The price was steep, with the Avalanche trading 22-year-old defenseman Conor Timmins, a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft. But Colorado was desperate not to be left without a seat on the NHL goalie carousel following a busy first day of free agency that included Grubauer leaving Colorado to sign a six-year contract with the Seattle Kraken.
“I was hoping that today we’d have good news from ‘Grubie’ and it didn’t happen,” Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said. “Obviously, good for him. He had a great contract offer in Seattle and he took it.”
Grubauer was among the goalies to change teams. After trading Alex Nedeljkovic to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes said goodbye to Petr Mrazek, who signed a three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and James Reimer, who signed a two-year contract with the San Jose Sharks. The Hurricanes signed Frederik Andersen from the Maple Leafs and Antti Raanta from the Coyotes each to a two-year contract.
Hampered by a lower-body injury, Andersen was 13-8-3 with a 2.96 goals-against average and .895 save percentage with Toronto last season. Raanta, who missed time with upper-body and lower-body injuries last season, was 5-5-2 with a 3.36 GAA and .905 save percentage with Arizona.
“We think that combo of those two guys give us the best opportunity to win hockey games and take us to where we want to get to,” Carolina GM Don Waddell said.
The Maple Leafs similarly believe Mrazek will form a formidable duo with returnee Jack Campbell. Mrazek, who was limited to 12 games last season because of a thumb injury, was 6-2-3 with a 2.06 GAA, .923 save percentage and three shutouts.
“It’s goaltending, so it’s a hugely important position for everybody,” Toronto GM Kyle Dubas said. “We were fortunate going in that we already have Jack Campbell, who we feel very strongly about. But we just felt we needed to find a strong partner for him so that we can have as good a tandem as possible. And we felt we achieved that with Petr Mrazek today.”
Among the other goalies on the move were Jonathan Bernier, who signed a two-year contract with the New Jersey Devils after he was traded by the Red Wings to Carolina in the Nedeljkovic deal, and Linus Ullmark, who left the Buffalo Sabres to sign with the Boston Bruins.
Braden Holtby signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Stars after having the final season of his contract bought out by the Vancouver Canucks, and Jaroslav Halak left the Bruins to sign a one-year contract to replace Holtby as Vancouver’s backup to Thatcher Demko. David Rittich left Toronto to sign a one-year contract to be the Nashville Predators backup to Juuse Saros.
Carter Hutton also left Buffalo to sign a one-year contract with Arizona, and Brian Elliott moved on from the Philadelphia Flyers to sign a one-year contract to be the Tampa Bay Lightning backup to Andrei Vasilevskiy. Martin Jones, who had the final three years on his contract bought out by the Sharks, signed a one-year contract with the Flyers to replace Elliott and share the duties with Carter Hart. Craig Anderson signed on for a 19th NHL season; the 40-year-old agreed to a one-year contract with the Sabres.
“It was a really fast-moving market,” Philadelphia GM Chuck Fletcher said. “There’s a lot of teams looking for goaltenders. You look at as many situations as you can and find as many situations where the player has the same interest in you that you have in him. You make quick decisions.”
The Bruins traded goalie Dan Vladar to the Calgary Flames for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, and the Kraken traded goalie Vitek Vanecek to the Washington Capitals for the Winnipeg Jets’ second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft (acquired for defenseman Brenden Dillon on Monday). Seattle selected Vanecek from Capitals in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft a week earlier but boomeranged him back to Washington after signing Grubauer.
The Avalanche wanted to re-sign Grubauer, but Sakic acknowledged, “It was one of those negotiations that we just couldn’t get to the number he was at.”
So Colorado had to find a Plan B. That turned out to be Kuemper, who was 10-11-3 with a 2.56 GAA, .907 save percentage and two shutouts with the Coyotes last season.
“Fortunately we were in a good situation, kind of the last man standing with one of the best goaltenders out there,” Arizona general manager Bill Armstrong said. “I do feel that Darcy Kuemper is someone who can get the [Avalanche] over the hump. We knew it, and we believed in Darcy, so we kind of held off, held our ground in negotiations.
“As it moved along and goaltenders signed, it became apparent that he was the big chip that a few teams that are contending for the Cup wanted. He truly is a great teammate, great person, and someone who came to the rink wanting to make the Coyotes better.”
Grubauer was voted a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in the NHL last season, when he was 30-9-1 with a 1.95 GAA, .922 and seven shutouts in 40 games with the Avalanche. Now he’ll form potentially one of the best goalie duos in the NHL with Chris Driedger for the Kraken in their inaugural season. Seattle signed Driedger to a three-year contract after selecting him in the expansion draft from the Florida Panthers. He was 14-6-3 with a 2.07 GAA, .927 save percentage and three shutouts in 23 starts last season.
“You look at all the teams, you look at the goalie market, going into the protection list, we felt it was kind of drying up a little bit, and then this happens on free agency day,” Seattle GM Ron Francis said of signing Grubauer. “You never know what to expect. We were fortunate to be able to act on it today.”
NHL.com independent correspondent Alan Robinson contributed to this report