Possible trade options for NHL teams seeking goalies

Possible trade options for NHL teams seeking goalies
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Before the 2022 NHL Draft happened, the NHL free agent goalie market looked like a bit of a ghost town. After Ville Husso and Marc-Andre Fleury got snatched up, it might look like Darcy Kuemper, Jack Campbell, and tumbleweeds.

(OK, that’s an exaggeration; apologies to Braden Holtby and others.)

Also, there’s a chance that Maple Leafs opened up salary cap space needed to bring back Jack Campbell, anyway.

So, while teams like the Maple Leafs, Oilers, Capitals, Devils, and others may end up having a demand for goalies, the free agent market presents limited supplies.

With that in mind, would NHL teams in need of goalies be better off seeking trades instead of free agent signings? After all, that’s what the Avalanche did last offseason when they traded for Darcy Kuemper after losing Philipp Grubauer.

Maple Leafs, Oilers, Wild among those saying different things about goalie trade possibilities

First things first, this post revolves around possible NHL goalie trade targets. That doesn’t mean these goalies are actually available.

Just ask Wild GM Bill Guerin. Advice: if you ask him on TV, you make sure there’s a sufficient delay to bleep out profanities.

Of course, we’ve seen GMs deny interest in trading players, only to quickly do just that. And Guerin’s potty-mouthed vitriol might be more about feeling cornered than totally dismissing the notion of a Cam Talbot trade.

So, the message is straightforward. Take each mention in this post with a grain of salt. Maybe they’re not on the market at all. In the case of the Sharks, they might be playing coy. But GMs such as Kyle Dubas indicate that several teams approached the Maple Leafs about a goalie trade, and they’re at least considering that route.

Let’s roll through some of the most interesting possible NHL goalie trade targets. If you feel that a netminder is missing, feel free to weigh in with a comment.

Pros and cons of potential NHL goalie trade targets

High-risk, high-reward with John Gibson?

For the most part, potential NHL trade targets revolve around goalies who are on short-term deals. Most only have one year left on their contracts.

There’s a push and pull with such investments.

For one thing, even if they “solve” your problem, it could only be a short-term fix. Some may view parting with picks and/or prospects for a goalie as a poor use of resources. On the plus side, goalies are unpredictable, and you limit your risks if that netminder ends up being a bad fit.

[The goalie carousel keeps spinning]

Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson is the bold exception. The 28-year-old is locked down for the sort of term and price that Darcy Kuemper might command: five years left (through 2026-27) and a $6.4M cap hit.

Not that long ago, John Gibson looked like a steal at $6.4M. Although, even around his peak, some doubted him, claiming that he didn’t “work on his craft” and was just collecting a pay check(!).

Possible trade options for NHL teams seeking goalies John Gibson
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If a team decides to trade for John Gibson, they’re likely expecting the John Gibson from a few years ago, who was among the NHL’s best. Lately, his numbers land closer to average.

For years, the Ducks defense ranked from below-average (last season) to flat-out bad (basically since 2017-18). A team who believes in John Gibson would make a trade hoping that he regains his elite status with better support.

It’s not an outrageous assumption to make. Yet, if a team makes a Gibson trade and is wrong, they’re not just out whatever that move cost in picks/prospects/players. That team also is on the hook for a pricey investment for five seasons.

If nothing else, John Gibson is the most interesting option in the possible NHL goalie trade market. In my opinion, he’s deserving of his own section.

Potential goalie trade category “that’s a lot to spend on a backup/platoon option”

Again, some of these goalies truly may not be on the trade market. Bill Guerin was profane about Cam Talbot trade talk, or at least agent meddling. Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello indicated that he may keep Semyon Varlamov, even with Ilya Sorokin emerging as a stealth Vezina candidate in 2021-22.

Still, with each of these options, there’s a natural refrain. “Gee, that’s a lot of money to spend on a backup/platoon option.”

Semyon Varlamov

Varlamov, 34, carries a $5M cap hit that expires after 2022-23. He has a 16-team no-trade list. For much of his career, Varlamov’s put up steady numbers, with a few elite spikes and a few downturns.

During his time with the Avalanche, Varlamov was accused of abusive behavior.

Cam Talbot

Plenty of teams could talk themselves into spending $3.6667M for a 1B goalie, especially since Cam Talbot costs slightly more than Marc-Andre Fleury ($3.5M). Yet, with the Zach Parise + Ryan Suter buyouts starting to swell in price, the Wild need to make every dollar count.

Bill Guerin can bleep away at such talk, but it might make more sense to seek a cheaper backup, and get something for Talbot. Maybe he can even snag a cheap, quality NHL roster player instead of (or in addition to) a pick/prospect?

After serving as an excellent Rangers backup, Talbot enjoyed a strong start and the sharp decline as an Oilers starter. Since joining the Wild, he’s mostly been solid, though not exactly eye-popping behind a stingy Minny defense.

Generally, Talbot ranks among quite a few potential NHL goalie trade targets in seeming steady, if unspectacular. If you really believe in your team, relative reliability could be very appealing. For the most part, Cam Talbot brings that.

Possible trade options for NHL teams seeking goalies Petersen Quick Kings
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Kings goalies Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen

Yes, the Kings are either out of their rebuild, or in its final stages. But it’s still fair to ask if the Kings really want to spend a combined $10.8M on Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen next season.

Quick, 36, is the easiest to move from a transaction standpoint, but possibly challenging from a PR perspective. After all, this is the goalie who won two Stanley Cups with the Kings. Some Kings fans will grumble with a Quick trade, even if he wasn’t better than everyone else’s goalie for the duration of his lengthy contract.

As the 2021-22 season went along, Quick regained the Kings’ starting goalie job from Cal Petersen. Theoretically, the Kings could “sell high” on the veteran goalie. Look at Quick’s numbers and you’ll see that he struggled mightily from 2018-19 to 2020-21 before last season’s solid resurgence.

If the Kings feel antsy, maybe they’d seek a Cal Petersen trade? The 27-year-old carries a $5M cap hit for three more seasons (2024-25). While Quick lacks trade protection, Petersen carries a 10-team no-trade list.

It’s tough to imagine anyone knocking down Rob Blake’s door to trade for Petersen, who’s mostly been steady and isn’t exactly cheap. Los Angeles may opt for that expensive tandem, or may not have much of a choice. The duo’s at least worth mentioning because of that pricey $10.8M combined cost, though.

Other noteworthy possible NHL goalie trade targets

Possible trade options for NHL teams seeking goalies Jake Allen
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Jake Allen

During his first season with the Canadiens, Jake Allen (at least technically) registered as a “that’s a lot of money for a backup” candidate. Ultimately, Allen ended up playing more regular-season games than Carey Price in each of the past two seasons.

Granted, Allen being able to play more often doesn’t mean he’s been playing at a high level.

Through two seasons, Allen’s numbers have been meek in Montreal: 20-32-9 record, .906 save percentage, -3.2 Goals Saved “Above” Average. The 31-year-old generated one truly fantastic season in 2019-20, when he sported a .927 save percentage with the Blues. Other than that, he’s been respectable (.911 career save percentage, -4.2 career GSAA).

If a team targeted Jake Allen in a trade, it would likely boil down to the taste of a front office member, possibly a goalie coach. It’s worth noting that the Canadiens are in an experimental rebuild mode, so maybe it would be easier to trade for Jake Allen than some of these other options.

What if the Habs retained half or portion of his $2.8M cap hit? If Allen goes from slightly overpriced to a budget option, he’d become more interesting.

James Reimer or Kaapo Kähkönen from the Sharks?

It’s fitting that both James Reimer and Antti Raanta have played for the Hurricanes. Both goalies have mixed good (sometimes great) results with bad luck, often related to injuries.

During a 2021-22 Sharks season where almost everything was on fire, James Reimer took away many of San Jose’s reliable goalie excuses. An already-solid .911 save percentage only tells some of the story of Reimer’s sneaky-good season. Consider this heat chart from Hockey Viz, and his 5.9 GSAA (by Hockey Reference’s metric).

Sure, Reimer isn’t perfect, but few goalies check every box. He’s been reliable, and sometimes very good, and the 34-year-old carries a cheap $2.25M cap hit.

He’s also on a Sharks team with a congested goalie situation, one that could give you other options. While Adin Hill doesn’t inspire excitement (although all it takes is one front office to be interested), Kaapo Kähkönen is another interesting Sharks goalie possibility.

Yes, it would be a bit odd if the Sharks traded Kähkönen after acquiring him from the Wild at the trade deadline in March. Still, note that Mike Grier was not Sharks GM when they traded for Kaapo Kähkönen. He might not be as interested in the 25-year-old as others, or the pending RFA’s price tag might not fall in line with Grier’s preferences.

Whereas most of these NHL trade target possibilities revolve around older goalies who present short-term solutions, a team could conceivably find a longer-term fit in Kaapo Kähkönen. He’s even younger than John Gibson, and may end up carrying a cheap “prove it” cap hit. (Or, a team might bet big on his potential with term, hoping he exceeds whatever dollar amount he gains.)

Final thoughts about potential NHL goalie trade targets

Just about any NHL team looking for a goalie via a trade should at least have The John Gibson Conversation. His talent and past achievements warrant discussion. Especially since he’s still in his prime range at 28.

Again, though, that’s a risk. If you’re wrong, the price is steep.

For teams that are more risk-averse (or simply lacking in salary cap space and/or assets to trade), a James Reimer-type option is intriguing. The same goes for Kaapo Kähkönen, if your staff believes in the goalie both in the present and the future.

Considering how shallow the NHL free agent goalie market looks, trades honestly seem like the wiser option. Maybe you’re sorting through “lesser evils,” but with goalies, it might just be best to contain your risks … then hope for the best.

Panthers offer Sarah Nurse deal to lead girls hockey program

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers are trying to sign a high-scoring forward who has an Olympic gold medal and two world championships, with hopes of getting the deal done in the coming days.

If it happens, she won’t be playing for the Panthers.

Sarah Nurse, the Canadian forward who had a highlight-reel goal against the New York Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin during the NHL’s All-Star Skills Competition, has the chance to run the Panthers’ new program designed to get more girls playing hockey.

Florida president Matthew Caldwell offered the job to Nurse publicly – very publicly, at a lectern, with a microphone, before a crowd of onlookers. And he was serious.

“I’m going to embarrass you, but we’re going to offer you a job today,” Caldwell told Nurse, who was seated in the crowd. “We want you to be the face of our girls program at the War Memorial. So, are you in? On the spot? We don’t deal with agents, OK. I’m a tough negotiator.”

The idea to hire Nurse was first floated to Caldwell by Melissa Fitzgerald. She’s the general manager for the War Memorial, which is the two-rink facility being refurbished by the team and will become its practice headquarters.

“We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks,” Caldwell told The Associated Press. “Our youth hockey team kind of brought it up as a joke to me, but I said, `Let’s think big. We’re building this huge facility. Let’s put our money where our mouth is.”‘

The only part Caldwell was less than serious about with Nurse was how the Panthers don’t deal with agents. He spoke with Nurse’s representative, Thomas Houlton, after the event.

Houlton did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He and Caldwell spoke for about 15 minutes after the event, which was attended by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Panthers stars Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk, and dozens of kids who got to play ball hockey afterward.

Nurse played for Canada’s world-champion teams in 2021 and 2022, along with Canada’s Olympic gold winners at the Beijing Games last year.

She was one of five women’s players from USA Hockey and Team Canada – the two most dominant women’s national teams in the world – who were part of the skills events. She wore custom skates highlighting Black History month and the Black Girl Hockey Club, a nonprofit focused on getting more Black girls and women into the sport.

She used a move made famous by Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg when he helped Sweden win gold at the 1994 Olympics against Shesterkin, a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie.

U.S. star Hilary Knight didn’t think Nurse’s goal should have surprised anyone, saying, “she’s a top scorer.”

Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there.

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

WELCOME HOME, LU

Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

Luongo, who was regaled by “Luuuuu” chants from the Florida fans all night, was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

“You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design depicted his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks. They were a gift from CCM for his making the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“I’d never put the pads on since I retired,” Luongo said. “First time I put them on was this week. Felt pretty good.”

He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night. But if there’s more alumni games, Luongo suggested he might jump back into the net.

“It back some good memories tonight to be in the blue paint, hearing the chants,” Luongo said. “Maybe one day we’ll hear them again.”

REMEMBERING JIMMY

Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

ANTHEM POISE

“The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

SLAP SHOTS

Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

“Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.