With the trade deadline only 20 days away, many general managers are beginning to assess their teams and determine which pieces of the puzzle they still need in order to give their team the best shot at a championship. Most hockey fans will tell you that one of the scariest things come playoff time is a hot goaltender. However, as much as some general managers would love to make a move for a veteran back-up goalie or even a proven number one, offensive depth or help on the blue line may be a more suitable option for many teams.
Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee may be one such person looking to make a move for a goalie. Both Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth have split time in net for Washington this season, and both goalies have put up respectable numbers. However, neither goalie has seized the reins and stepped up to claim the number one spot for the Capitals. One rumor going around the internet suggests there could be some interest in bringing in J.S. Giguere from the Toronto Maple Leafs in a back-up role. Such a move would likely see either Varlamov or Neuvirth on the move to create room for Giguere. But the Capitals may choose to try to stack the deck on defense and go into the playoffs with the goaltenders they have and hope that any shortcomings in net will be nullified by a strong blue line.
In Florida, the Panthers need to decide what to do with Tomas Vokoun. With five shutouts and a 2.54 goals against average in 39 starts this season, Vokoun could step in and be a number one goaltender for many teams. Florida currently sits six points out of the playoff picture, and if they decide to sell off their assets, Vokoun and his $5.7 million cap hit could be one of the first to go – especially if the team can’t sign Vokoun to a long-term deal before the trade deadline where they may risk losing him to free agency this summer for nothing. Still, Vokoun would need to waive his no-movement clause before a trade could occur.
Another team to watch at the trade deadline could be the Calgary Flames. The Flames are still hovering around the playoff picture, but if they fall too far out when the trade deadline comes then general manager Jay Feaster may decide to sell off assets and rebuild from the ground up. In that case, Mikka Kiprusoff may be one of the first asked to waive his no-movement clause. Kiprusoff still has several years on his contract, however, which means that any team that takes him would need to be able to absorb his $5.83 million cap hit for several seasons, meaning that a move for Kiprusoff is highly unlikely unless it is to a team already in the rebuilding process and looking to upgrade – like the New York Islanders or Edmonton Oilers.
The Detroit Red Wings already made a pitch at a goalie when they signed Evgeni Nabokov a few weeks ago, but were thwarted when the Islanders grabbed Nabokov off the waiver wire. Starting goaltender Jimmy Howard has struggled recently and back-up netminder Chris Osgood remains sidelined until mid-March after surgery. Even then, Osgood hasn’t been stellar this season and the Wings might still be in the market for a back-up goalie. The Wings have no cap room, though, and could be forced to go with a Howard-Osgood tandem in the playoffs purely because of their cap situation.
The Philadelphia Flyers could easily find themselves in the same situation they experienced last June, except this year they are counting on rookie goaltender Sergie Bobrovsky instead of Michael Leighton, who they rode through the postseason last year. The Montreal Canadiens would probably love to have an insurance policy behind Carey Price just in case, but a quality back-up just may not be in the budget this season. In fact, several teams still have lingering questions in net and would probably love to make an upgrade or at least get some insurance when the trade deadline hits, but salary cap restraints hinder many clubs from doing just that. More often than not, that money is better spent on a good two-way forward or a solid defenseman. Coming up to the trade deadline, the question for many general managers will be whether they want to bring in a proven veteran goalie through a trade or put their money elsewhere and hope the guy they’ve been riding all season can get the job done.