The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, April 12 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be moved by then. We continue today with Florida Panthers goalie Chris Driedger.
The Florida Panthers are one of the major surprises for the 2020-21 NHL season, steamrolling toward a playoff spot and hanging around in the race for the top spot in the Central Division.
Their two All-Star building blocks (Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau) are having great years again, while they are finally getting some support around them thanks to the shrewd offseason pickups of Carter Verhaeghe, Patric Hornqvist, and Anthony Duclair.
It is a good team, and while the injury to defenseman Aaron Ekblad is significant, there is reason for optimism with this group.
But while the Panthers should be in the market to add, especially on defense in the absence of Ekblad, the most trade chatter surrounding the team seems to involve them potentially moving goalie Chris Driedger.
With Sergei Bobrovsky signed for the next six years at $10 million per year, and 2019 first-round draft pick Spencer Knight recently signing his first pro contract, it is assumed that Driedger will be the odd-man out. Especially as he will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season. In theory, it would make some sense to move him. But it really is not that simple because the big elephant in the room here is that Driedger has been the most productive goalie on the roster for two years now.
In 16 games this season Driedger has a .927 save percentage, which comes after his .938 mark in 12 games a year ago. Sure, those are extremely small sample sizes, but he has outplayed the big-money goalie (Bobrovsky) and the prized prospect (Knight) is a complete unknown.
Going into the playoffs with only Bobrovsky (whose play has not matched his contract in two years and has a history of postseason struggles) and a completely unproven rookie as your goalie options seems risky. Why willingly give up a pretty good safety net that might actually be your best goalie?
What a trade might look like
… Driedger probably has more value to the Panthers as a player than he does as a trade asset.
Goalies in general tend to bring back smaller trade returns, and there are not really a ton of teams that would seem to be realistic trade partners. So that alone is going to make the return smaller. Add in the fact that Driedger is 26 years old, only has 31 games on his NHL resume, and is an unrestricted free agent after this season you are probably only looking at a mid-round pick or something similar as the basis for a trade.
The only thing that would make sense is you can find a way to make a “hockey trade” and get a comparable defender back in return to help replace Ekblad.
The most logical landing spots: Edmonton, St. Louis
Here is a “let’s throw some ideas at the wall and see what sticks” suggestion: The Blues have some major concerns in goals. They have seemingly been trying to trade Vince Dunn for more than a year now. The Panthers need a puck-moving defenseman with Ekblad sidelined.
Is there a package here centered around Dunn and Driedger that works for both teams?
Wild Card team: Washington
For the same reason that I could see them kicking the tires on Jonathan Bernier. They have an outstanding team that should be competing for the Stanley Cup. But will they get enough from Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek? They have been adequate this season. Not great. Not bad. Just fine. How much do you trust that unproven duo in the playoffs?
Team I want to see just for fun: Colorado
Philipp Grubauer has been great this season, but he has had to take on a significant workload due to the backup situation behind him. Pavel Francouz has not played this season, while the duo of Jonas Johansson and Hunter Miska has only appeared in seven games, winning just two of them. Those two have combined for a sub-.890 save percentage this season, with Miska currently owning an .838 mark in his five appearances. The Avalanche have every possible ingredient you want to see in a Stanley Cup contender, so a little extra goalie depth would be nice to have.
NHL Trade Deadline Prediction
He stays right where he is in Florida. It is simply the most logical conclusion. Unless the Panthers can get a defenseman back in return it makes far more sense to keep a really productive goalie on the roster going into the playoffs when you are not entirely sure if you have another one to replace him. Especially when you might still be able to move his free agent rights for a late-round pick after the season. Keep the goalie.