KRAKEN

What Seattle Kraken goalie options are after Chris Driedger’s torn ACL

Jun 8, 2022, 10:20 AM
Seattle Kraken Chris Driedger...
Seattle Kraken goaltender Chris Driedger stops a shot against Vegas on March 30. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The 2022-23 NHL season is three months away, but the Seattle Kraken have already suffered a setback.

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The team announced Tuesday that goaltender Chris Driedger suffered a torn right ACL while playing goal for Team Canada at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships during the gold medal game last week. He had surgery on Monday and is expected to be out for seven to nine months.

Needless to say, this injury will have an effect on the Kraken goalie situation.

It’s been a tough tour of duty in Seattle for Driedger, who signed a three-year contract with a $5.3 million salary as he became the Kraken’s expansion draft pick from the Florida Panthers last summer. In the game before what was to be his first scheduled start of the season, he came on in relief of starter Philipp Grubauer only to suffer an injury that landed him on the injured list in the season’s first week. When he returned to play, he then was positive with COVID and had to miss more time, and he had one more injury in the second half of the season.

In between, he started slow but began to put together quality starts as the season wore on. He ended the first Seattle Kraken season with 24 starts and 27 appearances overall, averaging 2.96 goals against with an .899 save percentage.

If all goes well and Driedger misses seven months, he’ll be out until January. The nine-month timeline puts him back in March, so clearly his availability for next season is now in question.

Financially, the Kraken will put him on the long-term injured list so his contract won’t count against the NHL salary cap. Grubuaer, the incumbent starter, will obviously be back and may be asked to take on a bigger load than last season. That’s not ideal and the Kraken would benefit from a trusty backup goalie.

What are the options for Seattle’s No. 2 goalie now?

Joey Daccord gets his shot

With Driedger out, the backup job will most likely go to Joey Daccord. The 25 year old has paid his minor league dues to some extent, been a good soldier for the Kraken, and could be ready to make the jump to becoming a regular NHLer.

Seattle selected Daccord from the Ottawa Senators during the NHL Expansion Draft last summer. He’s the first goalie to come out of Arizona State to start an NHL game.

Daccord spent most of last season in the American Hockey League with Charlotte, where he turned in monster numbers. In 34 games, he went 19-11-2 with a 2.28 goals-against average and a franchise-record .925 save percentage. He helped the Checkers win the AHL’s Atlantic Division and earn a first-round bye in the Calder Cup playoffs. Charlotte won its initial matchup with the Bridgeport Islanders before falling in the next round against Springfield.

The question now is whether Daccord is ready to relieve Grubauer at the NHL level. He’s made NHL starts in the past, although it has been a mixed bag.

Daccord’s first NHL start early in the season came on Oct. 19, the night after Driedger’s first injury of the campaign. Daccord allowed three goals on 35 shots in a loss on the road to the Devils after traveling all day to get to New Jersey, arriving just before game time.

From there, he would make three more starts and one appearance in relief. Overall, Daccord played in five games for Seattle with a 4.30 goals-against and a .850 save percentage. Those numbers aren’t great and don’t jump off the page. However, Daccord’s larger body of work suggests he’s a goalie on the rise.

It’s hard to judge just five appearances that came largely after last-minute call-ups. He’ll get a chance to start the season as the backup, and hopefully the stability of being in Seattle will help his play at the NHL level.

Seattle was facing a dilemma with Daccord in that if the team wanted to send him to the AHL, he would have to clear waivers. Before Driedger’s injury, the chances of losing Daccord through the waiver wire were real, but it was something that general manager Ron Francis said at the end of the season they were willing to risk. That situation appears to have resolved itself for the time being, but Daccord will have to perform at a level worthy of being in the NHL with the Seattle Kraken.

Antoine Bibeau and the ripple effect

If Daccord remains the NHL backup, it will have a ripple effect throughout the system. Last year, the Kraken signed journeyman goalie Antoine Bibeau, and he spent the season between the AHL in Charlotte and with the Kraken’s ECHL affiliate, the Allen Americans.

Bibeau could be in line to take over the net with the Coachella Valley Firebirds, who will become Seattle’s AHL affiliate this year, but the Kraken would need to re-sign the unrestricted free agent. Bibeau is a serviceable minor league goaltender who could be called up in a pinch, but that is about as high as his ceiling goes.

The Kraken (or Firebirds) will need at least one more goalie if they decide to stick with Bibeau in Coachella. The only other goalie in the Kraken system is 19-year-old Semyon Vyazovo, who was a sixth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. Vyanzovo played in a Russian junior league this year and posted an impressive .927 save percentage, but it’s unlikely he plays in the AHL this coming season.

In the long run, Driedger’s injury will have an impact and will result in at least one more goalie added to the cupboard. The only question is whether it will be an NHL goalie or one in the minors, and much of that will come down to how good Daccord ends up being.

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