Philipp Grubauer, Seattle Kraken.
The Seattle Kraken have found their goalie of the future in Joey Daccord. This opens the door to discussing what to do with former all-star goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
The Seattle Kraken find themselves in a familiar situation: The goaltender listed as their 1A starter at the beginning of the season is injured and out of the lineup. Since the undisclosed injury to Philipp Grubauer one month ago, the Kraken have gone on a run of 11-0-2 in their last 13 games.
This resembles the same situation as last season: Grubauer went down with an injury, and Martin Jones carried the team on a 10-2-1 in 13 starts. Jones finished the season with a 27-13-3 record. This fantastic run propelled the Seattle Kraken from near the bottom of the standings into a playoff position.
While Grubauer played strong in the postseason (leading the team to Game 7 in the Western Conference Semi-Finals), his subpar play to begin the season had Seattle looking like a bottom-feeder team until his injury.
Fast forward to December 2023, and Grubauer gets injured (again). Backup Joey Daccord took the reins and led the Kraken on their current run (he started 9 of those 10 games). He also provided a 36-save shutout on national television in the outdoor Winter Classic to start 2024.
History appears to be repeating itself. Daccord’s stellar goaltending propelled the Seattle Kraken from 26th overall into the Western Conference’s second wildcard spot and eighth overall in the West, with over half a season still to play.
So, what does the Seattle Kraken do with Grubauer when he returns from injury? There is no simple solution.
He carries a $5.9M cap hit, second highest on the team to Vince Dunn‘s $7.35M. They can’t have him return for that kind of money and be the backup every night.
Additionally, Seattle’s current backup, Chris Driedger, makes $3.5M. In his one start this season (his first NHL game in 20 months), he made 37 saves in a 2-1 victory over Calgary. Given this, I propose that the Kraken put Grubauer on waivers.
Should Seattle put Grubauer on waivers, every NHL team can claim him and absorb his entire $5.9M cap hit. Given the recent history of NHL teams placing their starting goaltenders on waivers and having them clear (Jack Campbell, Edmonton, $5.5M; Ilya Samsonov, Toronto, $3.5M, it’s unlikely that any team will claim Grubauer.
After being on the waiver wire for 48 hours, he would then clear waivers, enabling the Kraken to assign him to the minors. While at Coachella Valley, he would have the opportunity to be a #1 goaltender and find his game again under the tutelage of Dan Bylsma and Colin Zulianello. Most importantly, demoting Grubauer would provide the Seattle Kraken with $5.9M in cap relief, enabling them to make a move at the trade deadline.
Why not just Trade Him?
Some fans might interject and say, “Why not trade Grubauer?” Here’s why:
Driedger is in the last year of his contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent. Grubauer is under contract for another three years, including a no-trade clause. This season, he has a full no-trade clause, which means he can choose where he gets traded. However, starting next season, his contract will turn into a modified no-trade clause, where he will present a list of 10 teams to which he is not willing to be traded.
The Seattle Kraken are not likely to offer Driedger another contract, given the lack of playing time he’s gotten from Coach Dave Hakstol during his Seattle tenure. Should Grubauer utilize the opportunity in Coachella Valley and re-discover his all-star and Vezina-finalist caliber of play, Seattle would have a bonafide 1-2 goaltending tandem that would scare most of the league.
Should he not find his game, then the Kraken keep him in the minors to end his contract.
Due to his stellar play, Daccord has become the honorary mayor of Seattle. At the Winter Classic, he had 47,313 fans chanting his name.
Daccord is playing with so much swagger and confidence (and nearly scored an empty-net goal at the Winter Classic), the crease is his to lose. Once Grubauer gets healthy, the smart move for Seattle Kraken GM Ron Francis is to give him some time to re-discover himself.
Francis has a golden opportunity to steer this ship in the right direction and rid themselves of a bad contract. Will he do so? Only time will tell.