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NHL Trade Bait: The Goalies

The NHL’s Olympic Roster Freeze has now been lifted, and teams have until 3:00 p.m. on March 5th to make their moves before the NHL’s trade deadline.  This is expected to be a very active trade deadline, with a number of high profile players potentially finding themselves in new homes.  Over the next three days, I will look around the league and try to look at some of the top names who could be available.

Today we look at the goaltenders.

NHL Trade Bait: The Goalies

1.) Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
2013-14 Stats: 14-22-3, 2.74 GAA, .923 SV%
Contract Status: $6.25 million cap hit, UFA at the end of this season.  33 years old.

Despite playing on one of the worst teams in the league, Ryan Miller continues to prove his worth as one of the best goalies in the NHL. He would be an instant boost to any team’s playoff chances, as Miller has the ability to steal games. He has incredibly quick legs and is very difficult to beat down low. That said, he has a quick glove and beating him up high isn’t exactly easy either. With the Buffalo Sabres in full rebuild mode, and Miller scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this summer don’t be surprised if he’s moved before the deadline. Rumors have repeatedly linked Miller to the St. Louis Blues.  He’s the type of goaltender who could upgrade nearly any playoff team, though the price the Sabres will likely demand for his services will be high.

Prediction: The deal gets done and Miller goes to St. Louis. He signs an extension with the club.


2.) Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues
2013-14 Stats: 24-8-4, 2.26 GAA, .915 SV%, 4 shutouts.
Contract Status: $3.75 million cap hit, UFA at the end of this season, 28 years old

Halak would likely only be made available if the Blues land Ryan Miller.  Since coming to St. Louis in a 2010 trade with the Montreal Canadiens, he has outstanding stats, and has consistently been amongst the league leaders in goals against average and save percentage, with the exception of last year’s lockout shortened year.  At just 5’10”, Halak isn’t your prototypical big goalie that NHL teams seem to be favoring more and more in recent years, but he has excellent reflexes and technique.  However, some inconsistency, an inability to handle a huge workload, and the fact he has been hurt come playoff time in each of the last two years, has led to some rumours that the Blues are questioning if he is the man to take the team to the next level.  If they do decide to bring in an upgrade, Halak could be flipped to a third team to free up cap space and to recoup some of the assets that will be used in acquiring Miller.  A new team may want a trial run with Halak in order to get a jump on his pending free agency.

Prediction:  Halak lands with the New York Islanders who sign him to an extension before free agency hits.


3.) James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs
2013-14 Stats: 10-6-1, .911 Sv%, 3.25 GAA, 1 Shutout
Contract: $1.8 million cap hit, Restricted Free Agent following the season, 25 years old.

The goaltending controversy in Toronto is over. Jonathan Bernier is now the clear number one netminder, at least in the eyes of head coach Randy Carlyle, and that is all that really matters. With this development, the soon to be restricted free agent Reimer could be put on the market. Reimer did a very good job as the starter for the Leafs last season, and was putting up good numbers again while battling with Bernier at the beginning of this year. However his play has slipped since Bernier started getting the majority of the team’s starts in December. The Leafs do like the depth of having two good goalies, and Reimer is cheap enough cap wise that they could keep him around as a backup, but he could also be an attractive trade piece. If general manager Dave Nonis is able to add another quality skater to his team, or upgrade at a position by moving Reimer, the Leafs shouldn’t be afraid to trade him.

Prediction: Reimer is a member of the Winnipeg Jets next season, but does not move until the NHL draft, or in the summer.


4.) Tim Thomas, Florida Panthers
2013-14 Stats: 15-18-3, 2.80 GAA, .910 Sv%
Contract Status: $2.5 million cap hit, UFA at the End of the Season, 39 Years Old

Tim Thomas has been decent for the Panthers this season. He has come back from his one year sabbatical and proven that he still has a place in the NHL. However, Florida is going nowhere this season, and Tim Thomas is a 39-year-old UFA to be. This has naturally fueled speculation that he could be moved at the trade deadline. He certainly would bring playoff experience, and a Stanley Cup winning resume wherever he goes. At this point, and considering the other goalies available, Thomas would likely be someone’s back up plan. However, with Panthers general manager Dale Tallon saying he might want to explore bringing Thomas back for one more year, we aren’t 100% sure he is moved.

Prediction: Thomas finishes the season with the Washington Capitals, who add him trying to find some extra experience and depth for the Playoffs. He returns to Florida in the summer, and never visits the White House while in Washington.


5.) One-Third of The Anaheim Ducks Three Headed Monster
Jonas Hiller, 25-9-4, 2.34 GAA, .917 SV%, 4 SO
Contract: $4.5 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 32 years old
Viktor Fasth, 2-2-1, 2.95 GAA, .885 SV%, 0 SO
Contract: $2.9 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the 2014-15 season, 30 years old
Frederik Anderson, 14-3-0, 2.06 GAA, .928 SV%, 0 SO
Contract: $925,000 cap hit this year, $1.15 million cap hit next two years, RFA at the end of the 2015-16 season, 24 years old

There has been some speculation that the Ducks would move one of their talented trio of goaltenders in order to improve at another position of need.  However, the options seem limited.  The Ducks are one of the best teams in the NHL, and even though Jonas Hiller can become a free agent this summer, I believe the Ducks need to keep him for their playoff drive.  Fasth hasn’t played that much this season due to injuries (he was recently sent to the AHL on a conditioning stint), his lack of NHL experience may make some question if he is a starter, and his $2.9 million cap hit may make him too expensive for many teams as a backup.  Meanwhile, Anderson is the youngest of the three, and with John Gibson also in the pipeline, trading him to improve their playoff chances is possible.  However, with the uncertainty surrounding Hiller past this year, that is a difficult decision for the Ducks to make.  While I do believe that Anderson is the easiest to move of the three, I can’t see the Ducks trading any of them this season.  Perhaps they wait until the NHL draft, and could move Anderson if an extension with Hiller is reached before that point.

Prediction:  All three goalies remain with the Ducks, for now.


6.) Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
2013-14 NHL Stats: 13-11-4, 2.52 GAA, .899 SV%, 3 SO
Contract Situation: $4.5 million Cap Hit, UFA at the end of the season, 41 years old.

Brodeur has seemed to slow down a little these past two seasons, after taking the Devils to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. Father time has finally caught up to the goalie who holds nearly every significant all-time regular season record for goaltenders. With their trade for Cory Schneider last year, the Devils have also begun to plan for the time when their franchise goaltender of the last two decades is no longer around. Brodeur has said he would be willing to be traded and be the backup for a team going on a playoff run. It would feel weird though seeing him in a different uniform and I’d like to see him be one of those players who spends his entire career with one team, so my prediction might be coloured by my own sentimental thoughts here.

Prediction: Brodeur retires as a New Jersey Devil at the end of the season, taking a position in management, and in three years is elected on the first ballot to the Hockey Hall of Fame.


7.) Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders
2013-14 Stats: 10-12-5, 2.74 GAA, .908 SV%
Contract: $3.25 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the Season, 38 years old.

Given the Islanders position in the standings and the season-ending injury to their best player in John Tavares, it is expected that the Islanders will be unloading as many possible unrestricted free agents as they can for future assets. Given Nabokov’s age, he’s one player they will certainly want to unload, even if they can only get a late round draft pick for the declining netminder. Don’t expect to see Nabokov starting for any team that acquires him, as he surely would only be an insurance policy. With the other goalies on the market I believe he’s a long shot to move, unless someone suffers an injury before March 5th, opening up the market further.

Prediction: Stays with the Islanders til the end of the season. Either goes to the KHL or retires before next season.


8.) Ilya Bryzgalov, Edmonton Oilers
2013-14 Stats: 5-8-4, 3.08 GAA, .907 SV%
Contract Status: $2.266 million cap hit, UFA at the end of the season, 33 years old.

The Edmonton Oilers signed Bryzgalov to a one-year deal early in the NHL season.  When then starter Devan Dubnyk started the season off looking extremely shaky, Bryzgalov was picked up off the scrap heap when no other NHL team was interested in him after he was bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers. Bryzgalov is available as he was never the answer, the Oilers are in the midst of another losing season, and are auditioning Ben Scrivens right now to see if he will be the long term answer in goal. Scrivens is also a potential free agent so the Oilers may look to another goaltending move this summer, but its clear that Bryzgalov is not the long-term answer.  Like Nabokov, Bryzgalov is likely available as depth to any team willing to give up a late round draft pick.

Prediction: Bryzgalov has done nothing to prove he is worthy of a backup spot on a playoff team in his time in Edmonton. He hasn’t been terrible, but he really hasn’t changed many people’s perceptions of him from the summer when he was shunned by the 29 other NHL teams.  I predict Bryzgalov stays with the Oilers, misses the playoffs, and then skips the World Championships as he tries to fulfill his dream of being an astronaut.


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