Yesterday, I offered a detailed look at goalies that will be available via free agency and also what could be a bumper crop of goalies who are available via trade because of the impending expansion draft.
I will probably write this up in more detail when we get closer to the NHL draft and opening of free agency, but today’s Carolina Hurricanes blog is a rapid fire try at ranking and also handicapping the Canes potential goalie options.
The rankings are based on who I would most want including consideration for expected trade/contract cost.
He is a big modern-day NHL goalie with a pretty solid track record. He is just entering his prime at 26 years old. His new contract is a bit of a wild card since he is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, but I expect he will be worth the price. The likelihood that he is available might have decreased with Gibson’s struggles in the playoffs and Andersen’s strong play, but with Anaheim pushing against the cap and maybe wanting to shake things up a bit, he is fairly likely to be available. The interest wild card is that Andersen was actually drafted by the Canes, but Rutherford was unable to get him signed and he reentered the draft. Best guess is that it was an agent thing and not an issue but who knows. POTENTIALLY BEST AVAILABLE AND LONG-TERM SOLUTION
He could be an under the radar option. He looks a bit like a journeyman back up/maybe starter which is not that exciting, but he had a solid 2015-16 season playing behind a Sabres team that was young and mediocre defensively. His 22-16-4 record was flat out impressive. If everyone focuses on Reimer and Johnson can be had for a reasonable term and salary, I would consider him. The downside is that he is not as much of a bona fide #1 goalie as a couple others. The upside is that he should cost much less and as a free agent does not require Francis to part with players, picks or prospects just to get him. If the trade options cost a bunch and Johnson can in fact be signed for a reasonable term (2 years) at a reasonable price ($2.5-3.0M), Francis could decide to take on more “is he good enough” risk and significantly decrease contract risk. COULD BE BEST BALANCE OF REASONABLE COST, LOW CONTRACT RISK WITH UPSIDE
The Blues situation is maybe hardest to handicap. Elliott has been the guy in the playoffs so far, but the duo split time about equally during the regular season and had equal success. Their combined $4.9 million salary is cap-friendly, so the only thing driving a trade of 1 of them is a potential expansion draft. Because of that, I have to believe that St. Louis would listen to offers for 1 of them, but it is not clear which 1. I like Allen because his younger (25 years old) and only a restricted free agent after his budget-friendly $2.35 million contract expires next summer. I put him in a similar category as Frederik Andersen as an experienced, pretty good goalie just entering his prime who could be a #1 for multiple years. IF AVAILABLE, POTENTIAL LONGER-TERM SOLUTION BUT PROBABLY AT A SIGNIFICANT TRADE COST
The big starting question is whether Canes GM Ron Francis is just ready to move on to a new era with new leaders. If not, Ward for the right price could be a decent option. The positives are that he is a free agent who therefore does not cost in terms of trade assets in addition to salary and also that he is a known commodity. Ward played his best hockey in recent years in the second half of the 2015-16 season, but when you look at his stats, he is still short of other options and it gets worse if you start averaging over multiple recent seasons. KNOWN QUANTITY, POSSIBLY ON REASONABLE CONTRACT IF HE WANTS TO STAY MAKES IT POSSIBLE BUT PROBABLY NOT BEST OPTION
He is just starting to break out of the ‘underrated’ category and is a proven NHL talent. It seems odd that Tampa Bay would part with him but especially if the team re-signs Stamkos, the salary situation will be really tight. I could see Yzerman collecting assets, cutting cost and going with his goalie of the future in Vasilevskiy rather than riding out another year and then possibly losing 1 of them to either free agency (Bishop) or the expansion draft. So the issue with Bishop is not at all quality but rather the fact that he would have a high cost both in terms of trade assets and salary and could also just bolt after the 2016-17 season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent and hot commodity. At least he really is good, and I guess in that respect worth the high price in 2 ways. COULD BE GONE TOO SOON FOR HIGH COST TO GET HIM
The positive is that he is locked into a contract for 3 years. The negative is that it is at a cost of $5.75 million AFTER you also give up trade assets to get him. Assuming Reimer’s price goes through the roof as I expect, I view Fleury as being a less risky/more proven alternative than Reimer and especially at current salaries a much better option than Howard. But I am not sure Francis will want to be at $5.75 million for this slot and trade a bunch to get there. GOOD GOALIE, HIGH PRICE
He is the cream of a not so great crop for the free agent group of goalies for the summer of 2016. I would actually be okay with Reimer for a short-term deal (2 years) at a 1A/1B price (about $3 million). This is a term that builds up to when Nedeljkovic might be ready and at a price that is reasonable. If the other goalie bidders all find options via trade such that Reimer loses the game of musical chairs and can be had at a discount (think same price as Lack), I would be happy to have him and not have to give up trade assets to get him. More likely, his price is bid up in a market light on free agent options in which I would pass on given him near elite goalie term and salary. IN A SHALLOW GOALIE FREE AGENT MARKET I THINK HE GETS A BIG CONTRACT FROM SOMEONE, AND I PASS ON THAT RISK
He has been the starter for all of St. Louis’ playoff games to date. He was pulled in game 6 after giving up 3 early goals, so if Allen gets the game 7 start, wins and seizes the reins for a winning run deeper into the playoffs, that would diminish Elliott’s value a bit. If instead, Elliott returns to net and regains his winning ways, he will be working toward cementing a spot in the lineup for next season. Regardless of how the playoffs sort out, I am not sure he is a great option for the Canes. I view him as being a poor man’s Ben Bishop. Elliott is 31 years old and will be a free agent who could disappear after the 2016-17 season. WOULD BE DECENT 1-YEAR OPTION BUT LIKELY AT A HIGH PRICE AND WITH SUMMER 2017 FLIGHT RISK
His price (1 more year at $925,000 before he is a restricted free agent), pedigree and potential are all appealing, but I just do not see him as a proven commodity yet. I view him as being maybe a step ahead of Alex Nedeljkovic since he has AHL and NHL experience, but not by that much. If Francis chooses to spend trade assets, I think he will want a proven commodity. NOT PROVEN ENOUGH YET OR SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT THAN NEDELJKOVIC
He was once considered a franchise goalie and is not paid like 1 at $5.3 million per year for 3 more years. The problem is that he lost his job during the 2015-16 season and is now risky and expensive. If Detroit ate the max half of his salary to pull his cost down to about $2.7 million, maybe he would be more interesting. But even then, the Canes would be looking for a rebound which carries risk. RISKY AND EXPENSIVE RECLAMATION PROJECT
Halves of duos NOT available
Matt Murray, John Gibson and Petr Mrazek are the other halves of a couple tandems detailed in yesterday’s post. I think it is very unlikely that any of these goalies of the future would become available. I think their respective teams will either keep 2 goalies or otherwise keep the youth.
When I net it out, I rank Frederik Andersen and Jake Allen (if available) as the best 2 options who could be long-term options but will be fairly pricey via trade. I put Chad Johnson and Cam Ward as the 2 decent free agent options who at least have the potential to be a reasonable contract both for term and dollars. Most of the rest of the field I consider some combination of too risky (including all of quality of play, contract and short-term flight risks) and too pricey.
Who do you for a second goalie? Who do you think Francis ultimately gets?