Goaltending has been a fickle beast for the Seattle Kraken in their inaugural season, and it will remain a fickle beast for at least part of the upcoming offseason.
In the first couple months of play, starter Philipp Grubauer had a tough go, as did backup Chris Driedger, who was often injured and simply didn’t play enough to get into a rhythm. Thankfully for Seattle fans, things turned around for both goalies as the season went along, and in the second half, both backstops have shown much better. Now that they have gotten comfortable in their surroundings, Grubauer and Driedger have each demonstrated that they can provide the consistency needed if Seattle wants to be competitive in 2022-23.
Meanwhile, the Kraken have a third goalie in Joey Daccord who appears to have a bright future ahead of him. Daccord set a franchise record for the Charlotte Checkers this season with a .925 save percentage and was the AHL’s goaltender of the month in March. In all, he went 19-11-2 for Charlotte in the regular season and posted an impressive 2.28 goals against average in 34 games.
When Driedger was dealing with his early-season injuries, the Kraken had no problem recalling Daccord on several occasions. And while the results weren’t there for Daccord in limited NHL opportunities, he did show that he could be a player at the top level at some point in the next couple of years.
The Kraken were able to call Daccord up and send him back to the AHL at will this season because he did not require waivers. That is to say, Seattle did not need to expose him to other teams in order to assign him to Charlotte.
But here’s where the conundrum comes in. Because Daccord will have completed four pro seasons after 2021-22, his waiver exemption will run out. That means that if Seattle wants to send Daccord to their new AHL affiliate in Coachella Valley at any point next season—which they absolutely will have to do, assuming Grubauer and Driedger are both healthy—they will have to put Daccord up for grabs to the rest of the league.
So, what should the Kraken do with their goalies this offseason? Here are their three most obvious options (and no, we don’t foresee Grubauer and his $5.9 million cap hit and no-trade clause going anywhere).
Option 1: Trade Joey Daccord
You never want to lose an asset for nothing, and putting Daccord on waivers when the Kraken break training camp in early October could lead to that very thing happening. So, trading Daccord feels like a real possibility.
Does Daccord have trade value, though? He has been outstanding at the AHL level, especially this season, which makes us think there’s something there.
But we also think of Kaapo Kahkonen, who was traded from Minnesota to San Jose at the NHL Trade Deadline. In 2019-20, Kahkonen had a similar season to what Daccord is having now and was ultimately named the AHL’s goalie of the year. The difference is that when Kahkonen was dealt this season, he had already proven himself as a capable NHL goalie and had started 23 games for the Wild in 2021-22 alone. He went 12-8-3 and posted a .910 save percentage and 2.87 goals against average before the trade.
Packaged with a fifth-round pick, Kahkonen brought back Jacob Middleton, a depth defender who has played a fairly significant role for Minnesota.
Our point in talking about the Kahkonen trade is that we think Kahkonen is the closest recent comparable for Daccord in terms of determining trade value. But even that is not a perfect proxy, as Kahkonen has shown he’s fully NHL ready, while Daccord still appears to be about a year away.
So, would Daccord fetch any real value on the trade market? If anything, we could see him bringing back another mid-round draft pick, but until he starts to solidify himself as an NHL player, we think that’s about the ceiling.
Option 2: Trade Chris Driedger
Trading Driedger is another option and would bring more of a return for Seattle. After all, he is a proven NHL netminder and could even theoretically be a starter for a team in need. Remember, he was originally brought to the Kraken to be the starter before general manager Ron Francis learned he could get Grubauer as a free agent.
Of course, moving Driedger would indicate that the Kraken are prepared to go ahead with Grubauer playing the vast majority of games next season, while Daccord would serve as his backup. Thus, Francis and company would be anointing Daccord as an NHL-ready goalie, even though he still only has one win in 11 career NHL starts. If Grubauer gets injured for any significant stretch next season, that would be a ton of responsibility to thrust upon Daccord.
That may not be the best thing for Daccord’s development either, because at 25 years old, he needs to be playing plenty of games. Serving as a true backup doesn’t feel like the right fit.
Still, if the team thinks Daccord is ready for that kind of role, then Driedger and his $3.5 million cap hit could garner some interest on the market, especially after he righted his own personal ship in the last couple months of this season. Making this option a tad more challenging, Driedger has a modified no-trade clause that will allow him to submit a list of 10 teams for which he does not wish to play.
Option 3: Roll the dice
We don’t particularly like either of the first two options, but we especially don’t like the third option here, which is to roll the dice and enter training camp with all three netminders in the fold.
Here’s why this may end up being the route the Kraken take, though. If Seattle does not think Daccord is ready to be the full-time backup for Grubauer, they may opt to put him on waivers and try to get him to the AHL to start for the Firebirds. That of course exposes Daccord to other NHL teams, but any team that claims him would then theoretically have the same problem, unless that team is ready to keep him in the NHL.
As we saw this season with Dennis Cholowski, Austin Czarnik, and Alex Barre-Boulet, it is completely within the realm of possibility that Daccord gets claimed out of camp and spends some time on another NHL team but eventually gets waived again. In that scenario, the Kraken could theoretically re-claim him and put him back in the AHL without waivers.
There’s also the possibility that if the Kraken don’t view Daccord as being NHL ready, then the rest of the league would feel the same and simply allow him to clear waivers the first time.
Whether it’s Daccord or somebody else, the Kraken will need somebody to be their starter in the AHL, and it would make sense to continue to develop the guy they know. So maybe they just stay the course and hope they can keep Daccord, although this route feels like a pretty big gamble.
What should Seattle do?
This is tough. We love Daccord and Driedger and would hate to see either of them go. But we would especially hate to see Daccord go for nothing. None of these options are ideal, but we are of the mindset that Francis should put both Daccord and Driedger on the market over the summer and just see what types of offers come back. Then he can make an informed decision about how to proceed into next season.
What would you do?