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Trade Bait: NHL Goalies Potentially on the Move

Trade Bait: NHL Goalies Potentially on the Move

The March 5th trade deadline is quickly sneaking up on NHL executives and hockey fans. Although trade activity has been down in recent seasons, there are always a few surprises leading up to the deadline and in the final minutes. Although some of the moves can be predicted, a lot of the time they are completely unexpected.

Last season, quite a few notable goalies changed teams around the deadline. Reto Berra’s rights were traded to Calgary from St. Louis. He ended up signing with the Flames and made the jump to North America this season. Ben Bishop was dealt to Tampa Bay for Cory Conacher, and has become wildly successful with the Lightning. He is the leading candidate for the Vezina Trophy. Steve Mason also got a fresh new start with the Philadelphia Flyers, and prospect Matt Hackett was shipped away from Minnesota to Buffalo in the deal that saw Jason Pominville join the Wild.

This year will not be different, thanks to the blockbuster deal that sent Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Jaroslav Halak already taking place. Let’s take a look at the goalies who remain on the trading block and could potentially be on the move by this Wednesday’s deadline:

Cam WardCarolina Goalie Cam Ward

Carolina Hurricanes

6-8-5, .893 SV%, 3.14 G.A.A, -11.46 GSAA in 20 GP

Age: 29

Contract Status: $6.3M cap hit. 2 years remaining after this season. No-trade clause.

Benefits of trading Ward:

If you exclude Ward’s outstanding 2010-2011 season, his statistics have been going down in almost every category since he turned 24. Rumours have been circulating for a while about him needing a fresh start, but leaving the only NHL organization he has ever known would not be easy. He does have a no trade clause, so he would have to agree to the deal. That may limit some of Carolina’s options, but he may be more willing to leave and start fresh with the way things have been trending.

Letting Ward go would be the end of a chapter for the team. He was a “franchise” guy that led them to their only Stanley Cup victory, taking the Conn Smythe award in the process. The return of players and/or picks would be pretty substantial for Ward, especially because he is still under contract, and the $6.3M of cap space relief is tantalizing.

The rise of the duo of Anton Khudobin and Justin Peters is really what makes this discussion even possible. Peters has shown himself to be a capable option as the backup. He’s carried the load when Ward has been injured, which has been quite often in recent years. Khudobin came over from the Boston Bruins last season, and has been sensational. He has mediocre minor league numbers, but his NHL statistics are incredibly good. Although he has the small sample size of only 42 games played, a career .930 SV% and 2.11 G.A.A may be enough to convince the Hurricanes to part with Ward.

Benefits of acquiring Ward:

For the team that would acquire Ward, they would be receiving that former “franchise” guy from Carolina, and they would give him a chance for a fresh start. If a certain team’s scout still sees a glimmer of potential in Ward’s game, they may take a chance on him. With the recent success of Steve Mason in Philadelphia after leaving Columbus and re-working his game, a case can be made in favour of making a deal. Working with a new goalie coach and team system may be exactly what Ward needs to reinvigorate his career.

Ward is still very much a high ceiling goaltender, who is supposed to be entering the prime years of his career. His contract situation is also favourable, because he still has two more seasons left after this one. The acquiring team would have a few years to work with him, and figure it out. The big risk is the $6.3M cap hit and the chance that he won’t rebound. That risk may be enough to scare most GMs away.

James ReimerJames Reimer

Toronto Maple Leafs

10-6-1, .913 SV%, 3.20 G.A.A, -1.02 GSAA in 24 games

Age: 25

Contract status: $1.8M cap hit. Impending RFA.

Benefits of trading Reimer:

Although you could argue that Jonathan Bernier has been given the starting role already, trading James Reimer would put to rest any doubts that remain. It would officially turn the team over to Bernier heading into the playoffs, giving him a boost of confidence. It would be a low-risk move as the Leafs seem intent on letting Bernier handle most of the workload for the rest of the season whether Reimer is there or not.

If the Leafs decide to trade Reimer, they will receive a nice return on investment. He was a player that they drafted and developed, and should still net some quality assets in return based on his RFA status. The only concern may be that his value may not be at an all time high right now. If the right deal comes along, it may be worth it. They might as well receive an asset in return heading into the playoffs for a guy that they have no intention of using in an important role.

Benefits of acquiring Reimer:

After being the first goaltender to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs into the playoffs in the post-lockout era, it would be no surprise if Reimer was upset about losing his starting job to Jonathan Bernier. Bernier is likely the better goaltender, but Reimer would have no shortage of inspiration to prove his old team wrong if the Leafs were to trade him. He’s also healthy, and hungry to play, having appeared in only 24 games this season. Although his first playoff experience was a negative one, he would love to get back in the post-season. There’s no telling how much better he would play with a more structured defence in front of him.

For the team acquiring Reimer, it’s a very low risk/high reward type of move. He will not cost you a top prospect or extremely high draft pick. He is also under control for at least one more contract, heading into restricted free agency this summer. He’s a young, controllable asset who has played well on a poor defensive team. The real difference may be that chip on his shoulder that he would leave Toronto with, and that could make him attractive on the trade market.

Michal NeuvirthMichal Neuvirth

Washington Capitals

4-6-2, .914 SV%, 2.82 G.A.A, 0.02 GSAA in 13 games

Age: 25

Contract status: $2.5M cap hit. Under contract through 2014-2015, then UFA.

Benefits of trading Neuvirth:

The Washington Capitals have had a lot of uncertainty in their net since they traded Semyon Varlamov to Colorado. Neither Michal Neuvirth or Braden Holtby have grabbed the starting the role like management has wanted, but this might be the perfect opportunity to force it on Holtby. Neuvirth doesn’t seem to be in the long term plans for Washington, so trading him would officially turn the team over to Holtby. That vote of confidence might be exactly what a guy like Holtby needs to move forward in his career. Holtby has really struggled at times this season, and it may be from the pressure of having a guy like Neuvirth there in the back of his mind.

$2.5M is also a fairly large chunk of cap space to be eaten up by a backup goaltender who has only appeared in 26 of Washington’s games the past two seasons combined. The Capitals would be much better suited to use that money on some defence, or another offensive weapon heading into the playoff race. A move would also clear a roster spot for young Philip Grubauer, who has been very impressive in his time up with the big club. Going forward with a Holtby/Grubauer tandem seems to be the logical route for the Capitals.

Benefits of acquiring Neuvirth:

Depending on who you talk to, some executives still see Neuvirth as a possible #1 starting goaltender in the NHL. At the very least, for the acquiring team, he could push an already established starter or provide insurance for a possible injury. Neuvirth is used to having to battle for ice time, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see him end up on a new team and be in the exact same situation he had in Washington.

Although his contract is more than his market value right now, he is still controllable and under contract through next season. He would not be a rental player, and teams could work him into their future plans. The cost to acquire him would not be astronomical, so the risk isn’t as high as some of the other goalies available on the trade market

Jonas hiller Anaheim Ducks Mask by AirxessJonas Hiller

Anaheim Ducks

26-9-4, .918 SV%, 2.28 G.A.A, 4.52 GSAA in 40 games

Age: 32

Contract status: $4.5M cap hit. Impending UFA at the end of the season.

Benefits of trading Hiller:

Anaheim has turned into a goalie hotbed. They have, in their possession, four possible netminders capable of playing in the NHL at this very moment. Even prior to the rise of Frederik Andersen, Jonas Hiller was expendable. They have Viktor Fasth who is finally healthy and ready to see more ice time, current rookie sensation Andersen, and also future rookie sensation John Gibson waiting down in the minors. There is an absolute logjam between the pipes, and something has to give. Parting with the 32 year-old impending UFA in Hiller is the choice that makes the most sense. Keeping Andersen up in the NHL would be the major victory for the Ducks in this situation.

Although the Ducks would still like to go with a guy like Hiller in the playoffs, there is enough depth at the position that they should not worry. One of their other goalies will step up, and they can use the $4.5M of cap space in a major acquisition of a skater that will bolster their already strong, youthful roster. Keeping Hiller and letting him go to free agency at the end of the season is still an option the team is willing to take, so if they do trade Hiller, expect the package in return to be very significant. Anaheim is in the most enviable situation heading into the trade deadline.

Benefits of acquiring Hiller:

Jonas Hiller is a game-changing goaltender in his prime years. He is stronger with the more action he faces, so he would be the perfect fit for a team with loads of offence, but struggle defensively. He won’t even need a lot of offence to succeed, just look at his record with Switzerland at the Olympics. Acquiring Hiller has the potential to turn a team from a pretender into a contender overnight. That can’t be said about very many players that are available this upcoming trade deadline.

There is a risk that he could turn into a rental goaltender and leave at the end of the season, but he could be the difference between a long Stanley Cup run, or a first round exit. His UFA status definitely complicates things, but if a team is willing to pay the price in the offseason, they could start negotiations early with Hiller. It may be in Hiller’s best interests to test the market, though. Goalies of his calibre do not normally reach free agency like he appears to be headed.

Martin Broduer New Jersey DevilsMartin Brodeur

New Jersey Devils

14-11-4, .900 SV%, 2.47 G.A.A, -9.68 GSAA in 29 games

Age: 41

Contract status: $4.5M cap hit. Impending UFA, with a no-trade clause.

Benefits of trading Brodeur:

It really is the end of an era if there is discussion of Martin Brodeur leaving the New Jersey Devils. Cory Schneider was brought in to replace him, and is heavily outplaying him statistically. Marty has repeatedly said it is Cory’s team, but still wants to play. He’s also specified that it doesn’t have to be with New Jersey. He wants one more shot at the cup, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to come with the Devils. They may have no other option except to trade him.

With the forfeiture of their first round draft pick at the upcoming draft, the Devils would like nothing better than to shed the $4.5M worth of cap space that Brodeur occupies, and pick up some draft picks in the process. Although Brodeur would likely net something closer to a 3rd or 4th round draft pick, anything would help. It would be an emotional ending to a long and storied career if would end with a trade, though.

Benefits of acquiring Brodeur:

He may not be at the top of his game, but acquiring the future hall-of-famer would certainly turn some heads. If he does end up getting traded, it will probably be a team with a younger, inexperienced goalie. He could act as a mentor heading into the playoffs, and provide some injury insurance on top of that. Marty would love to go on another long playoff run, even if it is just as the backup on a different team. His experience could prove to be invaluable when the playoffs begin.

Although the $4.5M is steep, the price of acquiring Brodeur would be minimal. At this point in his career, and the uncertainty surrounding his future, he’s only expected to cost a mid-level draft pick or two. There is the very slight chance that he could return for another season with the team he is traded to, but that is not looking likely. If he does return for another season, it will be with a different organization than New Jersey, so this is a way to get a head start on negotiations if that is what the acquiring team has in mind.

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 with the Junior 'A' Hamilton Red Wings, before moving to Vancouver to cover the Canucks on the radio and work with the Surrey Eagles of the BCHL. A lifelong goaltender, he has been teaching the position for over a decade.