The Kraken stunned the NHL on Wednesday by agreeing to a six-year, $35.4 million contract with former Colorado Avalanche star goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
Bringing in the German-born Grubauer, 29, gives the Kraken its No. 1 netminder and first long-term franchise face. It also raises questions about what comes next with the team’s goaltending, with speculation rampant that Chris Driedger, 27, will pair with him in a tandem and Vitek Vanecek, 25, will be dealt back to his former Washington Capitals team.
But Driedger’s outlook as a No. 1 goalie, plus his manageable three-year, $10.5 million contract, means the Kraken could also shop him to teams in a bid to bring in additional impact players. Importing Grubauer and moving Driedger would mean a modest salary-cap hit of $2 million more annually to the Kraken’s goaltending setup the next three seasons.
“We’re excited to add a goaltender of Philipp’s caliber, especially coming off of a season where he was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said in a statement. “He was a part of a Stanley Cup-winning team and has been one of the top goaltenders in the League over the past few seasons and we’re happy that he chose to join our team.”
Moments after that news unfolded, the Kraken announced the much-anticipated signing of former St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz, 29, to a five-year, $27.5 million contract. Schwartz joins earlier center addition Alexander Wennberg, 26, ex-of-the-Florida Panthers, as Kraken answers to some limited offensive firepower attained in last week’s expansion draft.
That means the Kraken with Wednesday’s additions has used $15.9 million of its remaining available salary-cap space of about $30 million for the coming season.
“Jaden plays a responsible two-way game and knows how to put the puck in the net,” Francis said of Schwartz. “He brings veteran leadership to our group, and his knowledge of the game and what it takes to win hockey’s ultimate prize will be valuable as we continue to shape our inaugural roster. We’re looking forward to adding his guidance and skill to our team.”
Wennberg, 26 and a 6-foot-2, 197-pound native of Sweden, scored an impressive 17 goals and added 12 assists for in 56 games for a playoff-bound Florida Panthers team last season.
“Alexander is coming off of his best goal-scoring season to date and gives us an offensive-minded center down the middle,” Francis said. “He’s still young and we think he has room to grow even further as he has taken large strides in each of his last few seasons. We like his combination of size and skill and think he will fit well with our group.”
It had been assumed Grubauer would return to the Avalanche until Colorado reached a seven-year deal with captain Gabriel Landeskog late Tuesday. That addition raised questions about whether the Avalanche would bring back a netminding mainstay of its recent playoff teams.
Grubauer went 30-9-1 with a 2.34 goals against average and a .920 save percentage last season.©2021 The Seattle Times. Visit seattletimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.