There’s nothing in the National Hockey League’s expansion draft rules that say that every team has to protect a goaltender. The two protection scenarios allowed by the NHL are limits, not requirements after all. That said, the general presumption is that the Calgary Flames will be acquiring a goaltender before the pre-expansion trade freeze (on Jun. 17 at 1 p.m. MT) because they can offer teams that are worried about losing a goaltender for nothing something in exchange.
So what will a goaltender cost the Flames in the trade market?
Let’s talk incentives
The key thing to bear in mind in the marketplace this summer is there are two sets of incentive structures for general managers: pre- and post-expansion.
Pre-expansion, the choice for general managers is this: you can lose a player to Vegas for nothing, work out a trade with Vegas to avoid losing that player to them, or work out a trade with another club so that you get an asset for that player rather than losing them for nothing. Post-expansion, it’s all about maximizing assets whether you hold onto them or not. This plays a big part in Vegas’ post-expansion activities, as they really don’t want to claim a goalie in the expansion draft and then potentially lose them via the waiver wire for nothing before the season.
From a Flames perspective, that provides both a tremendous opportunity to help teams maximize the value of their assets pre-expansion as well as a very prominent ticking clock on that opportunity. Once the trade freeze kicks in on June 17, Treliving’s window to add a goaltender on the cheap slams shut and prices get a lot higher.
Buyers and sellers
Based on acquisitions, cap hits and expansion considerations, there are several teams that might be looking to divest themselves of veteran goaltenders with hefty cap hits. The sellers likely include Arizona (Mike Smith), Carolina (Cam Ward and Eddie Lack), Dallas (Antti Nimei and Kari Lehtonen), Detroit (Jimmy Howard) and the NY Islanders (Jaroslav Halak). There are also several teams that are likely nervous about losing an important young asset for nothing. Those teams likely include Colorado (Calvin Pickard), Columbus (Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg), the NY Rangers (Antti Raanta) and Washington (Philipp Grubauer). Pittsburgh is sort of a little of both, in that they want to get rid of Marc-Andre Fleury’s cap hit and no-move contract and are worried about losing Matt Murray for nothing in expansion.
In that landscape, there are really only four teams that really need goaltending help: Buffalo, Calgary, Vegas and Winnipeg. Vegas has to take three goaltenders in the expansion draft, but could end up taking more than that (they can take as many as seven) and make moves afterwards with the teams that are still seeking netminders.
In addition to all the buying and selling, there are already rumours bubbling around regarding netminders:
- Nick Kypreos has spent the playoffs discussing the possibility (or even likelihood) of Vegas making a deal with Pittsburgh for Marc-Andre Fleury. At the same time, Pierre LeBrun indicated on a recent edition of TSN’s Insider Trading that the Flames are targeting Fleury.
- There’s been a lot of chatter about Mike Smith in Arizona, with Elliotte Friedman noting that the Coyotes want a lot for him and LeBrun indicating that the Flames see Smith as an option if Fleury doesn’t work out.
- Friedman has also indicated on a recent Sportsnet 960 The Fan radio spot that there may be a side deal in the works between Vegas and Columbus so that young netminder Joonas Korpisalo isn’t selected by the Golden Knights.
The relevant trade market for the Flames and goaltenders is more or less reflected by a handful of recent trades involving goaltenders.
- The Kings traded Ben Bishop’s rights to Dallas for a fourth round pick
- The Blackhawks traded Scott Darling’s rights to Carolina for a third round pick
- The Lightning traded Ben Bishop and a fifth round pick to Los Angeles for Peter Budaj, Erik Cernak, a seventh round pick and a conditional pick
- The Maple Leafs traded Jhonas Enroth to Anaheim for a seventh round pick
- The Penguins traded Mike Condon to Montreal for a fifth round pick
- The Maple Leafs traded Jonathan Bernier to Anaheim for a conditional pick
- The Oilers traded Anders Nilsson to Buffalo for a fifth round pick
- The Blues traded Brian Elliott to Calgary for a second round pick and a conditional third round pick
- The Ducks traded Freddie Andersen to Toronto for a first round pick and a conditional second round pick
Absent the expansion draft, it seems that an adequate backup will cost a fifth round pick, an established, veteran starter costs a second round pick and a younger starter (with potential) costs a first round pick and maybe more.
If the Flames are gunning for somebody like Mike Smith or Marc-Andre Fleury, the fact that they’re taking on a veteran (older than 30 years old) asset with a hefty cap hit probably keeps the cost down. Some combination of a third or fourth round pick and maybe a secondary roster player or prospect gets the job done.
But let’s say Flames go after Grubauer or Raanta. Neither is a player the Capitals or Rangers want to lose, but if the choice is between giving them to Vegas for nothing or getting something back for them, they’ll go for smart asset management. Both players are stuck behind established, elite starters and on some level management in each organization may want to give them a chance to start somewhere. But it’s also patently obvious that the Flames would be trying to find a starter with a prospective trade, which would probably get the price up. Plus, instead of losing their backup goalie to Vegas, Washington or the Rangers would be losing a different asset.
Because of the complexities involved and the fact that they’re trading for a starter, and everyone knows it, it’s hard to imagine the Flames landing Grubauer or Raanta for anything less than a second round pick (and probably more).