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You can probably add Craig Anderson’s name to the available goalie market

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After jettisoning Mike Hoffman earlier this week the Ottawa Senators may have a few more significant trades coming their way this offseason.

The big names at the top of that list include defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Zack Smith.

Another name that could be on the way out of town: Starting goalie Craig Anderson, a potential move that only adds to a suddenly increasing goalie market.

Earlier on Friday there were multiple reports that the Senators were working with Anderson to facilitate a trade. TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported the team was working with Anderson’s agent to find the veteran goalie a new home, while The Athletic’s Chris Stevenson reported that Anderson had expressed a desire to move on. Meanwhile, Anderson’s agent told Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun that “Ottawa has never asked for me help. They’re going to do whatever they can to improve their team. If that means they’ll trade Craig Anderson, they’ll trade Craig Anderson.”

So there is all of that.

While the unrestricted free agent market for potential starting goalies looked thin at the start of the season the goalie market has improved quite a bit over the past few days.

First, it seems quite likely that the Washington Capitals are going to trade Philipp Grubauer as he attempts to get out of Braden Holtby‘s shadow and become a starter. The Capitals are expecting to get a late first or early second round draft pick. He might be the most intriguing option available given his age and the fact he has played exceptionally well when given an opportunity with the Capitals.

Robin Lehner is also going to be available after the Buffalo Sabres confirmed that they will not be giving him a restricted free agent qualifying offer, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. Lehner is coming off of a down year for the Sabres in 2017-18 but was one of the few bright spots for the team in 2015-16 and 2016-17 with a .922 save percentage in 80 appearances. He turns 27 later this summer and would not cost any assets to acquire in a trade.

[Related: Time for the Sabres to upgrade in goal]

And then there is Anderson. For most of his career Anderson has been one of the more productive starting goalies in the league and has pretty consistently posted strong numbers. But like most of the Senators he is coming off of a brutal 2017-18 performance and will be 37 years old at the start of the season, making him the third oldest goalie in the league behind only Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Miller. He also is signed for two more years at more than $4 million per season. Along with the assets a team would have to give up in a trade (probably not a lot) that is a big price to commit to a goalie that has probably already played his best hockey.

Still, there are some options. And there are a lot of teams that will be in the market for a goalie — probably more than we are used to seeing at this time of year.

The New York Islanders should be desperate to fix their goalie situation and have a connection to Grubauer with Trotz taking over as their new head coach.

The Sabres, by letting Lehner hit the open market, will also be in need of a new starter unless they really trust Linus Ullmark, which doesn’t seem likely.

The Senators, assuming they trade Anderson, would also need a new goaltender and you can’t count out the Philadelphia Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, or Detroit Red Wings. The Chicago Blackhawks could also be in play for one of these guys if Corey Crawford — a player we still have no official update on —  isn’t ready to return for the start of the season.

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.

Time for Sabres to upgrade in goal

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Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill confirmed that the team will not give starting netminder Robin Lehner a qualifying offer, which means he’ll be a free agent on July 1st. That means there’s an opening for a new number one goalie in Buffalo.

Lehner hasn’t had much to work with since he joined the Sabres, but he’s had plenty of issues with consistency and staying healthy. Again, the inconsistency isn’t all on him because the players in front of him haven’t been good enough. Still, his tenure in Buffalo didn’t go as planned.

The Sabres have a franchise center in Jack Eichel and they’re about to land a franchise defenseman in Rasmus Dahlin, so it’s time they land a goalie that can help push them in the right direction. What are their options?

Last season, the team gave 24-year-old Linus Ullmark a look between the pipes, and he did relatively well over five games. Ullmark will likely be one of the two goaltenders in Buffalo in 2018-19.

For those hoping Botterill will dip his toe in the free-agent pool, you may be disappointed. There’s no number one goalie available this year. Top options include: Kari Lehtonen, Jaroslav Halak, Cam Ward, Jonathan Bernier and Carter Hutton.

Could one of those veterans be paired with Ullmark? Sure, but how much confidence would that give this Buffalo team. Hutton has been one of the better backup goalies in the league over the last couple of years. That would likely be the best free-agent fit for the Sabres. Management might be able to land him if they can sell the idea of him playing quite a bit more than he’s used to.

Hutton could be an option.

The only other way to land a goalie right now is by trading for one.

There’s Philipp Grubauer, who’s currently a Washington Capital. Acquiring Grubauer would cost the Sabres an asset, but he could still be worth looking into if they believe he’s capable of playing at the same level he did in the second half of the season. The 26-year-old has never played more than 35 games in a season, so making him a starter won’t come without risk. At this point though, there are no slam-dunk number one goalies available, so GM Jason Botterill will have to roll the dice on somebody.

If they want someone a little more proven, they have to think outside the box. Would they be willing to take a risk on Cam Talbot in Edmonton? There have been rumblings that he’s available. Sure, he’s coming off a down year, but he was outstanding two seasons ago. He’s scheduled to become a free agent in 2019 and the Oilers might not be willing to pay a 30-year-old netminder the type of money he may command.

Now this is a really “outside the box” kind of idea, but would the Predators be willing to move one of their goalies? Pekka Rinne, who just won the Vezina Trophy, has one year left on his contract and he struggled pretty badly in the playoffs. Juuse Saros, who’s the goalie of the future, is an RFA and he’ll be getting a raise this summer. Nashville doesn’t have to do anything with their goaltenders this year, so this is very unlikely, but it’s just something to think about.

Another veteran option could Sens netminder Craig Anderson, who is available, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli.

No matter how they do it, the Sabres have to find a way to upgrade the roster as a whole, but specifically in goal. They don’t have to find a franchise netminder like a Braden Holtby or a Carey Price, but they need to get better at that position if they’re going to come close to making the playoffs one of these days.

It’s up to Botterill to figure out how he wants to do that.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Trading Jeff Skinner would likely haunt Hurricanes

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The Carolina Hurricanes need to score more goals. You know what’s a bad way to do that? By trading away their best sniper.

More than a few rumors are swirling that the Hurricanes are shopping Jeff Skinner, a winger who easily leads Carolina in goals (89 versus 55 in second place) and points (163, with second coming in at 139) since 2015-16. Elliotte Friedman mentioned growing interest in Skinner in May 11’s “31 Thoughts” while Bob McKenzie opined that Skinner’s “days are numbered” during a recent podcast (or … Bobcast).

Let’s go over all of the reasons why this is a bad idea and an inopportune time to trade Skinner.

Not selling high

OK, it’s probably a stretch to say that the Hurricanes would be “selling low” on Skinner, but they wouldn’t be doing so during a moment of strength, either.

On one hand, Skinner – a player with past concussion problems – played a full 82 games in 2017-18. Skinner’s 24 goals ranked second to rising star Sebastian Aho, who potted 29. Skinner’s typically solid possession stats were even better than usual last season.

Still, if the Hurricanes must trade Skinner (a possibility at some point, as his $5.75 million cap hit expires after next season), they should wait. Skinner’s 8.7 shooting percentage was his lowest success rate since 2014-15, so rival GMs might view him as a less “sexy” option right now, as opposed to 2016-17, when he scored a career-high 37 goals and 63 points with a 13.7 shooting percentage, second only to his 14.4 percent mark from that memorable Calder-winning campaign in 2010-11.

The point is that recent history frowns upon trading players who were riding poor puck luck.

The Oilers didn’t get optimal value for Jordan Eberle. Reilly Smith was comically traded after his three seasons when his shooting percentage was under 10 (all in odd years).

At this moment, trading from a position of strength (defense) to improve a weakness (offense) makes sense for the Hurricanes, although there’s a challenge in getting that right. It’s tough to imagine Carolina enjoying the better end of a Skinner trade, especially in the immediate future.

Why rush this decision, particularly after a risky off-season of front office changes? Especially considering …

What a difference a year makes

It’s easy to forget how drastically an NHL team’s fortunes can change. Hot and cold streaks with goalies often explain why, too.

Last summer, the Winnipeg Jets seemed a lot like the Hurricanes: a team loaded with talent that couldn’t get over the hump, in part because of poor goaltending. The Senators and Oilers both saw flip-flopping seasons because of a number of factors, including stark contrasts between the good and bad for Craig Anderson and Cam Talbot respectively.

One could conceive of a situation where the Hurricanes look downright competitive if everything stayed the same and they merely improved in net, whether that means a rebound from Scott Darling or some other goalie coming in and pulling a Connor Hellebuyck.

This isn’t just about stopping pucks. Carolina wasn’t so great at scoring against goalies either in 2017-18, finishing ninth-to-last in the NHL with 225 goals. Skinner scored 24 of those, so would it really be wise to trade away essentially 10 percent of your tallies?

Hurricanes GM Don Waddell should take caution, as Skinner seems like he’d be part of the solution: a reliable scorer who can skate like few other players and who’s still in his prime at 26. The Hurricanes could regret trading Skinner as they battled in the playoff bubble, much like the Panthers missed Reilly Smith and/or Jonathan Marchessault.

And, if this team continues to flounder, you’d still likely be able to land a princely sum for Skinner during a mid-season or trade deadline move. Forcing a trade for the sake of making changes now seems almost certain to backfire, unless the Hurricanes convince a team to send a superstar their way. Somehow.

***

Look, it’s plausible that someone will make the Hurricanes an offer they can’t refuse. Stranger things have happened.

Red flags wave over such rumblings when you consider how often teams regret trading a player when his shooting percentage has cooled, and sports/hockey history is bursting with examples of teams getting quarters on the dollar when they trade their better players.

It’s possible that the Hurricanes shouldn’t trade Skinner, period. Either way, this seems like a really risky time to make such a move.

I mean, unless Waddell wants to take some heat off of Dale Tallon, Peter Chiarelli, Marc Bergevin, and other GMs who’ve made trades that keep Hockey Twitter giggling into the night.

MORE:
• Conference Finals schedule, TV info
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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.

The Buzzer: Kucherov hits 100, Berglund scores 3, another crazy Crosby goal

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Player of the Night: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

It was a big night for Kucherov and the Lightning. Their 7-5 win over the Buffalo Sabres helped them get one step closer to winning the Atlantic Division and claiming the No. 1 overall seed in the Eastern Conference, and with a pair of points Kucherov became the second player in the NHL this season to hit the 100-point mark. The 100-point scorer had pretty much disappeared from the league in recent years but with offense seeing a slight increase in the league this season Kucherov and Connor McDavid were both able to hit the century mark this season.

Since the start of the 2011-12 season there have only been seven 100-point seasons in the NHL: Two for McDavid, one for Patrick Kane, one for Sidney Crosby, one for Evgeni Malkin, one for Daniel Sedin, and now one for Kucherov.

2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Schedule, Bracket, Streams and More

This is the first time since the 2009-10 season that the NHL has had more than one 100-point scorer in a season.

The Lightning now have 112 points on the season heading into the regular season finale on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes.

If the Lightning win, they will win the division and get the top seed in the East. If they lose they will need to get some help and hope the Bruins (who play twice this weekend) do not pass them in the standings.

Player of the Night Part 2: Patrik Berglund, St. Louis Blues

Thanks to their 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night all the St. Louis Blues have to do on Saturday is collect one point against the Colorado Avalanche in order to clinch a playoff spot. A regulation loss knocks them out. The fact they are even in that position is remarkable when you think back to the NHL trade deadline when they were stuck in a terrible losing streak and had traded one of their top players, veteran forward Paul Stastny.

The star of the night for the Blues on Friday was Patrik Berglund for scoring three goals, including the game-winner just 12 seconds after the Blackhawks had tied the game at one.

It was a pretty slick goal, too.

Highlight of the Night

Sidney Crosby doesn’t score normal goals anymore. After scoring a couple of goals where he batted the puck out of mid-air, he was back to scoring goals from his office on Friday night. By office, I mean from four feet behind the goal line. Here he is intentionally shooting the puck off of Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson for his 29th goal of the season. Crosby does this at least two or three times a year. It is 100 percent intentional.

The Penguins were 4-0 winners on Friday night and secured the No. 2 seed in the Metropolitan Division which means home-ice advantage in the first-round. They now await their first-round opponent which could be either the Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers, or New Jersey Devils. By finishing in second place in the division it is guaranteed they will not play the Washington Capitals in the first round.

Ducks inch closer to home ice

The Anaheim Ducks kept rolling on Friday night with a 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars and are now just one point back of the San Jose Sharks for second place in the Pacific Division. You can read about their win on Friday night here.

Factoid of the Night

It is another tough year for the Buffalo Sabres, but at least their 7-5 loss on Friday night had a bright spot.

Scores

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Ottawa Senators 0

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Buffalo Sabres 5

St. Louis Blues 4, Chicago Blackhawks 1

Anaheim Ducks 5, Dallas Stars 3

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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.

Canadian NHL teams, Craig Anderson continue odd pattern

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Look, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but it’s kind of getting weird for Canadian NHL teams and Craig Anderson.

Consider this: both Anderson and Canadian NHL teams seem to flip-flop seasons in parallel. One year, Anderson is downright elite and most Canadian NHL squads make the playoffs. The other year, Anderson is average-or-worst and barely any Canadian NHL teams see the postseason.

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

As the go-to guy for the Ottawa Senators, it makes sense that they’d go as Anderson goes, but this flip-flopping is otherwise quite weird. It’s something PHT touched on heading into 2016-17, and that’s continued on.

2010-11 with Colorado: Lousy .897 save percentage
2010-11 with Ottawa: Fantastic .939 save percentage

2011-12: .914 save percentage
2012-13: .941 save percentage
2013-14: .911 save percentage
2014-15: .923 save percentage
2015-16: .916 save percentage
Last season: .926 save percentage despite personal turmoil, helped Senators get to 2017 Eastern Conference Final.
This season: .899 save percentage in 54 games, Senators primed to finish with strong draft lottery odds.

With the Canucks, Canadiens, Oilers, Flames, and Anderson’s Senators already mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, the Jets and Maple Leafs are slated to be the only Canadian NHL teams who will make the postseason. Considering the moves Calgary made, the run Ottawa managed, the overall hype around Edmonton, and Montreal’s hopes of bouncing back, there are quite a few surprises among the Canadian teams that fell short.

[Tank Watch]

Then again, a pattern is forming here, too. Consider this flip-flopping run of Canadian teams making the playoffs:

2011-12: two teams
2012-13: four
2013-14: one (Canadiens)
2014-15: five
2015-16: zero
2016-17: five
2017-18: two

That’s a bit weird, eh?

There’s some reason to believe that the flip-flopping might continue next season, too.

Granted, Anderson is turning 37 in May, so it might be difficult for him to follow up an abysmal season with an elite year. Then again, the goalie seems to thrive when the odds are the longest. If nothing else, it’s easy to picture Anderson at least approaching his career average save percentage of .915.

An upswing in Canadian NHL teams in 2018-19 is easy to see.

[Playoff Push]

For one thing, the Jets and Maple Leafs both roll out deep, young rosters that should give them a very strong chance to return to the playoffs. The Canadiens have suffered through a lousy season, yet a rebound isn’t tough to picture, especially from Carey Price. The Oilers have their problems, but they also have consecutive 100-point producer Connor McDavid. Improvements may be even more likely if the teams make shrewd changes during the summer, whether that means front office renovations or smart additions via trades and free agency.

The Senators have their own issues, but let’s not forget that they really aren’t that far removed from being an overtime goal from a trip to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Anderson could be good-to-great in 2018-19, and Erik Karlsson could be awfully driven if he stays around and plays through his contract year.

So, what do you think? Will these patterns continue? Could rebounds be in order for Anderson and those teams? Don’t flip-flop on this one.

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.