Behind Bars: Summer of the Goaltender

March’s Note: Kavan Young is a new contributor to the blog. Stationed out of Vancouver, British Columbia and a die hard Habs fan, Kavan will give us his fresh take on all things hockey! Welcome bud!

Welcome, and thank you for checking out my post! This is my first attempt at starting a blog and can’t wait to see what kind of reaction I will get. I have an extreme passion for hockey; perhaps an obsession. Regardless, I love this game and all the discussions and debates that come with it. So without further ado, let’s get started! Growing up playing goal, I thought, “What better way to start a blog than to talk about my favourite position.”

Last offseason in the NHL saw little action in regards to goaltender movement, with only Al Montoya, Sergei Bobrovsky, Anders Lindback, Jonas Gustavsson and Chris Mason re-painting their masks.

Teams were looking more for top line forwards and top 6 defensemen, with players like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Rick Nash, Jordan Staal, James van Riemsdyk and Luke Schenn bringing in the highest demand.

This season, however, is a much different monster; there are a number of goalies who will be shipped out, bought out and paid handsomely, as many teams, such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, have been exposed at the position.

This article will take a look at available goaltenders and their potential destinations.

Roberto Luongo:

Roberto-Luongo-1024x777Gotta start with Bobby Lu. Living in Vancouver, I hear a lot about this guy, and for good reason. The man is a true professional, an elite goaltender and still has lots left in the tank. He has dealt with rumors and potential trades for nearly 3 years now and GM Mike Gillis and the Canucks owe it to him to have him moved by the time next season starts. Whether it be via buyout or trade, look for Luongo to end up somewhere southern. He resides in South Florida so the Panthers seem to be a likely destination, but don’t rule out Tampa Bay either. Anders Lindback has the potential to be a stellar number one goaltender, but dropped the ball last season and could really benefit from a proven veteran and leader like Luongo.

Ryan Miller

8399972885_db7bf03c76What oh what do we do with Ryan Miller? The current Sabres starter has been in the Buffalo system since being drafted in 1999 and has suck with them through thick and thin. Nowadays, however, the Sabres seem to be unable to decide whether to rebuild or try to add pieces for another push. I think it makes sense for GM Darcy Regier to shop Miller actively.

At only 32 years of age, Miller is still in his prime, but doesn’t have a lot of time left, so a cup contender with plenty of firepower makes sense as a destination for Miller.

With the Philadelphia Flyers recent buyout of the sometimes eccentric Ilya Bryzgalov, its not a stretch to visualize miller in orange and black next season. Knowing that Philly is the NHL’s graveyard for goalies would normally be a deterrent, but with only a year left on his contract, it is a low-risk, high-reward deal for all parties involved. Philly gets a proven starter with experience on his resume, Miller can re-establish himself in a new city while giving the Flyers a chance to win and Buffalo gets assets and/or picks to help build the future of the team.

Ilya Bryzgalov:

Ilya Bryzgalov. (Photo: Jai Agnish. Flickr)
Ilya Bryzgalov. (Photo: Jai Agnish. Flickr)

Speaking of the Flyers, how good of a move was it to buyout possibly the biggest headache in the NHL. Besides Roberto Luongo, I can’t see any other team with as much drama surrounding them as Philadelphia had with Bryz, besides Phoenix, but that’s a whole other story.

Realizing that his client is somewhat of a headcase, Ilya’s agent Ritch Winter has gone public stating that Philadelphia’s goaltending system is awful and that their goalie coach has no authority. Whether these words are fact or an opinion is somewhat irrelevant, as this seems like a marketing ploy to let interested teams know that Bryzgalov can still stop a puck or two and that it’s actually the team’s fault that Bryz sucked it up for 2 years. Right.

Either way, after names like Luongo and Miller are dealt with, teams who missed out may take a chance on the former Vezina finalist since there won’t be much left afterwards.

Edmonton is a team that Bryzgalov has expressed interest in playing for, but i can’t see that interest being mutual. Devan Dubnyk seems to be the future between the pipes in oil country, so they may look closer at a proven backup such as Ray Emery or Dan Ellis to help mentor him and shape him into a guy who can steal a few games.

Sitting on the cusp of being a playoff team, the Winnipeg Jets may want to give Ritch Winter a call to inquire about his client’s services. Ondrej Pavelec is supposed to be the clear-cut number 1 in Winnipeg, but his career numbers are mediocre at best (2.98 GAA, .907 SV%). If GM Kevin Chevaldayoff can talk Bryzgalov into dealing with Winnipeg’s weather, he could be exactly what the team needs to get Pavelec going. Bringing in Bryz on a one-year deal as a 1B shows Pavelec that the organization is less than pleased with his performances and creates a healthy competition for the starting job.

Marc-Andre Fleury:

3621604412_57016e5b18The Flower is an interesting name to have on this list, as he has backstopped Pittsburgh to the playoffs in each of his 7 full seasons with the team, posting career numbers of 249-151-2-39, 2.66 GAA and 0.910 over 467 games.

It is his efforts in the postseason that have left Penguins brass scratching their heads. After winning it all in 2009-2009, Fleury has choked in the postseason to the point of being pulled and benched.

The question mark is whether Fleury is a legitimate elite goaltender or if he can’t handle the pressure come playoffs. This, surely, has made GM Ray Shero consider the option of moving his long-time starting goaltender who has 2 years left at $5 million per season on his current contract.

One team who may shoot Mr. Shero a text message is the St. Louis Blues. With Jaroslav Halak apparently displeased with his playing time, he could use a change of scenery to get back on track. With a record of 109-67-21(1.23 winning percentage compared to Fleury’s 1.31), GAA of 2.43 and SV% of .918 during the regular season, his numbers are not all that different when put up against Fleury’s.

It’s the playoffs that tip the scales in Halak’s favor. Fleury’s playoff numbers are average at best (2.73 GAA, .903 SV%). Halak’s numbers, meanwhile, are definitely not Conn Smythe-worthy; they are, however, substantially better than Fleury’s at 2.48 GAA and .923 SV% over his career.

Both goaltenders are in need of a change and could excel on opposite teams. Halak plays well and can carry his team (as he put on display during Montreal’s magical 2010 run) should defence be lacking (see: Pittsburgh Penguins) and Fleury could benefit from a team with any type of defensive structure (see: St. Louis Blues).

Although I believe Halak to be the better goalie, Fleury’s cup ring and All-Star nomination may increase his market value; therefore, St. Louis may have to toss in a defensive prospect or draft pick. Let’s try this:

PIT gets:Jaroslav Halak, Kris Russell or Ian Cole

STL gets:Marc-Andre Fleury, 3rd round pick

This deal gives both goalies a fresh start while benefiting both teams with Russell/Cole and the Pens 3rd rounder being swapped.

Other goalies who may be on the move:

Jonas Hiller – With the emergence of Victor Fasth and one of John Gibson or Igor Bobkov making the jump to the show, the crease in Anaheim seems to be a little crowded nowadays. Phoenix needs a starting goalie and has the young defensive help that Anaheim needs. Oliver Ekman-Larsson may be untouchable, but the Coyotes have secretly been fielding questions about Keith Yandle for some time now and he may be a great fit in SoCal.

Mike Smith – With the confusion surrounding the Coyotes’ ownership, expect Smith to test the market and take his talents elsewhere come July 5th.

James Reimer – Some may be surprised to see this name up here and, I admit, it is a bit of a longshot, but with the recent acquisition of Jonathan Bernier and many quality backup tenders available, Reimer may finally grow tired of the lack of confidence the Leafs have put in him and it may be best for both teams to split. I don’t foresee this happening in the offseason, but if Bernier has a strong start to the season, don’t be surprised to see Reimer’s name come up in trade rumors.

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