UPDATE: It’s official. Best of luck to Vitek with his new team!
With the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft officially set to kick off in a few short hours, a bevy of reporting this afternoon is offering a glimpse of what will be made official in this evening’s proceedings. The Seattle Kraken submitted their Expansion Draft list to the league this morning at 10 AM and among the leaks, DailyFaceoff.com Hockey’s Frank Seravalli reports that Seattle is set to select Vitek Vanecek from the Washington Capitals.
After much speculation that Seattle might select Carey Price from the Montreal Canadiens, it appears that the NHL’s 32nd franchise is going to begin their inaugural season with Vanecek in net along with a stable of goalies including Chris Driedger (Florida ) and Joey Daccord (Ottawa).
Last season, Vanecek began the year as the third goalie in Washington’s system behind Ilya Samsonov and Henrik Lundquist. However, he was thrust into starting duty due to Samsonov’s placement on the COVID-protocols list (twice) and Lundquist’s heart surgery that saw him go on long-term injury reserve.
Vanecek made the most of his time between the pipes, earning the NHL’s Rookie of the Month in January, and finishing the year posting a 21-10-4 record with a .908 save percentage and 2.69 GAA.
Unlike Price, Vanecek presents a young (25) and affordable ($716,667 AAV) option for the fledgling Kraken, as he is set to enter the final season of his entry-level contract.
The Capitals opted to protect Samsonov, leaving Vanecek exposed due to the expansion draft rules that state each team must make available, “one goalie who is under contract in 2021-22 or will be a restricted free agent at the end of his current contract immediately prior to 2021-22. If a team elects to make a restricted free agent goalie available to meet this requirement, that goalie must have received his qualifying offer prior to the submission of the team’s protected list.”
Vaneck’s rising stock was a feather in the franchise’s cap, as he was a homegrown player who had been with the team since being selected in the second round of the 2014 draft, and elevated his performance to the NHL level after beginning his career with starting with the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays followed by four seasons of development with the Hershey Bears in the AHL before the Czech netminder his break with the big club.
The selection is a blow to Washington, who loses one of their top franchise goalie options for nothing in return. Additionally, Vanecek’s selection offers little cap relief for a squad that is regularly up against the salary limit with Alexander Ovechkin’s next contract still yet unsigned.