There’s been no shortage of trade chatter this season in the NHL. Big names like Buffalo Sabres power forward Evander Kane, Ottawa Senators speedster Mike Hoffman and Arizona Coyotes star Oliver Ekman-Larsson have grabbed most of the headlines this season, but what about the goalies?
Big name, starting goaltenders are rarely moved at the trade deadline, but you can bet that at least a few goalies will be on the move this time around. In his latest article for The Hockey News, Jarden Clinton breaks down all of the crease options available to GM’s at this year’s deadline and the selection is surprisingly appealing.
Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta tops the list of available starters and should be considered a top target for teams looking for capable goaltending. The 28-year-old Finn was a fantastic backup with the New York Rangers last season and earned himself a starting role with the Coyotes this season. Raanta hasn’t been the saviour that the Coyotes had hoped for when the acquired him from the Ranger in a blockbuster deal that also saw them acquire Derek Stepan, but he has been solid. His .915 save percentage and 2.68 GAA are both league average on a team that is very much below average. He’ll generate some trade interest, no doubt.
Looking for a rental? How about Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner? The giant Swede has had another inconsistent season with the inconsistent Sabres, going 9-18-6 with a ghastly 3.06 GAA and .907 save percentage. Yikes. Thankfully, he’s not entirely to blame. The Sabres’ defense has been an unmitigated disaster this season and Lehner could benefit from a change of scenery. The 26-year-old is on an expiring contract and will become a restricted free-agent this offseason, meaning that any team who elects to trade for him will retain his rights this offseason.
In the same category as Lehner is Detroit Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek. Also set to become a restricted free-agent this offseason, the 25-year-old is in desperate need of a change of scenery. Once thought to be the solution to the Wing’s future in goal, Mrazek has slid the past two season to the point where Wings fans don’t even know whether or not he’ll be welcomed back to the club this offseason. He’s been dreadful this season with a 3.43 GAA and .894 save percentage in just 13 games, but has put up impressive numbers earlier in his career. Could a fresh start be the kick start that he needs?
Looking for a true veteran rental? How about Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward? The Stanley Cup winning veteran is on an expiring contract and is set to hit unrestricted free-agency this summer. The Hurricanes, rightly or wrongly, have put all their stock into Scott Darling as the team’s starter, leaving the door open for Ward’s departure. He could be a great fit as a backup for a young starter like Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Matt Murray or Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.
While it remains to be seen if any of these goaltenders get moved before the deadline, it’s plain to see that NHL GM’s will have options on the open market. It never hurts to have more than one or even two capable starters in your stable, especially if you plan on making a deep Stanley Cup playoff run. Just look at the success the Penguins have had in back to back years running a Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury tandem. Who’s next?
Report: Nearly a dozen teams pursuing Kane
For the majority of the 2017-18 season there’s been just one name at the top of NHL trade lists: Evander Kane. All indications are that the Sabres are open to trading the 26-year-old power forward, but they won’t give him away for free. The asking price is steep. As in, a roster player, a prospect and a 1st round pick. Ouch.
Regardless of how you feel about Kane the person, Kane the hockey player is red hot this season and could help almost any team in the league. Kane has 16 goals and 36 points in 46 games this season, on a underperforming Sabres squad. With Kane’s six-year, $31.5 million contract set to expire this upcoming offseason, he’ll hit unrestricted free-agency for the first time in his career. Where he winds up at that point is anyone’s guess, but in the meantime there’s no shortage of suitors lining up to acquire him prior to the NHL’s February 26th trade deadline.
According to Michael Pagnotta and The Fourth Period, Kane is drawing interest from the following teams:
St Louis BluesAnaheim Ducks
Boston BruinsSan Jose Sharks
Nashville PredatorsNew York Islanders
Vegas Golden KnightsTampa Bay Lightning
Pittsburgh PenguinsNew Jersey Devils
Los Angeles Kings
Wow… that’s nearly a DOZEN teams. There’s lots to unpack here, so let’s take a look at some potential trade packages.
In terms of which teams have the pieces necessary to make a deal, the Ducks, Bruins, Blues, Knights and Sharks look to be in the best shape, both in terms of tradeable assets and salary cap space.
The Ducks have two expendable assets in Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase up front with junior sensation Sam Steel waiting in the wings. All things considered, Kane just seems like a perfect fit with the Ducks, doesn’t he?
The Bruins have a trio of young forwards in Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Zach Senyshyn. The problem in Beantown is their lack of capspace. GM Don Sweeney will need to get creative if he wants to get serious on acquiring Kane.
Blues GM Doug Armstrong is reportedly aggressively pursuing trades right now, with Kane being his biggest target. Could they move prized prospect Klim Kostin in a deal for Kane? Or how about World Junior Championship star Jordan Kyrou?
Thanks to a fantasy 2017 NHL Entry Draft showing from GM George McPhee, the Golden Knights are well positioned to make a move at the deadline, even if no one predicted that they’d be deadline buyers. The team’s top three picks of Erik Brannstrom, Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki could all be appealing to a young, rebuilding team like the Sabres.
Finally, the Sharks boast several young forwards who could interest Sabres GM Jason Botterill, as well. Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc have both played big minutes in San Jose this season and look to be good, promising young players. On the back end, Dylan DeMelo and Joakim Ryan have pushed out veteran Paul Martin.
While there’s no surefire way of predicting where Kane will end up, it’s a safe bet to assume that he’ll have a new home come February 26th. The Sabres simply cannot afford to lose him for nothing and with such high interest on the trade market, he’s as good as gone. But where will he end up? And what will the return package be? Time will tell.