The 2021 NHL Expansion Draft is set to begin at 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday and will finally provide an answer to who the first-ever Seattle Kraken goaltending duo will be. Amazingly, the team has an opportunity to begin their inaugural season with two of the top goaltenders in the NHL; Montreal Canadiens superstar Carey Price and Florida Panthers breakout sensation Chris Driedger. While Driedger seems to be a lock for Seattle, Price’s cap hit of $10.5 million for five more seasons makes it difficult to tell if the Kraken will make the 2021 Stanley Cup finalist the first starter in franchise history.
Price and Driedger are both represented by the same agent, Gerry Johansson, who has spoken with Kraken general manager Ron Francis regarding both goaltenders and already secured what sounds like a three-year deal for Driedger. Wednesday night will be both an exciting and nerve-wracking one for Kraken fans who are anxiously waiting to find out which two goalies will guard their crease when the puck drops for the 2021-22 season. If Seattle goes with Price and Driedger, it would not only make for great entertainment but also instantly provide them with one of the strongest goaltending tandems in the league.
Driedger Reportedly Closing in on 3-Year, $3.5 Million AAV Deal with Seattle
On Monday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Kraken are closing in on a three-year, $3.5 million average annual value (AAV) contract with Driedger, who made a career-high 23 starts for the Panthers this season, posting a .927 save percentage (SV%) and 2.07 goals-against average (GAA). The 27-year-old was drafted 76th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. It took more than seven years before earning his first start in the league, a 27-save shutout over the Nashville Predators on Nov. 30, 2019. He went on to play in 12 games that season (2019-20), recording a .938 SV% and 2.05 GAA.
If the Kraken decide to make Price their starter, Driedger has proven to be one of the best backup goaltenders in the NHL over the past two seasons. He holds a win-loss record of 21-8 with the Panthers, an admirable feat for a goaltender who played no more than 40 minutes of an NHL game before the 2019-20 season. His potential appears to be sky-high, but it would be wise not to rush him into a full-time starter role immediately. Using him as an approximate 30-game starter could work out perfectly if Price needs to miss some games this season as he deals with potential knee and hip injuries that he is scheduled to see a doctor for in New York sometime this week, per The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.
If Driedger can study behind the veteran Price for a season or two before becoming a permanent starter or 1B goaltender, it could be the perfect scenario for his development. With a predicted cap hit of $3.5 million per season, Driedger’s contract could be a steal for the Kraken if he maintains his stellar performance over the next few seasons.
Price Could Become Instant Face of Franchise, No. 1 Goaltender for Kraken
Arguably the most exciting storyline of the 2021 Expansion Draft, Francis must decide whether or not to select long-time Canadiens goaltender Price, who is surprisingly exposed by Montreal, on Wednesday. The 14-year NHL starter is an Olympic Games, World Cup of Hockey and IIHF World Junior Championship gold medalist with seven NHL All-Star Game appearances, including three in the past four years (2017, 2018 and 2019), and a trophy case consisting of the Vezina Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and William M. Jennings Trophy. Since entering the league in 2007-08, he has never had a sub-.900 SV% season. Not to mention, he is fresh off carrying the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final, posting a .924 SV% across his 22 starts in the 2021 playoffs. There is no player more qualified than Price for the Kraken to select.
Known for his great composure and ability to stay calm in crucial games, Price would be an incredible mentor for Driedger if the Kraken decide to go that route. Price has seen it all, at every level of the game, and has a wealth of knowledge and experience he can share with Driedger, who could potentially end up in a 1A/1B goaltending scenario with Price in a couple of seasons’ time, or less, depending on how his development plays out.
Price already has a deep connection with the Pacific Northwest, hailing from Anahim Lake, British Columbia, a 12-hour drive north of Seattle, and having played five years of major junior hockey for the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Washington from 2002 to 2007. His wife, Angela, grew up in Kennewick and is a Washington State University alumna. The couple got married in Benton City, Washington, about a three-hour drive from Seattle, and spend their summers with their two daughters and son in Kelowna, British Columbia, about five hours from Seattle. Needless to say, if Price is named to the Kraken roster, his jerseys will be flying off the shelf in no time.
Ultimately, the fate of the Kraken’s blue paint lies in the hands of Francis, who will make his selections in the Expansion Draft on Wednesday. If he decides to eat Price’s contract for the next five years, he will instantly have one of the most lethal goaltending duos in the NHL. The only question left now; is it worth the money?
Tom Pepper is a diehard Seattle Kraken fan creating daily content at The Hockey Writers (THW). He joined THW in June 2020, initially working as a Buffalo Sabres journalist during the 2020-21 season. He also spent time as a FanSided site expert and covered his childhood team, the St. Louis Blues. In June 2021, he devoted himself to the Kraken (pre-expansion draft) and started writing from a fan perspective at THW. In addition to writing, he hosts the THW What’s Kraken show on iHeartRadio. Outside of THW, he hosts his own NHL podcast (The Tom Pepper Show) every weekday. Follow him on Twitter at @TomPepper.