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According to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, the Seattle Kraken selected goaltender Vitek Vanecek as their pick from the Washington Capitals in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft on Wednesday. The Kraken were required to pick a player from every other team except the Vegas Golden Knights, who were exempt.
The other two goalies selected were pending unrestricted free agent Chris Driedger, who will count as the Kraken’s pick from the Florida Panthers, and Joey Daccord, who will be their pick from the Ottawa Senators.
The 25-year-old goaltender went 21-10-4 with a .908 save percentage, a 2.69 goals-against average, and two shutouts in his rookie season in 2020-21. At five-on-five, Vanecek posted a .918 save percentage, a 2.41 goals-against average, a 0.66 goals-saved above average, and a .798 high-danger save percentage. Vanecek started 16 of 17 games from January 18-February 27 when Ilya Samsonov was out with COVID-19 and posted a .905 save percentage and a 2.92 goals-against average over that time.
The Capitals drafted Vanecek 39th overall in 2014.
He stopped three of four shots in Game 1 of the team’s first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Boston Bruins before leaving with a lower-body injury. Vanecek did not play again in the postseason.
In 141 career AHL games with the Hershey Bears, Vanecek went 72-50-6 with a .919 save percentage, a 2.28 goals-against average, and 11 shutouts.
The Capitals lost one of their goaltenders on a team-friendly contract as Vanecek makes just $716,667 one more season before being eligible to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. They currently have $11,302,073 remaining in cap space with left-wing Alex Ovechkin (unrestricted free agent), goaltender Ilya Samsonov (restricted free agent), defenseman Zdeno Chara (UFA), and left-wing Michael Raffl (UFA) in need of new contracts. Though, trading center Evgeny Kuznetsov (which seems likely), who carries a $7.8 million cap hit, will free up even more money.
The Capitals will have to find a 1A/back-up goaltender to replace Vanecek in free agency, which opens on July 28. Though, Zach Fucale is coming off of a strong season in Hershey where he went 9-2-0 with a .932 save percentage, a 1.80 goals-against average, and one shutout.
The Kraken were required to submit their picks from all 30 teams by 10 AM ET on Wednesday and will announce their selections at 8 PM ET on ESPN2. They will likely trade a few as they need to trim their roster to 23 by opening night.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) July 21, 2021
By Harrison Brown