We’ve already looked at some of the potential blockbuster trade targets the Flames may have this offseason, but in truth there may be other, less “big name” puckstoppers on the market.
While both Pittsburgh and Tampa may be looking to deal one of their established goaltenders, the truth is both Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury come with big price tags and noteworthy risks. Both will be expensive to acquire and expensive to retain. The double whammy may force Brad Treliving to look elsewhere.
So who else might be out there? Potential trade partners include the Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Arizona Coyotes, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins.
The Moderate Trade
Instead of looking for a surefire fix in net, the Flames may instead look for some sort of stopgap who can plug the hole in the crease between now and when Jon Gillies is ready to challenge for the position. These guys should be less expensive to acquire, but will also be less likely to provide high quality netminding in the interim.
Trade Pieces: Second round picks (35, 53, 55), third round pick, Joe Colborne, Lance Bouma, Micheal Ferland, Bill Arnold, Mark Jankowski, Oliver Kylington, Emile Poirier, Morgan Klimchuk, Tyler Wotherspoon, Joni Ortio, Mason McDonald.
Moderate Trade Options: Frederik Andersen, Antti Niemi/Kari Lehtonen, Jimmy Howard, Mike Smith, Brian Elliott, Calvin Pickard, Malcolm Subban.
All of the aforementioned clubs have reasons to move at least one of their puckstoppers. Many of these guys wouldn’t be terribly expensive to acquire, but then most of them aren’t really ideal either.
The Anaheim Ducks
Except, perhaps, Freddy Andersen. The big, Danish goalie was initially selected in 2010 by the Carolina Hurricanes but went back into the draft in 2012, where the Ducks picked him in the third round. He boasted sparkling numbers both overseas and in the AHL before making the NHL full time last season. The only reason Anaheim wants to move on is they are slightly higher on John Gibson, who is younger and signed at a bargain basement price ($2.3M) until 2019.
Andersen is a perfect storm of what the Flames are looking for. He’s 26 years old, so in the right age bracket. He has very good results (.925 ES SV%) and a quality pedigree. He is a pending RFA, meaning the Flames would have some control over his next contract (if they acquire him before he’s re-signed).
The only problem is the Ducks won’t be too keen on trading Andersen within the conference to a close-ish rival. At least, not for cheap. Of the guys listed here, Andersen will definitely command the biggest return. He might be worth it though.
The Dallas Stars
The Stars’ failed goalie platoon strategy is infamous after the pair’s performance against the St. Louis Blues in round two. Considered the Stars’ lone Achilles heal, you can be sure the club will be looking to move on from at least one of Niemi or Lehtonen this summer.
Kari Lehtonen is 32 and has a $5.9M cap hit. He has also been pretty bad for two seasons running now. Once upon a time he was a consistently decent goaltender, but age and a litany of injuries (including a recent concussion) really seem to have caught up to him.
The one good thing about Lehtonen is his contract only lasts two more seasons. And the Stars would likely eat a chunk of it just to get him off the roster.
Like Lehtonen, Niemi’s deal only stretches until 2018, but he’s down at a more reasonable $4.5M. Niemi is also the same age, but has put up better results recently.
Not great… but better.
Neither Dallas goaltender is a very good option from a pure performance perspective. The only reason to consider either of them is because the Stars will be giving them away for pennies on the dollar and their contracts are at the appropriate “stopgap for Gillies” length.
That said, the Flames might just be better off re-signing Ramo.
The Detroit Red Wings
Remember when the Wings as an organization used to avoid paying goalies too much for too long? Jimmy Howard’s current deal is an example of why. Although he provided Detroit with quality goaltending for a few seasons, at 32 years old and $5.3M he’s now just an uncomfortable barrier between the much younger, better and cheaper Petr Mrazek and the starter’s role.
Howard peaked in 2012-13 and has been on the downward slope ever since. His last three seasons have been mediocre at best, culminating in a .906 overall SV% this past year. For context, Karri Ramo finished with a .909. For an added bonus, Howard’s $5.3M price tag lasts another three years, until 2019.
Like the Stars goalies, Howard would only be a consideration if the Red Wings were more or less giving him away. And eating some of his contract to boot.
The Arizona Coyotes
Speaking of aging and expensive netminders, 34-year-old Mike Smith of the Coyotes is scheduled to make $6.5M next season and $6.0M the year after that. It’s only the final year of his deal at $5.0M which drags his cap hit down to “just” $5.67M.
That means he’ll be 37 when his deal if over, which is a bad bet for most players and particularly terrible for non-elite goalies. Smith has some good – even very good – seasons under his belt, but he was never a goaltender who ever managed to put it together for any length of time. In fact, his lone truly elite season (2011-12) is what helped get him his current, awful deal. And why the Coyotes are no doubt looking to get him off the books.
Smith had pretty good numbers last year, albeit in just 32 games in more of a backup role. He had a dreadful season the year before, which has kind of been a pattern for Smith since he broke into the league – a good year followed up by a bad one. At his age it’s a good bet there are more bad seasons than good ones left though.
All of which is to say, he’s not a great option for Calgary either. Smith is aging, expensive and has probably already crossed into the “more of a backup” phase of his career. Like Lehtonen and others already mentioned, he’d be pretty cheap to acquire as a result.
The St. Louis Blues
Brian Elliott has one of the strangest career paths of any active NHL goaltender. The 31-year-old was chosen in the ninth round by the Senators in 2003. It took him five years to break into the league as a backup for the Sens, a role in which he stayed (and was notably mediocre) until landing in St. Louis in 2011-12… when he suddenly put up an eye popping .940 SV% in 38 games. Since then he’s been the Blues “1B” option, often deployed in tandem with someone else.
Even this season, while putting up a sparkling .930 save rate, Elliott split time with the much younger Jake Allen. Elliott has been the Blues’ starter in the playoffs, however, where he has continued to look well above average.
Which is to say, Elliott is an odd trade target. He’s older, but not too old at 31. He’s also cheap, with just one year left at $2.7M and he’s been well above average for a couple of years running (even though he was mostly below average as a younger man).
The Blues may decide to keep Elliott around for the last year of his deal given his postseason performance. The Flames would likely have to convince St. Louis to part ways with him, though the asking price for him keeps going up the closer they get to the Stanley Cup.
The Colorado Avalanche
No, I’m not saying the Flames should try to re-acquire Reto Berra. Aside from the former Flame and starter Semyon Varlamov, the Avs boast one of the better young puckstoppers in Calvin Pickard. A second rounder in 2010, Pickard is 24 with a couple of pro seasons under his belt. He appeared in 20 games for the Avalanche this year, posting a respectable .922 SV%. He also managed a .932 save rate for Colorado in 16 games the year before and a .917 SV% the last two seasons at the AHL level.
Pickard is unlikely to usurp Varlamov from the starter’s role, but he might be vulnerable in the 2017 expansion draft given his age and resume. A pending RFA this summer, Pickard will also be pretty cheap cap hit wise.
Of course, he’s also completely untested as an NHL starter and therefore an unknown commodity. While Pickard’s results to date as a pro are decent, there’s absolutely no guarantee he will be any better than Ortio or what the club could pick up in free agency.
The Boston Bruins
Despite having a young, elite and highly paid starter in Tuukka Rask back in 2012 the Bruins decided to take Malcolm Subban with the 24th overall pick that summer. Today, Subban has three pro seasons under his belt and Rask is… signed for another five years at $7M per season. Hmm.
The middle Subban is also eligible to be swiped in the 2017 expansion draft, which is another reason Boston may want to move him. Malcolm was an above average junior goalie and has been good (but not elite) in the AHL up to this point. At just 22 years old, he also has a lot of room to grow.
Like Pickard, Subban is more of a gamble since he hasn’t proven anything at the NHL level yet. If the Flames are really looking for a surefire starter, they may not be interested in targeting Subban just yet.
Who To Pick?
Andersen is the clear favourite here, even with an assumed higher price tag than anyone else. A distant second is Brian Elliott, who may not even be on the market come summer.
Beyond those two guys are a collection of has-beens and hopefuls. Guys like Pickard and Subban will be pricier to acquire, but aren’t really much better bets than Jon Gillies to be legit starters next year. On the other hand, the Flames could get the likes of Smith, Niemi, Howard or Lehtonen for next to nothing, but their best days are behind them. To say nothing of their terrible contracts.
What Will It Cost?
Too much variance across the board to generalize, but for Andersen the Ducks will charge a relative premium. Two draft picks in the top-60 plus a decent-ish roster player or prospect wouldn’t surprise me. For the old and broken guys, it would be something nominal + cash taken back (or eaten) by the trade partner. For Pickard and Subban, it would be a pick and/or prospect of middling quality.
There’s going to be a lot of moderate goalie trade options on the market this summer, but really only a small handful of them will be of much interest to the Flames. That was true last summer as well and Treliving missed out on the couple of decent targets who changed hands (Martin Jones and Cam Talbot).
The stakes are higher this year. Not only because the club has zero established NHL goaltenders signed, but also because the team is set to exit “rebuild” mode. The Flames can’t be left standing at the alter again this year if they are to move out of the Western Conference basement in 2016-17.
Calgary Goaltending Options
- The Moderate Trade
- The Big Trade