Things are getting busy in the trade and free agent markets, and before we jump into the free agent signing period on Friday (9am PDT) I thought I would update you on the happenings from the week of the NHL Entry Draft. There is a lot to cover, so here we go…
Sens Acquire Murray
One of the big names in the trade market was finally moved on Wednesday, when the Pittsburgh Penguins traded pending restricted free agent goaltender Matt Murray to the Ottawa Senators. Murray will presumably have the #1 designation in Ottawa, as plainly the club did not have enough confidence in last year’s backup Anders Nilsson to publicly declare him as their starter. As of this writing Murray is still unsigned, though it is expected that he will command a multi-year deal at or above last year’s $3.75 million.
No Love For Flower
One of the reports that came out on draft day was that the (not Las) Vegas Golden Knights were actively shopping veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, and in fact were in active conversations with Carolina. Apparently a deal could not be reached, but the terms of the offer and counter-offer were the noteworthy items.
(not Las) Vegas was apparently offering Fleury to the Hurricanes with half his salary retained by the Golden Knights, and a 2nd round pick included to sweeten the deal. Carolina turned that offer down, instead requesting both a 1st and 2nd round pick in addition to the retained salary as originally offered.
Wow. If that’s what it takes to give away a veteran goaltender, then we are in for the wildest ride in free agent history when the market winds up on Friday.
Schneider Out In Jersey
Early Thursday it was announced that the New Jersey Devils had placed goaltender Corey Schneider on unconditional waivers for the purpose of a buyout. This ends a 7-year run in New Jersey for Schneider, as he watched his playing time gradually decrease as his goals-against average steadily increased. His GAA last year was north of 3.53, so you can see why the Devils were anxious to shed his $6 million salary — which they would pay for the next two seasons.
Schneider’s exit adds another name to the long list of free agent goaltenders looking for new homes when the free agent market opens tomorrow — joining the likes of Braden Holtby, Corey Crawford, and Henrik Lundqvist, all chased out of town due to high contract values and low save percentages.
Surgery For Khudobin
One of the bright stars of the Stanley Cup Finals, Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin, is set to enter free agency on Friday. But the Stars announced on Thursday morning that Khudobin either had undergone, or was about to undergo, surgery on his arm (which arm was not specified) to address “numbness”.
With the NHL season now penciled (lightly) in for January 1st, Khudobin will have about 12 weeks to get back to 100%. But whereas the Dallas netminder would likely have been a hands-down first choice for many teams looking for a new starting netminder, the news of this procedure may temper some GMs’ enthusiasm about relying on him for a full season in 2021. We’ll see how the market responds soon enough.
Literally while I was typing this up, word hit the wire concerning the goaltending situation in Chicago. Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman confirmed to the press that they have had their last conversation with veteran netminder Corey Crawford, and he will not be re-signed for next season.
But the real news came in the following quote from Bowman:
“…we have a couple young goalies in Lankinen and Delia who we haven’t given a real opportunity to. With where we’re headed, the NHL is relying more and more on young players. We’re going to embrace that going forward.”
Wow. Just, WOW. The players mentioned are 26-year-old Colin Delia, his last NHL campaign resulting in a 3.61 goals against average over 16 games in 2018-19; and 25-year-old Kevin Lankinen, who has fared well in the Finnish SM-Liiga, but has under 50 professional games to his name in North America — none in the NHL. Positioning these two as a tandem for a NHL team is a positively unfathomable.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, and Chicago is planning to bring in an experienced veteran on a short-term deal to mentor Delia and Lankinen as they integrate into the pro ranks. But the idea that a team, ostensibly attempting to put a competitive squad on the ice, is going to rely on a goaltending tandem with less than 20 NHL games between them is nothing short of irresponsible — and an insult to both the Blackhawks players and its fans.
If the Blackhawks fail to acquire a reliable veteran netminder for the upcoming season, watch out for frustrated media and rabid fans calling for StanBow’s head skewered on the antenna atop the Hancock Center before January 1st.