It didn’t seem that long ago that it was particularly difficult to trade a goaltender. Now it seems that goalies are moving around faster than they can wash the colours out of their equipment.
Truthfully, the quality of netminding in the NHL has gone up while the number of available jobs has not. Tandems are more common, youngsters are more capable and veterans can sometimes be too expensive for a cap-strapped club.
Looking ahead to June’s NHL Entry Draft and July’s free agency, when roster movement picks up again, here are a few twisted tenders of the tangled twine potentially ready to find a new home.
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
With Howard having lost the goaltending competition in Detroit to Petr Mrazek, chalk this situation up to the Red Wings going younger, cheaper and more productive.
“Jimmy Howard… I wouldn’t use the word ‘accepted,’ but understood that we got a good young goaltender and it’s a competition. The last 25 games, Mrazek has sort of won the competition,” Wings GM Ken Holland told Hockey Central at Noon Thursday.
So sure, Howard could be the odd man out but his contract is cumbersome. The Red Wings are on the hook for three more seasons at over $5 million annually. Mrazek is an RFA after this season, having made less than a million on his entry level deal.
The decision is easy when one looks at the production of both goalies this season. Mrazek has started 43 games, won 25 (with four shutouts), has a GAA of 2.20 and a SV% of .924. Howard has started 24 games, won eight, has a GAA of 2.82 and SV% of .907.
Luke Fox had a nice breakdown of their situation Friday.
Can the Wings afford to pay full value for two backstops?
Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks have been at a crossroads for some time.
Is it a Sedin-led club backed by veterans and experienced goaltending or a team attempting to recast its image and age bracket? Ryan Miller helped to fill the gap left by the outgoing Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, but Jacob Markstrom — involved in the Luongo deal with Florida — symbolizes potential and affordability.
“Certainly, when I came in (before last season) it was a little bit of a different landscape, the way we’ve gone from veteran to younger players,” Miller told the National Post in February. “When I talked with management about coming here, they were keen on getting the pieces in place to win, and I just have to believe that’s what their mindset is.”
Miller, 36, is now looking at a Canucks team getting younger and Markstrom has been one of the beneficiaries. He got an extended look in January after Miller injured his groin in December. Markstrom recorded five wins in the seven appearances he made in January and now has just three fewer victories than Miller. Both Markstrom’s GAA and SV% numbers are better in roughly half the amount of games as Miller.
It’s been the best stretch of hockey for Markstrom in a young career full of starts and stops. Miller, meanwhile, has just one year left on his deal, worth $6 million annually.
With the direction Vancouver is going, is it time to give Markstrom a real chance?
Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks
It seems the blue ice in Anaheim is destined for John Gibson.
When the 2015-16 season began, the Ducks were Stanley Cup favourites and the crease was Frederik Andersen’s. When their season started to spiral out of control, Gibson took over and played most games in late November and Decemeber and much of January.
But Andersen is back to being entrenched in the starter’s role now that the Titanic has been righted. Still, the future remains clouded.
Andersen, 26, is an RFA at the end of this year while Gibson, 22, was extended for three years at a reasonable $2.3 million cap hit. Gibson perhaps has the higher ceiling while Andersen has shown that he’s a durable, talented goaltender, capable of taking on a large workload and thriving despite his team’s up-and-down year.
While goalie tandems are prevalent these days, will Anaheim give Andersen a substantial raise and retain Gibson?
James Reimer, San Jose Sharks
After being the good soldier for the Toronto Maple Leafs the past six seasons, James Reimer has hitched his ride to the playoff-bound San Jose Sharks. But with Martin Jones’ grip on the crease being firm, Reimer will surely be looking to make the most of his UFA status.
Though the Manitoba native has never played in more than 37 games in an NHL season, his near career-highs in GAA and SV% while playing for a basement-dweller will surely have teams giving him a long look.
His .920 SV% is higher than that of Jonathan Quick, Tuukka Rask, the aforementioned Jones and Craig Anderson, among others.
Perhaps he ends up as part of a tandem, but Reimer has plenty of good hockey left in him with a potentially affordable price tag. He recorded his first shutout of the season in his last start with the Sharks.