The protection lists won’t be finalized for a few hours yet but it appears Seattle knows who they will be taking from the Panthers. Pierre LeBrun of TSN and The Athletic reports (Twitter link) that the Kraken will select goaltender Chris Driedger from Florida and sign the pending unrestricted free agent to a new contract.
Driedger has definitely been a late bloomer. After Ottawa non-tendered him back in 2018 following a season that saw him post a 4.04 GAA in the AHL, he went to Florida on a two-way deal, doing well enough to earn another two-way contract in 2019, one that just expired now. But instead of serving as their third or even fourth-string goaltender as they intended, the 27-year-old worked his way into an early-season promotion in 2019-20 and has stayed with the Panthers ever since.
He finished off that season with a 2.05 GAA and a .938 SV% in 12 games and while he wasn’t quite able to duplicate those numbers this past season, he came pretty close, posting a 2.07 GAA with a .927 SV% in 23 games. By comparison, Sergei Bobrovsky, who they intended to have as their starter, had a 2.91 GAA and a .906 SV% in his 31 appearances. Bobrovsky carries a $10MM AAV while Driedger made just $850K.
Driedger will certainly be in line for a significant raise on his next deal even though he’s still quite inexperienced in the NHL with all of 38 games under his belt. If Seattle winds up selecting and extending him as expected, he should get an opportunity to push for the number one role depending on which other goaltenders the Kraken pick on Wednesday.
As for Florida, this will be a much different expansion experience for them. Last time, they lost both Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault to Vegas with the two becoming top-six fixtures for the Golden Knights ever since. Now, they appear to be set to lose a player they were highly unlikely to retain anyway with top prospect Spencer Knight also in the mix for playing time between the pipes. Losing someone they weren’t going to be able to keep is basically the best-case scenario for them, a nice reversal of fortune from 2017.