The goaltending position is arguably the most crucial position in all of hockey, but when it comes to the draft it usually takes a back seat. Due to the fact that goalies aren’t generally taken in the first round, and the fact it takes far longer to see any of them get to the NHL, there just isn’t a pressing need to talk about them when other headlines can be focused on.
Count the 2015 draft as one of the few drafts where the goaltender position wouldn’t go quietly into the night. All though a single goalie was drafted in the first (Ilya Samsonov), the position was still able to stay in the spotlight and in all, seven NHL netminders ended up with new teams by the end of the weekend.
Heading into the draft, there was plenty of talk of several goalies possible on the move, and just about every one of the rumored players that was likely going to get moved ended up doing so.
It all got started with the Buffalo Sabres, who after a rough season last year (to say the least) were looking to turn their fortunes around with the drafting of Jack Eichel. To help with their turnaround, they added young goalie Robin Lehner from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for their second first round draft pick – 21st overall.
Goalie Trades Headline Draft Weekend
Lehner was once one of the more prized goalie prospects in the NHL, but has been unable to find his footing at the NHL level. Splitting time with Craig Anderson, the Senator’s goalie situation got a little more messier this past season, with Andrew Hammond emerging and leading Ottawa’s late season playoff push.
With no more room, the Senators deemed Lehner the goalie most expendable, and made the move. For Buffalo, they acquire a soon-to-be 24 year old goaltender that still has plenty of time to develop into the starting goaltender that everyone thinks he can become.
Across five seasons, Lehner has played in 86 games, posting a 2.88 GAA and .914 SV%.
While Lehner was the first of the goalies to be moved, the biggest name on the trade rumor mill was New York Ranger’s backup Cam Talbot. After a very successful two-year stint as the backup to Henrik Lundqvist, which included an extended stretch as the starter when the ‘King’ was injured, many around the league believed Talbot could be a starter elsewhere.
Through 57 games (53 games) over the last two seasons, and has posted a 2.00 GAA to go along with a .931 SV%. In that span, Talbot won 33 games while only losing 15 and another five in overtime.
The Rangers entered draft weekend hoping to try and get at least a first round pick in exchange for their backup. When no one bit on that, a deal was believed to be in place with the Edmonton Oilers for multiple second round picks.
Talbot’s landing spot would eventually be in Edmonton, but for neither a first or second round pick. New York ended up getting picks number 57,79, and 184 for Talbot and the 209th overall pick. After Scott Darling emerged as a legitimate (and cheaper) backup to Corey Crawford, the Chicago Blackhawks found Antti Raanta to be a tradable piece, and moved him to the Rangers for minor leaguer Ryan Haggerty.
As a part of Boston Bruin’s scourging, they parted ways with Milan Lucic, sending him to the Los Angeles Kings. In exchange for Lucic, the Kings parted ways with another young backup goalie in Martin Jones has played in 34 games the last two seasons, posting strong numbers a lot similar to Talbot’s – .923 SV% and a 1.99 GAA. With Jonathan Quick signed for the foreseeable future, the Kings added Lucic that can help them try and win now.
Not too long ago, the Vancouver Canucks had Roberto Luongo, Corey Schneider and Eddie Lack in their system, now they have none – as they moved the goalie to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for two draft picks (66th overall, 7th round in 2016). In what started a chain reaction, the Hurricanes moved Anton Khudobin to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman James Wisniewski.
The last trade involved goalie Antti Niemi to the Dallas Stars, which now creates an interesting situation in the Lone Star state with Kari Lehtonen already there. Niemi is a pending free agent, but the Stars seem confident in their ability to sign him to a contract.
While some of these goalies have played extremely well, enough to get a legitimate chance to be a starter, the situations they are moving too can be looked at a step down from where they once were. Jones, Talbot, and Lehner played in front of much better defenses than they will be lining up behind this fall, which certainly presents a certain ‘bust’ factor.
Either way, the 2015 draft will always be remembered not only for having Connor McDavid and Eichel in it, but the amount of goalies that were moved into positions to become starters.
It shouldn’t take too long before it is known who made way with a steal, and who set themselves up for failure.