He admits that he initially had mixed feelings about being selected by the Seattle Kraken in Thursday night’s expansion draft. “When I found out, it was a shock,” admits the 25-year-old goalkeeper in an interview on the Liberec website.
After five years in the Washington Capitals system, 2021 was Vitek Vanecek’s payoff season, as he started 37 games for the Capitals. It was finally his time. Now he is moving on to a new team to start a new fight for a starting position.
But after a call from Capitals’ general manager Brian MacLellan, and a call from Kraken general manager Ron Francis, Vanecek ultimately found a positive perspective. “I’m not sad, on the contrary,” said Vanecek.
Vanecek said that MacLellan was the first to call him, to tell him he was drafted by the Kraken.
“The general manager in Washington was the first to call me to tell me about Seattle. I was the first to ask if it was one hundred percent certain. (smiles) He said yes, that the club had already confirmed it to him, and in a while someone from Seattle would call me,” Vanecek told iSport on Friday.
“General manager Ron Francis called me, turned on the speaker, so I talked to everyone in management. He, coach Dave Hakstol and their Czech scout Robert Kron all welcomed me. They said that they are happy, trust me and will give me a chance to prove my qualities.”
Vanecek also knows that the Capitals were limited in who they could protect in the draft.
“It’s very difficult. I realize that the (Washington) club could only protect one of us, so I’m not sad. No, I’m not sorry. The Capitals worked great with me. They helped me, even though I didn’t speak English, they gave me a chance in the NHL, that’s nice of them,” said Vanecek.
Vanecek’s level of play in 2021 was noticed by the newly formed management in Seattle. At the same time, the Kraken had a choice of many more experienced goalkeepers. They could have even selected the stalwart, but expensive ($ 10.5 million per year) Carey Price from Montreal. But in the end they decided to go another route.
Instead, they chose 27-year-old Canadian Chris Driedger and 25-year-old Vanecek. Driedger immediately signed a three-year contract with Seattle for a total of $ 10.5 million, and Vanecek will end his current contract this season with an average annual salary of $716,000.
On paper, the role of number one and number two is clearly given. “But we’ll both start on the same line, because Chris has played 38 games in the NHL so far, just one more than me. I don’t know if the club has already made a decision, but I will fight to play as much as possible,” Vanecek said.
“The team looks great and Francis knows what he’s doing. We have to pull one rope, I don’t allow pressure, on the contrary. If anything, we will want to make it to the winning end, unlike Vegas,” reports Vanecek.
Vanecek entered the 2020 playoffs as the Capitals number one goaltender, but after thirteen minutes of the first game with Boston, he was done. During a play, he stretched his thigh muscle, which ended the postseason for him.
“The injury was a big blow. I didn’t want to show it, but I was very sad. I showed that I have NHL skills, and in the most important part of the season I got injured … But that’s how it is in hockey,” Vanecek said.
He is now looking forward to a new challenge. He doesn’t know any of his teammates yet, so he wants to return at the end of August and get used to the environment in Seattle as soon as possible.
“I hope that the fans will be happy for us,” wishes the Czech goalkeeper.
By Jon Sorensen