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Sports >  NHL

Kraken signs star goalie Philipp Grubauer to six-year deal

July 28, 2021 Updated Wed., July 28, 2021 at 9:23 p.m.

Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer (31) watches the puck in the first period of Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series in Denver, in this Tuesday, June 8, 2021 photo.   (Associated Press)
Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer (31) watches the puck in the first period of Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series in Denver, in this Tuesday, June 8, 2021 photo.  (Associated Press)
By Geoff Baker Seattle Times

The Seattle Kraken stunned the NHL on Wednesday by agreeing to a six-year, $35.4 million contract with former Colorado Avalanche star goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

Bringing in the German-born Grubauer, 29, gives the Kraken its No. 1 netminder and first long-term franchise face. And it gave the team a surplus of goalies, soon rectified a few hours later when Vitek Vanecek, 25, was dealt back to his former Washington Capitals team for a second-round pick in the 2023 entry draft.

That leaves the Kraken with a goalie tandem of Grubauer and Chris Driedger, 27, selected from the Florida Panthers in last week’s expansion draft and signed to a three-year, $10.5 million contract.

“We’re excited to add a goaltender of Philipp’s caliber, especially coming off of a season where he was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said in a statement. “He was a part of a Stanley Cup-winning team and has been one of the top goaltenders in the League over the past few seasons and we’re happy that he chose to join our team.”

The Vanecek trade means the Kraken has committed a considerable $9.4 million in salary cap space towards its top two goaltenders for at least three seasons. Still, that’s less money than Francis would have been on the hook for had he taken Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price in last week’s expansion draft – given his five remaining contract years at $10.5 million per annum.

Moments after the Grubauer news unfolded, the Kraken announced the much-anticipated signing of former St. Louis Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz, 29, to a five-year, $27.5 million contract. Schwartz joins earlier center addition Alexander Wennberg, 26, and formerly of the Florida Panthers, as Kraken answers to the limited offensive firepower attained in last week’s expansion draft.

That means the Kraken with Wednesday’s additions has used $15.9 million of its remaining available salary-cap space of about $30 million for the coming season.

“Jaden plays a responsible two-way game and knows how to put the puck in the net,” Francis said of Schwartz. “He brings veteran leadership to our group, and his knowledge of the game and what it takes to win hockey’s ultimate prize will be valuable as we continue to shape our inaugural roster. We’re looking forward to adding his guidance and skill to our team.”

Wennberg, 26 and a 6-foot-2, 197-pound native of Sweden, scored an impressive 17 goals and added 12 assists in 56 games for a playoff-bound Florida Panthers team last season.

“Alexander is coming off of his best goal-scoring season to date and gives us an offensive-minded center down the middle,” Francis said. “He’s still young and we think he has room to grow even further as he has taken large strides in each of his last few seasons. We like his combination of size and skill and think he will fit well with our group.”

It had been assumed Grubauer would return to the Avalanche until Colorado reached a seven-year deal with captain Gabriel Landeskog late Tuesday. That addition raised questions about whether the Avalanche would bring back a netminding mainstay of its recent playoff teams.

Grubauer went 30-9-1 with a 2.34 goals against average and a .920 save percentage last season.

NHL goalies rarely get drafted in the first round, so a second-round selection for Vanecek, who has yet to prove himself over a full season, is a good return for Francis. The Kraken also faced the prospect of entering the season with a goalie tandem that had made just 70 career starts between them.

That’s now been alleviated, given Grubauer’s 187 career starts and 214 appearances with both the Avalanche and the Capitals before that.

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