didn’t dress.
(We’ll have a full scouting report on the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder in an upcoming “Seattle Kraken of the Future” article”, as well as one on goalie Ales Stezka mentioned below)
Given there are no guarantees with prospects, particularly goalies, and the Kraken cupboards are pretty thin, it would make a great deal of sense to add another netminder to the organizational depth.
How about taking a stab at Scott Ratzlaff of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. He actually played one more regular season game than the highly touted and successful junior Thomas Milic, who’s 20-years-old and went undrafted. Ratzlaff turned 18 in March and is ranked as the 4th best North American goaltending prospect by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau (CSB).
Needless to say, there are plenty of other options from around the world who can be taken in the lower rounds.
Backing Up The Kraken
The Kraken aren’t desperate for cap space but NHL teams will always save a few bucks when they can, whether it’s to give them a bit more flexibility or not.
Chris Driedger, who missed this past season following knee surgery, is presently inked in as the back-up to Philipp Grubauer. Inked, but not etched in stone. Driedger carries a hefty $3.5-million cap hit for the last season of his deal, has been injury prone on a consistent basis since 2021, and is presently backing up Joey Daccord in Coachella Valley.
They could move him to another NHL club desperate for goaltending depth, while retaining some of that salary, while elevating Daccord to the NHL 2nd-goalie spot. Small catch; Daccord is an unrestricted free agent (UFA), but given his age and experience level, they should still be able to ink him for far less than what they’re set to pay Driedger.
Driedger could also remain in the minors and simmer along with a slight reduction in his cap hit.
Remember, Martin Jones stepped in on a $2-million, one-year deal and basically saved the club’s bacon with “Grooby” out for a stretch due to injury. They could try that again with the 33-year-old UFA and leave Daccord with the Firebirds.
Does that make the most sense? Maybe it does, again, given the lack of proven netminding depth in the organization.
Maybe Ales Stezka is the guy. Signed as a free agent by the Kraken in early May, the 26-year-old native of the Czech Republic has played his entire career back home. Fans should expect to see him over this way next season. At least through the preseason camps. He has outstanding numbers back home after being drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 4th-round in 2015.
Otherwise, one shouldn’t expect any other saviour to suddenly arise from the deep of the Kraken organizational charts. Minor leaguer Christopher Gibson is a UFA and done, while the only other goalie in the system isn’t signed. The Kraken hold the rights to Russian Semyon Vyasovoi, who they drafted in the 6th-round back in 2021. He played in 2nd tier development leagues back in the motherland the last two seasons.
The Kraken presently are 15 contracts short of the NHL maximum allowed for an organization, 50, while their reserve list is high and dry. There’s room to jockey things around at the top, and definitely room to add a couple bodies in the crease at the bottom.