According to a report from NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic and TSN, the Seattle Kraken are close to signing Florida Panthers goalie Chris Driedger and would do so before Wednesday’s expansion draft.
This has been a rumor for the past few months and it comes as good news for the Panthers.
If the Kraken do sign Driedger — who, after three years with the Panthers is set to become an unrestricted free agent — he would count as Seattle’s pick from Florida.
That would also make the Panthers’ protected list, which is due at 5 p.m. on Saturday, moot.
Dreidger would, if he signs, be the player that the Panthers would lose.
This is obviously great news for the Panthers.
Although both sides would have preferred a continuation of their relationship, with the Panthers committing $10 million per season to Sergei Bobrovsky and rookie Spencer Knight on the fast track to the team despite only being a first-round pick in 2019, there was really no way for Driedger to return to Sunrise.
It is also another piece of Driedger’s remarkable career turnaround.
A third-round pick by Ottawa in 2013, Driedger bounced around between the Senators system before being cut loose in 2018.
The Panthers signed Driedger to a minor league contract and, initially, he was loaned to an ECHL team just to get some playing time. After becoming Florida’s AHL starter in Springfield later that year, he was offered an NHL two-way deal.
By Thanksgiving of 2019, Driedger had been recalled to the Panthers to replace Sam Montembeault as Bobrovsky’s backup.
The move was looked at to be a temporary one.
Driedger took the ball and ran with it.
In his first career NHL start days after his callup from Springfield, Driedger tossed a shutout against Nashville. Aside from an injury rehab stint, Driedger did not return to the AHL and, at times, took over the starting role from Bobrovsky.
In 2019-20, Driedger went 7-2-1 in 12 games; this past season, he basically split time with Bobrovsky and went 14-6-3.
In two seasons with the Panthers, Driedger established himself as a legitimate NHL starter. He made 93 percent of his saves in his 35 games played. Driedger not only had a GAA of 2.07 with the Panthers, but his goals-saved against-average was a plus-21.6.
All of his stats were among the league leaders over the past two years and were much better than those of Bobrovsky.
Seattle cannot make any moves until team’s finalize their protection lists but it is expected Driedger will sign rather quickly and be on hand for the team’s expansion draft party on Wednesday night.