This season, the Seattle Kraken need to acquire some draft capital and build up their prospect pool. While some pending free agents are expected to be moved, it may be beneficial to move Chris Driedger to a team desperate for a goaltender. He does have a ten-team no-trade list as of right now, but the opportunity to be a starting goalie and play in the playoffs might be enticing enough for him to agree to join a contender.
The Kraken have already locked up starter Philipp Grubauer long-term, so it doesn’t make sense to have a second goalie making $3.5 million per season for the next two seasons. Management needs to turn a strength into future assets. Here are three teams that may be interested in the former Florida Panthers goaltender if he becomes available.
The Edmonton Oilers need a goaltender badly. Mikko Koskinen is having a poor season and costing his team wins, while Mike Smith has been injured most of the campaign and will turn 40 in March. Driedger could help solidify the Oilers crease for at least the next few seasons while Stuart Skinner continues to develop into a full-time NHL starter.
For this deal to work, the Kraken would likely have to take on Koskinen’s or Smith’s salary, which shouldn’t be a problem since they are flush with cap space. However, the Oilers would have to throw in a prospect like 2018 sixth-round pick Michael Kesselring or 2019 second-round pick Raphaël Lavoie in return. It might be worth it for the Oilers since acquiring Driedger and solidifying the goaltending position for the next three seasons might be what they need to push them past the first round of the playoffs.
The Colorado Avalanche are expected to have a long playoff run, but their goaltending has been a concern. Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz have been ok, but not at the level the Avalanche need to win the Stanley Cup. Both are free agents this offseason with few goalies in the pipeline ready to make the jump to the NHL. Bringing in Driedger could help them be competitive now and set them up with a strong starter for the next two seasons.
The irony here is that if Grubauer hadn’t left the Avs for the Kraken in the offseason, Colorado wouldn’t be in this mess. A deal between these teams makes sense as long as Colorado can find a way to clear some cap space in the move. One way the Kraken could do this is by taking on Kuemper or Francouz’s salary, as neither has a no-trade clause. In return, the Kraken might request a prospect like Jean-Luc Foudy, who was drafted in the third round in 2020, or Sampo Ranta who is a 2018 third-rounder. Justin Barron, the Avs’ 2020 first-round pick, would be a nice addition, but the odds Colorado would give him up are very slim.
The Minnesota Wild are among the toughest NHL teams to play against. They have one of the deepest defense cores in the league and have stars like Krill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, and Mats Zuccarello upfront. This season, they have gone with the goaltending duo of Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kähkönen. Both are solid goaltenders, but they have not lived up to expectations, which could cause issues in the playoffs.
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The main concern is Talbot, who would have to be included in the deal to make sure the Wild stay cap compliant. His 3.00 goals-against average is one of the worst among starting goalies, which is a major cause for concern. Kähkönen, on the other hand, does not seem ready to take over the starting job and has only started seven games this season. The Wild have Jesper Wallstedt in their system, but he could be three to four years away from making the NHL.
Driedger may be just the player to help backstop the team to a playoff spot and further, and prospects like 2020 fifth-round pick Pavel Novák or 2018 third-round pick Jack McBain would likely be whom the Kraken would seek in return. The Wild can’t squander their chance, and a change in goal may be exactly what they need.
Kraken Need to Take Advantage of This Opportunity
Right now, the Kraken have two starting goaltenders, and they need to turn one of them into future assets. Moving Grubauer will be difficult due to his contract, but Driedger’s contract is perfect for a contending team that is close to the cap. If the Kraken can find a team interested, they should explore trading him.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at https://www.area51sportsnetwork.com/ where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.