After signing for the next six seasons, Philipp Grubauer is still trying to find a place to live in Seattle.
For now, the Kraken Community Iceplex at Northgate probably feels more like home than anything. With the captains practices that began last week, then the start of training camp, the finishing touches being put on Climate Pledge Arena and players adjusting to a new city and team, camp is the first sense of normalcy.
“It’s been a rough transition so far in the housing market. Apartments aren’t easy to get around here,” Grubauer said after the first practice Thursday. “Living the hotel life for three weeks. We’re still looking.”
That aside, Grubauer said he has enjoyed the city and especially the start of camp. A Vezina Trophy finalist last season, he’s expected to be the Kraken’s No. 1 goalie, even with Chris Driedger looking over his shoulder.
Driedger was one of the team’s first expansion draft picks (from Florida), and he signed an extension right away. That came on a night with speculation about Montreal goalie Carey Price being an option. That didn’t happen, and it appeared Driedger, new contract and all, would be the go-to guy.
Then Grubauer, off a season with the Colorado Avalanche, became available in free agency, and the Kraken jumped in with a long-term offer. And thus began a tandem, albeit one in which Grubauer will be the top guy.
“Going in, it kind of looked like we had a lack of goaltending experience, so I kind of figured there might be another move,” Driedger said Thursday. “That’s all just speculation from me at that point, I just have to roll with the punches. I’m confident in our goaltending situation right now.”
Driedger played his first full NHL season with Florida before the Kraken selected him, posting a .927 save percentage. This came after splitting time between the NHL and AHL and even ECHL since 2014.
His moment seemed to have arrived with the Kraken, with just Joey Daccord from Ottawa as the other option, before Grubauer arrived. He’ll be in a similar role as in Florida, where he played alongside Sergei Bobrovsky as two options in net.
Grubauer had a similar path before becoming one of the league’s elite goalies.
The German goalie was a backup in Washington until going to Colorado in 2018, where he established himself. Before the Avalanche, he split time in the Capitals’ crease and bouncing between the AHL and ECHL.
Both goaltenders knows what it feels like to wait his turn. Even as Driedger’s wait becomes a tiny bit longer as the 1-B goalie in Seattle, he has a role to play and hasn’t overthought it.
“Meeting Gruby for the first time, he’s an awesome guy,” he said. “We’re going to have a great relationship. I like to always collaborate with my goalie partners and make sure we’re both going at the best possible level that we can.”
Kraken coach Dave Hakstol wouldn’t tip his hand on what the goalie rotation might look like in the preseason, but with six games and five goalies on the roster — with Grubauer and Driedger getting precedent — they’ll have a chance to get into a routine.
Typically, the regular starter will finish the preseason with a full game under his belt, while the early games will see a 50-50 split between two goalies. It’s a good bet Sunday’s preseason game in Spokane will look like that.
“We have four or five guys here,” Grubauer said. “They all want ice time. That’s up to the coaches. At the end of the day, you want to play the last one before we get going.”
Plenty of teams have succeeded in the regular season with goalie tandems, but the elite ones who have gone on to win Cups usually have that one workhorse as the playoffs get going. Grubauer has that experience with a few semi-deep runs with the Avalanche. And if all goes well, the Kraken would be thrilled to find itself in that position.
That isn’t bad for Driedger, either. Though he is signed long term in Seattle as well, Driedger is younger than Grubauer and closer to reaching his moment like his fellow backstop did in Colorado.
For the Kraken, having two goalies ready to go is a good problem to have.
“My mindset is, if we’re both playing well, the team’s going to play well, it’s going to benefit everyone in the long run,” Driedger said. “I’m excited to work with him and learn from him. He’s got more experience than I do, yeah, it’s going to be exciting.”