On carrying three goalies, and which teams might be forced to do it

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Few things cause more hand-wringing in the goalie world than a team that carries three.

In fact, you rarely see the phrase “carrying three goalies” without the word “comfortable” attached, because most teams are forced to publicly claim they’re OK with a logjam in goal — even though they really aren’t.

Why? Well, having three goalies isn’t beneficial outside of crease insurance: Only two can dress for games and only two can practice at a time, so the third goalie really just wastes a roster spot. But there are, at times, certain circumstances that force an NHL club’s hand — in fact, a few teams currently find themselves in such a position.

VANCOUVER

Goalies: Ryan Miller, Eddie Lack, Jacob Markstrom

The Canucks have written the book on how not to handle goalies (granted, lead author Mike Gillis is now gone), so it’ll be interesting to see what transpires in the wake of new head coach Willie Desjardins saying he was “comfortable” carrying three. Miller is the unquestioned No. 1, a role he inherited from Lack, who briefly held the role after Roberto Luongo was dealt to Florida last season. That starting experience has put Lack, 26, in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 gig… which leaves a bunch of question marks around Markstrom, the once-touted prospect who’s been re-working his game under Canucks goalie guru Rollie Melanson.

Here’s more, from The Province:

The Canucks are currently carrying three goalies because they’re not sure what’s the best Markstrom option.

Trying to move the stopper and his expiring $1.4-million-US one-way contract ($1.2-million cap hit) to the minors means avoiding a waiver claim. Trying to trade him means Joacim Eriksson and Joe Cannata suddenly move up the ladder if injury strikes.

And how do you gauge the trade return on a goalie that the Florida Panthers gave up on, despite the work coach Rollie Melanson has done to make Markstrom’s game more NHL-ready? Imagine keeping three goalies here.

Further confusing things? It’s unclear what Markstrom’s really worth an as asset. Despite possessing tremendous size (6-foot-6) and pedigree (the 31st overall pick in 2008), he didn’t just fall out of favor in Florida — he plummeted.

“The Panthers were really not impressed with him. I mean, they really thought that he nosedived as a prospect,” ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun said, per TSN 1040 Radio. “And it’s why they were more than happy to include him in [the Luongo] deal.”

MONTREAL

Goalies: Carey Price, Peter Budaj, Dustin Tokarski

The real question here is who’ll be Price’s backup — Budaj, the 10-year veteran with nearly 300 games under his belt, or Tokarski, who performed admirably in the Eastern Conference Final after getting thrown into a near-impossible situation? (A starting gig he got ahead of Budaj, remember.)

According to GM Marc Bergevin, Montreal might wait a while before making that decision. From TSN:

“That’s why you have training camp and we’ll see what happens,” [Bergevin said]. “We have depth in that position now.”

So much depth in fact that since either [Budaj or Tokarski] would have to clear waivers to be sent down to the minors, dealing one of them or even beginning the year with both backups on the roster are both in the realm of possibility.

“If we feel one guy is really ahead of the other guy, we will make a decision. Maybe a trade might be a possibility, but at the end of the day, also starting with three goalies might be a possibility. I leave it open, but again, I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out during training camp.”

Money could play a role here. Budaj isn’t expensive, but will make $1.4 million this season — Tokarski, meanwhile, carries a $562,500 cap hit.

MINNESOTA

Goalies: Niklas Backstrom, Darcy Kuemper, Josh Harding, Ilya Bryzgalov

The Wild’s situation has been downgraded from “the entire building is on fire” to “there’s smoke coming out of that garbage can,” but still remains a problem. Harding’s suspended after breaking his foot by (allegedly) kicking a wall; Kuemper returned to the club after (acrimoniously) hammering out a new deal; Backstrom’s healthy (at least at the time of writing) and looks to be the No. 1 while Bryzgalov (amazingly) is back in the mix on a PTO.

The easiest (and simplest) solution here would be to part ways with Bryzgalov after training camp and roll with a Backstrom-Kuemper combo until Harding’s foot is healed. But that, of course, would require a tremendous amount of faith in Backstrom being able to stay healthy — which has been a problem — and an equal amount of faith in Kuemper being able to carry No. 1 duties should Backstrom get hurt. The Wild might be best served to keep Bryzgalov around as an insurance policy, though it’d be a costly one both in terms of salary and the tied-up roster spot.

Devils trade Blake Coleman to Lightning for Foote, first-round pick

Blake Coleman Trade
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The for sale sign is officially up for the New Jersey Devils.

The team completed its second trade of the day on Sunday evening when it sent forward Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for prospect Nolan Foote and a conditional 2020 first-round draft pick that previously belonged to the Vancouver Canucks.

The Lightning originally acquired that pick from the Canucks over the summer in the J.T. Miller trade. If the Canucks fail to make the playoffs this season, they will hold on to the 2020 first-round pick and the Devils will then receive the Canucks’ 2021 first-round pick.

Just hours before sending Coleman to the Lightning, the Devils traded captain Andy Greene to the New York Islanders for David Quenneville and a second-round draft pick.

It’s a little surprising to see the Devils part with Coleman because he is one of their best players and is signed for one more season at a bargain salary cap hit of just $1.8 million. He is an excellent penalty killer and proven 20-goal scorer in the league. He is currently on track for 30 goals this season.

The only reason they were willing to part with him now: The Lightning were willing to pay a fairly steep price to get him. Along with the conditional first-round draft pick that belongs to Vancouver, the Devils are also getting Foote, the Lightning’s 2019 first-round draft pick (No. 27 overall). He is currently playing for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League and is now going to be counted on to be part of the Devils’ future alongside recent top picks Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes.

The Devils could now be in a position to have three first-round draft picks this season. Along with their own, they also have a top-three protected pick from the Arizona Coyotes (Taylor Hall trade) and also the conditional pick from the Canucks.

As for the Lightning, this is a pretty big addition and makes an already dominant team that much deeper and stronger. They are already riding a 10-game winning streak entering the week.

Coleman is now one of five players on the Lightning (Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, and Brayden Point) to already have 20 goals this season. Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat could eventually get there as well.

Related: Islanders acquire Devils captain Andy Greene

Brothers from the Congo flourishing on the ice

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NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America this Sunday with an NHL tripleheader on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S.

Over 10 years ago Steve and Molly Seidl of Stillwater, Minnesota, adopted two brothers, Sawyer and Simon, from an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

At the time, they were three and five years old, and after settling in their new home the two brothers began to play hockey, garnering attention with skills few would have anticipated.

While this hockey family has dealt with some unwelcome attention due to the color of Sawyer and Simon’s skin, that has not affected their passion and love for the game.

In fact, it has motivated them to push forward. The brothers hope to be an example for others, removing labels and barriers to allow everyone an opportunity to play.

Now 13 and 15 years old, they are dominating their age groups and playing in youth tournaments all over the world.

You can check out their story in the video above.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Blues-Ducks game rescheduled for March 11; Blues-Panthers game also moved

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The NHL announced on Sunday that the postponed game between the St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks from this past week has been rescheduled for March 11 in Anaheim.

That game was initially postponed just seven minutes into the first period when veteran Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester collapsed on the team’s bench due to a cardiac episode.

The two teams will replay the full 60 minutes, but the game will begin with a 1-1 score, which was the score at the time of the postponement.

As a result of this rescheduling, the NHL also announced that the Blues game against the Florida Panthers, originally scheduled for March 10, will now be played on March 9 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bruins hold off Rangers, improve lead atop Atlantic, NHL

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The Bruins and Rangers both came into Sunday playing good hockey. It makes sense, then, that Boston needed to work hard to beat the Rangers 3-1. By persevering, the Bruins improved their lead over Tampa Bay for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, and thus the entire NHL.

Charlie McAvoy opened the scoring with a strange goal. Charlie Coyle collected a shorthanded game-winner, while Mika Zibanejad scored New York’s lone goal. Patrice Bergeron iced the win with a remarkably fancy empty-netter.

Jaroslav Halak continues to be a strong backup for the Bruins, stopping 25 out of 26 shots. Alexandar Georgiev took the loss for New York, allowing two goals on 33 SOG. It was likely a frustrating game for Chris Kreider, who didn’t score despite four SOG and suffered a -4 rating.

Bruins – Rangers special teams battle

New York’s power play failures told the early part of the story.

Through the first two periods, the Rangers man advantage went 0-for-4. That number only tells part of the story, really. New York squandered a four-minute power play after Ryan Lindgren was bloodied by a high stick. Coyle dug the knife in deeper with that shorthanded goal later in the middle frame.

This Rangers team boasts some dangerous scorers, though, and Mika Zibanejad made that clear by breaking through. Zibanejad scored a power-play tally to tighten things up, with assists from usual suspects Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome.

Bruins bolster Atlantic lead, Rangers see streak ended

Again, these two teams had been playing well lately.

Boston clearly hears the footsteps of the hard-charging Lightning. The Bruins extended their winning streak to three games, and have won nine of their last 10 games (9-1-0). This updated look at that battle for the top spot in the Atlantic reminds that this was a valuable, hard-fought win for the B’s:

Bruins: 86 points in 60 games played
Lightning: 83 points in 59 GP

The Bruins fattened their lead in the Atlantic, which also ranks as the current Presidents’ Trophy race. Of course, the Lightning can slim that right back down to one point with by winning their game in hand.

Meanwhile, the Rangers suffered a painful blow to their shaky playoff hopes, falling to 64 points in 58 GP. This loss ended the Rangers’ season-long four-game winning streak; it’s also merely the Rangers’ third loss in 10 games (7-3-0).

NBCSN Hockey Day in America remaining schedule

Blues at Predators – NBCSN –  6 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Chris Cuthbert will call the action from Bridgestone Arena alongside Darren Pang.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.