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NHL Notebook 8/13 – Seattle’s Spending & The Resulting Goalie Carousel

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

Seattle spends big (relatively) in free agency


After selecting their 30 players from other franchises in the expansion draft and, to the surprise of many, making no side deals with any teams in the process, the Seattle Kraken were left with an abundance of salary cap space to work with. That cap space was both for this season and for seasons to come, giving the new franchise arguably the most valuable asset in the league.


Seattle wasn’t shy about using some of that space to sign free agents including Alex Wennberg for 3 years, Jaden Schwartz for 5, and shocking the NHL world by signing goaltender Philipp Grubauer for 6 years. These were all significant investments for the medium and long-term future; each player signed for between a $4.5 million and $6 million cap hit. Given cap space is such a valuable, and rare, commodity in the NHL at this point in time, it is fair to wonder if Seattle should have saved more and waited for an unexpected opportunity to come up down the line.


My initial thought was that the Kraken may have spent more money than they needed at this point in time, especially in goal (more on that later). However, after reviewing their future salary cap situation on CapFriendly, they will still have plenty of flexibility both this season and moving forward. Heading into this season, assuming no other major additions or subtractions occur, Seattle looks to have just short of $10 million in cap space. Starting the season with that much space sets up an incredibly advantageous position as the season progresses, because of how the NHL salary cap works.


The cap is set up like a spending allowance, simply put. If someone were to give you $100 to spend for a week, saving on Monday means you can spend more as the week goes on. For instance, a $100 weekly allowance can be evenly divided into $20 per day from Monday-Friday; spending only $10 on Monday and $15 on Tuesday leaves you with $75 for Wednesday-Friday, or an average of $25 per day. Later in the week you could spend more while still only using the $100 you were given. The NHL, in a much larger sense, works the same way; that $10 million in cap space to start the year will grow as the season goes on. This means the Kraken will have well over $10 million in space come the trade deadline, meaning they would be able to fit any player they may want to acquire into their cap without much concern (at least during this season).


Seattle also has plenty of flexibility moving forward. Heading into next season, based on their current roster, the Kraken have 16 players under contract and roughly $27 million in cap space. 3 of their 7 free agents are unrestricted and 4 are restricted, so even expecting all 4 restricted free agents to earn raises would still leave them with cap space to work with to improve their team as they see fit. General Manager Ron Francis has set Seattle up to be as significant of a player as they choose to be, both in free agency and the trade market moving forward. This is an envious position to be in as they hope to build this new franchise into a perennial cup contender.



Grubauer to Seattle shakes up the goalie market


Seattle selected, and quickly signed, Chris Driedger from the Florida Panthers in the expansion draft along with taking Vitek Vanecek from the Washington Capitals. After those selections, the Kraken had a more than formidable tandem who cost a combined $4.2 million on the cap for this season. They looked to be set in goal, and were not spending much money in the process.


Then, Grubauer couldn’t come to a deal with the Avalanche, and there weren’t many teams in need of starters between the pipes. While Seattle didn’t have a need, per se, they saw an opportunity to improve and pounced. The duo of Grubauer and Driedger vaults toward the top of tandems in the NHL, even though it comes at a price of over $9 million on the cap. Quality comes at a price and Seattle was willing to pay. Whether or not this was the right move won’t be known for some time.


After the unexpected signing, three teams had intertwined goaltending situations- Seattle, Colorado and Washington. Seattle had selected Vanecek from Washington and signed Grubauer away from Colorado. Washington, in a major cap crunch, had been unable to replace Vanecek in free agency as they needed a goalie with a comparable cap hit to his miniscule $716,667 (a number below the current league minimum). Colorado, a team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations, just lost their starting goalie and Vezina Trophy finalist from this past season, when they won the President’s Trophy for best regular season record.


Now that Vanecek was moved to third on the Kraken depth chart, he was a prime trade candidate. Washington, with a clear need, and familiarity with the player, was able to send a 2023 2nd round pick, previously acquired from Winnipeg in a deal for Brenden Dillon, to Seattle as Washington will now bring back both of their young netminders, Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov, this season.


Once Grubauer signed, one player stood out as the most obvious fit for the Avalanche- Darcy Kuemper. The former Arizona Coyote has shown that, when healthy, he can be a top tier goalie in this league, and that was while playing in front of a team far inferior to the lineup in Colorado. The fit made sense, especially as Arizona is entering yet another rebuild and was looking to shed salary for draft capital. The Avalanche were able to send a package centered around a 1st round pick and prospect Conor Timmins to the Coyotes for Kuemper, who has 1 year remaining on his contract. After Arizona retained $1 million of Kuemper’s salary, Colorado has found their new starter at a very similar cap hit ($3.5 million) to Grubauer’s in 2020-21.

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