Mike Smith

Phoenix adds new wrinkle to the NHL goaltending debate

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Tonight in Toronto, it’s the tale of two vastly different goaltending situations.

The Leafs will start rookie Ben Scrivens in goal. He’ll get the nod over third-year pro Jonas Gustavsson, who was originally tabbed to be the starting netminder after sophomore sensation James Reimer got hurt.

The Coyotes, meanwhile, will counter with Mike Smith, a six-year veteran on his third NHL club. He’ll be backed up by Jason LaBarbera, a 31-year-old journeyman.

The two teams are at opposite ends of the goaltending spectrum stylistically…and statistically.

Toronto has the fourth-worst GAA (3.41). Both Scrivens and Gustavsson have save percentages below .900.

Phoenix has the NHL’s 10th-lowest GAA (2.47). Both goalies have solid save percentages — Smith: .931, LaBarbera: .900.

“[Nobody’s] been more important to the club so far this season than Smith,” writes CBC.ca. “Since allowing six goals in the season opener, the netminder’s goals-against average is 1.88.”

Smith’s ascension to a top-flight, No. 1 netminder is the latest in the ongoing debate of how NHL teams should approach the goaltending position. There’s no shortage of opinion on how to do it. Some say find a proven veteran and lock him up long-term. Others suggest grooming a less-expensive (and less-proven) youngster. Some say spend big while others preach frugality. Some say declare a clear-cut No. 1, others opt for the platoon system.

Thing is, Smith’s situation in Phoenix doesn’t really fit into any of those. When the Coyotes signed him to a two-year, $4-million deal back in July he was a run-of-the-mill 29-year-old goalie with marginal starting experience. (At $2 million per, he was being paid exactly like that — either a cheap starter, or a pricey backup.)

The thought was at best he’s a decent 1b to someone else’s 1a; at worst he’s one of the league’s better backups. Many assumed he’d be Phoenix’s starter, but they also assumed Phoenix would have the worst goaltending duo in the league.

Whoops.

Now granted, some of Smith’s success this year is due to Phoenix’s defensive style of play. But looking around the NHL right now — yes, Toronto included — there are more than a few clubs that could probably use Smith at $2 million per:

— The team he left, Tampa Bay, had to yank Dwayne Roloson again last night.

— Columbus’s goaltending woes are well documented.

— New Jersey is still on the lookout for 39-year-old Martin Brodeur’s heir apparent. (And if Smith wasn’t the heir apparent, he could’ve been a useful stopgap considering Brodeur’s backup, Johan Hedberg, is 38.)

It’s still early in the year and hey, Smith’s never played more than 42 games in a single season — this could still go pear-shaped. But for now, Phoenix has added yet another viable option as to how NHL teams should approach the goaltending position.

I’m just not sure how to describe it.

After acquiring Phaneuf, are Sens now gunning for Drouin?

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin waits for play to resume in the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Plenty of smoke coming from the Canadian capital this week.

After landing Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in a shock blockbuster on Tuesday, there are now reports that Ottawa’s in the mix for disgruntled Bolts forward Jonathan Drouin.

Two separate TVA reports — one from Louis Jean, one from Renaud Lavoie — suggest that Sens GM Bryan Murray is working to get Drouin out of Tampa Bay. Drouin, the third overall pick in ’13, hasn’t played hockey at all since late January, when he was suspended without pay for failing to report to games for the club’s AHL affiliate in Syracuse.

The Drouin-to-Ottawa move makes sense on a number of fronts:

— As Lavoie notes, Murray is always looking to “find those players who quote-unquote ‘nobody wants anymore.'” Such was the case with Kyle Turris, who was acquired by the Sens after a falling out with the Coyotes in 2011. Recently, Turris was asked about the similarities between his situation and Drouin’s, saying the time after his trade request was made public was a “tough, tough go,” but that the opportunity he received with the Sens “saved” him.

— The rumored asking price for Drouin is believed to be defenseman Cody Ceci, the former first-round pick that partnered with Phaneuf in last night’s loss to Detroit. This, too, would make sense — Ceci, 22, is in his third professional season and progressing nicely, having already matched his career-best in goals. In several ways, he’s like another rumored target in Drouin trade talks:

Mathew Dumba.

— Dumba, like Ceci, is a pending RFA still on his entry-level deal. That club controlled contract would be important for the Bolts’ financial situation. Ceci could also be a capable replacement for Lightning d-man Jason Garrison, who on Thursday was ruled out for 3-5 weeks with a lower-body injury.

And remember, Murray isn’t afraid to make splashy deals. Prior to the Phaneuf trade, he orchestrated the Bobby Ryan move with Anaheim and, a year later, traded then-captain Jason Spezza to Dallas.

Murray and Yzerman have also connected on a trade once before. In ’13, the Sens sent Ben Bishop to Tampa in exchange for Cory Conacher.

Bolts lose ‘minute-munching defenseman’ Garrison for 3-5 weeks

during Game Two of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 6, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.
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The Tampa Bay Lightning expect defenseman Jason Garrison to miss 3-5 weeks with a lower-body injury.

Garrison was hurt in Monday’s 5-1 loss to Ottawa. The 31-year-old played just 4:10 of that game, missing the final two periods.

“That’s a tough one too, because he’s a big minute-munching defenseman for us,” coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “A big body and size.”

Garrison has just four goals and three assists in 52 games, but he’s third on the Bolts in average ice time (18:23), second in blocked shots (76), and third in hits (69).

Matt Carle replaced Garrison for Tuesday’s 4-2 loss in Montreal.

Kadri fined $5K for throat slash gesture at Giordano

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs
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Nazem Kadri‘s “inappropriate gestures” on Tuesday night have left him lighter in the wallet.

On Thursday, the NHL announced that Kadri has been fined $5,000 — the maximum allowable under the CBA — for making a throat slash gesture at Mark Giordano during Calgary’s 4-3 win over the Leafs two nights ago.

The incident occurred after Kadri took exception to a heavy Giordano check. While on the bench, the Leafs forward made the gesture, one the NHL has been cracking down on since 2000.

Former NHLer Nick Boyton was suspended twice for making the gesture, first in 2006 then again in 2010. He was banned one game for each incident.

Report: Detroit interested in Columbus d-man Tyutin

Fedor Tyutin, Ryan White
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From the Columbus Dispatch:

The Red Wings had much brass in the building on Tuesday to watch the Blue Jackets play the Islanders in Nationwide.

GM Ken Holland was there, along with special assistant to the GM Kris Draper, and pro scout Kirk Maltby.

It’s believed the Red Wings were taking a close look at Fedor Tyutin, who is likely to be dealt by the Feb. 29 trade deadline.

Tyutin, 32, has this and two more years remaining on a six-year, $27 million deal with a $4.5M average annual cap hit. One of the longest-tenured players in Columbus franchise history — he’s spent eight years with the Jackets, and played in both of the teams’ playoff appearances — Tyutin has fallen on hard times this year, and has been made a healthy scratch on a few occasions by head coach John Tortorella.

Unsurprisingly, Tyutin’s numbers are way down. He’s goalless with just two points through 43 games, and is averaging just 17:47 TOI per night — the lowest total of his career.

It’s not surprising Detroit’s kicking the tires on Tyutin. D-men Niklas Kronwall and Mike Green are both out of the lineup with knee and groin injuries and, last night versus Ottawa, Danny DeKeyser took a Dion Phaneuf shot to the knee.