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Busy Free Agency Day Sees Plenty of Goaltender Movement

Busy Free Agency Day Sees Plenty of Goaltender Movement

It was an eventful start to NHL free agency, with a lot of big names like Steve Mason, Brian Elliott, and Ryan Miller finding new teams. There were also a number of under-the-radar moves completed. As the game starts to shift into an era where having two capable goaltenders is crucial, some of these moves could turn out to be pretty important by the end of the season.

Mike McKenna has inked a deal with the Dallas Stars, moving on from the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. He was acquired by Tampa Bay at the deadline from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Adam Wilcox. McKenna led the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch to the Calder Cup final, but fell to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

J-F Berube
is on the move yet again. His expiring contract was selected in the expansion draft by the Vegas Golden Knights from the New York Islanders, but they made no attempt to sign him. He was allowed to walk and has decided to join the Chicago Blackhawks organization. He is expected to battle for the backup job behind Corey Crawford with the newly-acquired Anton Forsberg.

Niklas Svedberg is returning to North America after spending the last two seasons with Salavat of the KHL. The former Boston Bruins backup has signed with the Minnesota Wild, and will likely be competing with Alex Stalock to back up Devan Dubnyk. One of the two will end up with the AHL Iowa Wild.

Matt O’Connor was a restricted free agent, but the Ottawa Senators decided to cut him loose, which has allowed him to sign with the Nashville Predators. The 6-foot-5 netminder is still only 25 years old, but has battled injuries and inconsistent play throughout his pro career. He will join Anders Lindback in Milwaukee with the AHL Admirals, as the Predators “start over” with their goaltending depth.

Anders Lindback is also returning to North America, and will be joining Matt O’Connor in the Nashville Predators organization. Lindback was with Rogle BK of the Swedish Elite League, and will likely form a (very large) tandem in Milwaukee of the AHL with O’Connor. Lindback was drafted by Nashville in 2008 and spent two seasons backing up Pekka Rinne before moving on to Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Arizona, and then back to Sweden. The Predators are parting ways with last season’s AHL tandem of Marek Mazanec and Jonas Gunnarsson. The Lindback signing can be seen as a bridge to whatever’s next.

Adam Wilcox didn’t take long to find a new home. The Buffalo Sabres have inked the young goaltender, who will likely end up with their minor league affiliate in Rochester. He was, of course, part of the prior mentioned Mike McKenna trade at the deadline. Wilcox was a Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick who spent three seasons with the Minnesota Golden Gophers and three seasons with the Syracuse Crunch, the rivals of Buffalo’s AHL affiliate Rochester Americans.

Michael Leighton, the veteran, has signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He will likely act as a third-string option, and will take the place of the departing Mike McKenna in Syracuse. Leighton is a veteran presence for the Syracuse Crunch, who are hoping for another long Calder Cup run next season. Unfortunately with the departure of Kristers Gudlevskis, Adam Wilcox, and now Mike McKenna, there is only 20-year old Connor Ingraham, entering his first year as a pro, in the depth chart.

Jeremy Smith is moving on to the Carolina Hurricanes organization from the Colorado Avalanche. He actually appeared in 10 games down the stretch for Colorado, posting an .888 save percentage. Another Nashville draft pick, Smith has bounced around the AHL for several seasons since leaving the Predators organization in 2013. He’ll join highly touted prospect Alex Nedeljkovic in the Charlotte Checkers net.

Cal Petersen‘s signing was officially announced by the Los Angeles Kings. The Notre Dame collegiate goaltender was originally property of the Buffalo Sabres, but recently announced that he would be signing elsewhere. Los Angeles was thought to have the inside edge on acquiring him, and that was confirmed today. Petersen will possibly start off his professional career by joining the Jack Campbell with the AHL Ontario Reign, while Jeff Zatkoff backs up Jonathan Quick, but with the just-announced signing of Darcy Kuemper, there will be competition for spots.

Darcy Kuemper also signed for a year with the Los Angeles Kings. Kuemper was a Minnesota Wild draft pick and has spent five seasons at various levels in the Minnesota system, including significant time backing up Dubnyk. But with Jeff Zatkoff behind Jonathan Quick, there will be a lot of competition for spots. Quick generally takes on a big workload, but should he be injured again, the Kings will have plenty of experienced depth to call on.

Finally, Danny Taylor is back in North America after signing a deal with the Ottawa Senators. He has previously seen NHL action with the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames, but has been playing overseas since 2013-14 in the SHL and KHL. The Senators have a complicated depth chart. They just re-signed Mike Condon but are also carrying Andrew Hammond, Marcus Hogberg, and Chris Driedger. Driedger was extended a qualifying offer this month, and Hogberg was signed to an entry level deal in March. Clearly there will be developments as the offseason progresses.

There were also two minor trades that occurred today. The Tampa Bay Lightning moved Kristers Gudlevskis to the New York Islanders and Thomas McCollum was re-acquired by the Detroit Red Wings. Gudlevskis gets a fresh start with a new organization where he isn’t blocked by Andrei Vasilevskiy. McCollum is a familiar face for the Red Wings organization and will provide depth with Grand Rapids.

About The Author

Greg Balloch

Greg Balloch is a Vancouver-based writer for InGoal Magazine, broadcaster for Sportsnet 650, and goaltending coach. His career began in Hamilton, Ontario as the voice of the Junior 'A' Hamilton Red Wings, before moving to Vancouver to cover the Canucks on the radio. A lifelong goaltender, he has been teaching the position for over a decade.

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