Anton Khudobin has been the goalie of record in Carolina’s last 10 games, posting a 7-3-0 record with a save percentage over .930.
“He says he feels good and obviously he’s on a roll,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “He’s given us an opportunity to win hockey games so far when he’s gone into the net.”
So, no story here. Right?
Not so fast.
With the Russian ‘tender set to make it 11 straight appearances tomorrow against Ottawa, the focus is split between Khudobin’s stellar netminding…and questions being asked about the future of Carolina’s crease conundrum.
From the Observer:
Is Khudobin, two years younger than [Cam] Ward, a better long-term solution in goal? And does Ward’s contract, with a $6.3 million salary-cap hit through 2015-16, still make financial sense given his recent history of injuries and inconsistency?
It’s not a decision the Hurricanes have to make now, but it is one they have to start thinking about now. Khudobin will be a free agent this summer, and one of the most sought-after of the bunch if he continues to play like this. The Hurricanes can’t afford to re-sign Khudobin and keep Ward. At the moment, with Ward out, they’ll ride Khudobin as far as he can take them.
We welcomed Ward to the trade rumor mill nine days ago, when his name surfaced as a potential trade target (at the time it involved Edmonton, but the Oilers went in a different direction, jettisoning Devan Dubnyk and acquiring Ben Scrivens.)
Ward is currently on injured reserve with a lower-body ailment, and the 29-year-old former Conn Smythe Trophy winner has struggled this season (6-7-5, .895 save percentage); however, his career .910 save percentage in 450 appearances could garner some interest.
And if Ward does garner interest, one wonders if Carolina will make a move.
The third goalie in all of this, Justin Peters, is also a UFA at season’s end and could be retained as a cost-effective backup, much like what Khudobin is this season on his one-year, $800,000 deal.
It could be the best way for Carolina to get some fiscal freedom under the cap while remaining competitive in goal — but it could also be risky, given Khudobin and Peters lack Ward’s experience and overall resume.