Petr Mrazek is back for the Hurricanes, which gives Rod Brind’Amour three healthy goaltending options.
The 29-year-old netminder has been out since Jan. 30 with a broken thumb and returned Thursday during a conditioning stint with AHL Chicago. Mrazek stopped 43 shots in the Checkers’ win and was recalled to the NHL squad on Friday.
Joining Mrazek in the Carolina crease now is James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic, the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for March. Options are good, and all three have played well this season. Mrazek and Reimer are unrestricted free agent this summer, while Nedeljkovic is restricted. What should general manager Don Waddell do?
Waddell has already said he may use one as a trade chip, as he told The Athletic’s Sara Civian last week. The lack of cap space with the April 12 trade deadline approaching means dealing a goalie could help improve elsewhere on the roster. The question would then be which netminder might leave town?
Given his age and performance this season, plus pending RFA status, Nedeljkovic is here to stay. Mrazek is four years younger than Reimer and was the team’s No. 1 before his injury. That would leave Reimer as the likely candidate to move to a team eager to add depth in net.
But as we’ve seen this NHL season you can never have too much help in goal, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and players being placed on the protocols list daily. Would Waddell end up preferring to go with depth versus flipping a goaltender to help another area of the lineup, most notably a right-shot defenseman? He’s certainly thought about it.
“I think as you look at the way the schedule is and, hopefully going deep in the playoffs, you’d think you’d want to have three goalies,” Waddell told Civian. “So I think this is a good problem to have, and we’ll find a way to keep three goalies on the roster if we need to.”
The Hurricanes begin an eight-game homestand Saturday against Dallas. Head coach Rod Brind’Amour said he hasn’t made a decision on how he’ll handle the goalie rotation now that all three are healthy.
“[Mrazek] hasn’t really said ‘Hey, I’m 100% ready to play,'” Brind’Amour said. “We’ll wait and see. I think he is, but I want to make sure that I have a good conversation with him, which I haven’t had yet. … We’ll just kind of monitor it as we go.”