Fans finally know the new Seattle franchise’s name and its reveal lived up to every ounce of hype it was given. Alongside a terrific name, the Seattle Kraken, the team also revealed gorgeous uniforms. It’s sparked an immense amount of excitement around the franchise.
But now that Seattle’s revealed their name, fans of the new franchise need something new to look forward to. Luckily, they don’t have to look far. The Kraken are going to have an absolute heyday at their 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Fans around the league are already nervously sweating as they point out top-end players that might be leaving the team. And while the Kraken offence and defence is sure to be strong, the Seattle Kraken goalie duo could instantly become one of the best tandems in the league.
Who Will Make Up the Seattle Kraken Goalie Tandem?
The Rules of the Draft
The Expansion Draft comes with a whole host of rules. The most applicable to this topic, though, is knowing teams will only be able to protect one of their goalies. No matter what, each team will have to expose one of their two netminders to Seattle, which will certainly lead to some very exciting possibilities.
It’s also important to note the drafting team will have a three-day window to negotiate with any pending free-agents. If they can reach a deal in that window, the Kraken will be able to draft said player. If not, they’ll have to choose a different name. Ken Boehlke does a great job of describing this intricacy here. It is one that will definitely be important for Seattle.
The Seattle Kraken Goalie Options
The Arizona Coyotes have one of the most potent – when healthy – goaltending duos in the league right now. Darcy Kuemper put up league-elite statistics this season, with Antti Raanta‘s performances in the past few years placing him in elite company as well. The terrific potency of this duo is a great thing for the Coyotes… at least until the Expansion Draft rolls around. Arizona won’t be able to keep both and, given Kuemper’s all-around better play, the Coyotes are nearly guaranteed to protect him.
But that’s hardly an issue for Seattle. Raanta is just as admirable of a pickup. He tallied a .921 save percentage in 33 games this season. Through his career, he has now played in three seasons of at least 30 games. In each, he’s set a save percentage over .920. In his longest season to date, which saw him play 47 games during the 2017–18 season, he set a dazzling .930, second in the league that year by .01.
Raanta also has the fifth-highest GSAA (goals-saved-above-average) from 2016 to 2020, despite the fact that he only played in 12 games during the 2018–19 season. That is simply incredible. Excluding that year and only combining 2016–17, 2017–18, and 2019–20, Raanta’s GSAA is far-and-away the best in the league. He’s a top-end goalie… when healthy.
And that’s one of the issues with Raanta. Despite being in the league for seven years, injuries have limited him to only three years of 30-or-more games. He’s the poster-boy of the injury bug and, pending another typically-absent 2020–21 campaign, could be a very wary pick in the Expansion Draft. His contract also expires after the 2020–21 season, meaning the Kraken would have to quickly negotiate a contract with him before picking him. But if they can manage to ink a deal, and Raanta can kick the injury bug, he could be a seriously terrific pickup.
Out of nothing came something for the Carolina Hurricanes. After years of searching for goaltending the Hurricanes wound up with the very exhilarating duo of… Petr Mrazek and James Reimer? Neither of the two came into Carolina with any sort of expectations but both have managed to establish themselves as top-end talents. It’s a welcome surprise for the incredibly-potent Hurricanes lineup, giving them some of the most reliable goaltending in the league.
But this also exposes them to Seattle’s hands. Statistically-speaking, there’s little difference between Reimer and Mrazek. Reimer was strong this season and Mrazek lagged behind, albeit still performing well. Last year, things were flipped. Mrazek outperformed Reimer, although the two were close.
This makes deciding who to protect a tough task for Carolina. The deciding factor is ultimately their age, with Mrazek being four years younger. This leaves the older Reimer available. But despite his age, Reimer would be a terrific add for Seattle, who would be in hot pursuit of a terrific and cheap backup. In that regard, there is no better than Reimer.
The man commonly expected to head to Seattle is Thatcher Demko. The 24-year-old is expected to be the odd-man-out in Vancouver, after Jacob Markstrom‘s terrific 2019–20 season. This has much of the Vancouver Canucks fanbase torn, as Demko is seen as a top-end up-and-comer. This year marked his rookie season and, in 27 games, he tallied a .905 save percentage and a winning record. Many argue that his ceiling is much higher, though.
Of course, Demko is an RFA after the 2020–21 season, leading to some issues for Seattle, but any kinks would be well worth working out if it meant reeling in young talent like Demko.
Some still speculate that, merely by a factor of age, Vancouver will actually expose Markstrom, though. He’s sure to receive a hefty raise this summer and getting cap relief in just one year could benefit the cap-strapped Cancucks. This is certainly the situation Seattle is eagerly hoping for. Markstrom was terrific this season, recording a .918 save percentage and ranking eighth in the league in GSAA. While his FSv%, xFSv%, and GSAx all have him as a bit outside of the league’s elite, it was a promising breakout for the Swedish goalie. If he repeats it next year, after his summer pay raise, he will definitely be Seattle’s go-to goalie pick, giving the team a sure-fire starter right away.
Vancouver is in a bind. They’ll either lose their highly-regarded youngster in Demko or their established go-to in Markstrom. Either way, Seattle is making out like bandits with their Vancouver selection.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a similar situation to Vancouver and Carolina: stuck between which goalie to protect. It’s not a new situation for Pittsburgh, either. Three years ago, the Penguins were stuck deciding between whether to protect their studded veteran Marc-Andre Fleury or their young up-and-comer Matt Murray, who had stolen the reigns from Fleury in a strong postseason.
Headed into the Seattle Expansion Draft, Pittsburgh is in for plenty of deja vu. Murray is now the studded veteran, having hauled Pittsburgh to a Stanley Cup and manned their net for the last three seasons. But younger up-and-comer Tristan Jarry performed much, much better than Murray this season. He wasn’t incredible but he was strong; strong enough to have many thinking he’ll steal the starting role from Murray in this year’s altered postseason.
Last time around, Pittsburgh made the tough, but right, move to forgo their veteran and keep the budding youngster around. Again much like last time, this will very likely be a last-minute decision for Pittsburgh. The upcoming (eventually) 2020–21 season will also be a huge indicator of who to protect. But as of now, all signs point towards Jarry receiving the favour. This leaves Murray open to Seattle. While underwhelming recently, Murray is the only goalie on this list to have led a team to a Stanley Cup. It’s an attribute that can’t be overstated and one that will, surely, grab Seattle’s eye as they search for the future Seattle Kraken goalie tandem.
In the End
Ultimately, there’s no telling who will make up the Seattle Kraken goalie tandem. Plenty of teams are in binds, stumbling over who to protect, leaving plenty of strong names not mentioned open for the Kraken. This includes Anton Khudobin, Jake Allen, and Jaroslav Halak, although all three will need negotiated contracts and the retirement plans of the former and latter may skew things.
Still, all signs are pointing toward Seattle making out like bandits with their goalie tandem. Each name on this list could immediately take starting reigns and provide a burst of success to the newfound club. This is invaluable to a new team, as shown by Vegas’ early success behind the strong Fleury. Seattle will look to replicate that and more during their inaugural 2021–22 campaign.