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2016 Trade Deadline Could Be Very Quiet For Goalies

2016 Trade Deadline Could Be Very Quiet For Goalies

The NHL trade deadline is two weeks away on February 29. It might seem like a bit of a jinx to say it, but as far as goaltenders are concerned, it might be a very quiet day as teams wait for the offseason to address goaltending needs.

The goalie market has been soft for years now and this month is no exception. Couple that with a cap that will at the very least not be rising much – and may in fact be falling – and you have a recipe for uncertainty. Caution is the word of the day.

This makes the offseason a more attractive time to make deals, after teams have some understanding of where the cap will end up and no one is in the middle of a playoff hunt. It’s easier to address long term needs later, under these conditions.

That doesn’t mean that there won’t be any inquiries. There are a few goalies who are being shopped and some more who might not be available, strictly speaking, but who may draw some interest nonetheless.

The top target has to be the Anaheim Ducks’ Frederik Andersen, who has been reportedly on the block for some time. The emergence of prospect John Gibson as a viable NHL goaltender has made for some interesting times for the Anaheim organization this season. Gibson was promoted in December and Anton Khudobin was sent to the AHL.

It appears that the Ducks have been asking for a fairly big return for Andersen, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. That makes some sense. A goalie with potential that is just beginning to be realized, still restricted, who can carry a full load on a team that struggles as bad as the Ducks did earlier this season? That should be worth something.

In fact, internal considerations may be driving Andersen’s price tag up. For one, the Ducks are winning again and so may feel less pressure to deal an asset like Andersen for scoring or possession help. For another, if they let him go and John Gibson were to get hurt for any length of time, Anaheim would be left with Khudobin and Dustin Tokarski as playoffs approach.

In the end, with Khudobin in the minors on an expiring contract – and out of Gibson’s way – the Ducks can afford to hold out for a great deal.

James Reimer is likly to be the subject of a few calls at the deadline.

James Reimer is likely to be the subject of a few calls over the next two weeks.

The second most desirable target is probably not actually available. Before this season, James Reimer looked to be on his way out of Toronto. He made some important technical tweaks in the offseason and has figured out how to play in Mike Babcock’s system much like Jimmy Howard did before him. The result is one of the best seasons of his career.

Any time a guy has a resurgence like this in a situation like that, teams are going to ask about him. It isn’t clear, however, how the Maple Leafs regard Reimer’s future. Do they see him as an expendable asset or a core part of their rebuild?

It is possible the Leafs go full tank from here on out and deal Reimer for picks or prospects. They’re doing pretty good at sinking in the standings even with Reimer’s good play, though, so perhaps they want to keep him.
With the uncertainty around the cap, however, and Auston Matthews as the prize, anything is possible. Reimer is in a contract year, after all. Cost uncertainty may push the team to make a deal. It’s unlikely, but not impossible.

Jimmy Howard's name has been raised in connection with trade speculation.

Jimmy Howard’s name has been raised in connection with trade speculation.

The Detroit Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard and his $5.3 million cap hit have been mentioned as a target in a few places. Petr Mrazek’s season may very well have convinced the Red Wings that they can do without the veteran. Mrazek’s youth and inexperience (angle over depth, kid) make that a bit of a risk, but the possibility remains that Howard could be moved.

Howard has been generally underrated for much of his career by people outside of Detroit and in the past he’d have been a great pick up. But he’s 31 now and has 4 years left on that contract and a modified no-trade clause. Not to mention that Detroit doesn’t really have anyone behind Mrazek ready to step up to an NHL gig.

Still, Howard could be a short term upgrade for a few teams even though he comes with a longer term commitment than some might be comfortable with. Based on age and recent history alone (a just at average performance over the past two seasons), though, caution is again in order.

Will anyone take on Cam Ward's expiring contract?

Will anyone take on Cam Ward’s expiring contract?

Similarly Carolina’s Cam Ward is likely available. The Hurricanes would probably like to rid themselves of that $6 million contract. Ward has been awful enough over the past couple of years that this season’s average play seems a massive improvement.

Unfortunately the Canes are likely to find few takers for the very reasons they might be shopping him. And even if they do, dealing him would leave them reliant on a still inconsistent Eddie Lack for at least the rest of this season. With their playoff hopes still alive and Ward unlikely to bring much in the way of return, the Hurricanes might be better off finding help some other way, especially since the contract expires in June, leaving them free and clear.

None of this is to say that no one is trying to upgrade their goaltending. A few teams are actively looking, either for rental help or to stock up on prospect depth for the future.

The Arizona Coyotes might have been one of those teams if Louis Domingue hadn’t emerged the way he has this year. Mike Smith, though is still a question mark. After two brutal seasons, the Coyotes went out and hired Smith’s long time personal coach, Jon Elkin to try to salvage their investment. It’s unclear how much more patience they can afford to have with him.

Mike Smith's injury has complicated the Coyotes' season.

Mike Smith’s injury has complicated the Coyotes’ season.

That determination has been put on hold by Smith’s injury, which has kept him out of the lineup since December. He’s nearing the end of his estimated ten week rehab, and the team would be forgiven for wanting to see how he fares once he’s healthy again before making a decision. Given the timing if all of this, that situation could potentially hang on into next season.

At any rate, he can’t be traded just now, but the Yotes will have to make a decision about him sooner than later. They might just be active in the free agency market this offseason. In the meantime, they need to do something about Anders Lindback, who is once again having a disappointing season after a promising start.

When Smith comes back, Lindback will be displaced again. It’s possible that a tanking team might take a flier on him again, not that that worked out so well for Buffalo last year. Edmonton might be willing to do it as part of their perpetual rebuild. If there are no takers, though, the Swede can be sent to the AHL while Domingue continues his NHL stint.

Jonas Hiller has been linked to the Nashville Predators in trade speculation.

Jonas Hiller has been linked to the Nashville Predators in trade speculation.

The Calgary Flames are looking for an upgrade right now and for the future. None of their goalies are under contract for next season, which makes them all more attractive as rental options to a team trying to make a push. If the Flames can swap one of their short-timers for a young goalie they really like, they seem prepared to do just that.

This makes them the most likely team to be involved in a goalie trade this month. Waiting only devalues their assets, so they are the most motivated to move someone now if they can make the right deal.

The Nashville Predators are an interesting case. They’re obviously committed to Pekka Rinne as their starter for the foreseeable future, but there has been talk about the possibility of acquiring someone able to push Rinne competitively. Carter Hutton, for all his positives, will never be that guy.

But do the Preds pull the trigger on that? This is not a franchise known for bold moves at the deadline. Both Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo have been mentioned as potential rental pieces, but neither is doing much better than Hutton right now and both make a lot more money.

And if they send Hutton off to seek his fortune elsewhere, bringing in a rental veteran (Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo have both been mentioned), what happens next season?

The Preds’ youngsters, Juuse Saros and Marek Mazanec, are arguably both in need of more AHL time, even another full season. Signs have pointed in the past to another year for Hutton as a cushion for development for the prospects. Surely not an insurmountable obstacle, but no one sticks to a plan like David Poile.

In the end Poile’s innate conservatism may nix any deals that would raise Nashville’s goalie salary commitments any further without providing more certainty concerning their performance floor.

And that’s really pretty much that. There are a number of potential trade scenarios for the next two weeks, none of them much more likely than any other. Other than the Predators, no one needs to upgrade to stay in the playoff hunt. Bad teams already have bad goaltending, so no one really needs to downgrade, although a blatant tank attempt is always possible.

This deadline might be a great chance for someone to pick up a prospect or a young goalie who will make them better in the future at a low cost. But, all in all, expect a quiet trade day for the goalie market.

About The Author

Clare Austin

Clare Austin is a reluctant "stats nerd" living in Nashville, where she has never worn a cowboy hat or boots.

5 Comments

  1. Paul Ipolito

    Could you please provide some details on why you believe Carter Hutton may not have a future in Nashville?

    • Clare Austin

      You mean why are they not going to sign a 30-year old with a career .909 in 67 games to a long-term contract?

      Easy. Juuse Saros.

      • Paul Ipolito

        No. I meant something goalie-related such as “weak glove hand”, “poor angles”, etc.

        • Clare Austin

          I don’t have any information as to what the club thinks of him. But honestly, my biggest knock on him is he’s slow. He’s slow to react, slow to move, slow to get his glove from one place to the next. He just doesn’t have the reflexes he needs to be a real success in the league.

          This is the NHL, so it’s all relative, and compared to me, he’s lightning fast, but watching him, he’s just slow.

          • Paul Ipolito

            Thank you. And at his age chances are slim he is going to get quicker. At least he did make it into a very exclusive club, even if for a short time.