Teams seeking quality starting goaltenders this summer could find the pickings slim in the free agent and trade markets.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to be shopping around in the off-season for depth between the pipes and Vancouver’s Cory Schneider and L.A.’s Jonathan Bernier are believed the main targets of interest.
Schneider is a restricted free agent who many observers believe is ready to become a starting goalie, but is unlikely to get that opportunity in Vancouver with Roberto Luongo on a long-term contract.
Bernier has one year remaining on his current contract at $1.3 million, but has seen little playing time backing up Kings workhorse Jonathan Quick.
Jim Matheson of The Edmonton Journal claimed sources said Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was “keeping a serious eye” on Bernier, likely because Al Murray, Yzerman’s head of amateur scouting, used to work for the Kings and had a hand in their drafting Bernier.
Those who lose out in the bidding for Schneider or Bernier might turn their focus toward Minnesota Wild pending unrestricted free agent netminder Josh Harding.
Having overcome a serious right knee injury that cost him the entire 2010-11 season, the 27-year-old Harding has been among the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season for the Wild. His solid numbers – 11-11-4, 2.63 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and two shutouts – should attract interest on this summer’s open market.
With Niklas Backstrom entrenched as the Wild’s starter and given rookie Matt Hackett’s performance and contract status, Harding faces an uncertain future in Minnesota. Testing the free agent market could be the best way for him to finally get a chance as a starting goalie.
Another option could be Tomas Vokoun, who was considered a free agent steal by the Washington Capitals when they inked him to a one-year, $1.5-million contract.
Though he’s posted decent numbers this season, the 35-year-old Vokoun hasn’t been the strong veteran goaltending presence the Capitals expected. With youngsters Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby poised to become Washington’s tandem next season, Vokoun probably won’t be back.
Another option could be Nashville Predators backup Anders Lindback, who’s a restricted free agent and won’t get his shot at becoming a full-time starter with Pekka Rinne on a long-term contract.
The Boston Globe recently suggested Lindback could become a trade candidate if rival GMs believe he’s ready for a starting role.
Dubyk ‘The Man’ in net; Gagner a Goner?
The Edmonton Oilers face another summer trying to find solutions to end their lengthy playoff drought.
One area to be addressed is their goaltending. Devan Dubnyk has taken over the starter’s role from ageing veteran Nikolai Khabibulin over the second half of this season, but management must decide if Dubnyk is ready for the role full-time next season or consider other options.
Center Sam Gagner was a frequent target of trade rumors earlier in the season and while Oilers GM Steve Tambellini wasn’t shopping him, Gagner’s name was often brought up by rival clubs during trade talks.
His eight-point performance against Chicago Feb. 2 aside, Gagner is on track to finish the season with close to 50 points. Though only 22 and with five seasons under his belt, questions linger over his future with the Oilers.
One player who appears to be playing his final games with the Oilers is left winger Linus Omark, who failed to build upon the promise of his 2010-11 rookie season.
Omark, 25, spent most of this season with the Oilers farm team in Oklahoma City and hasn’t done much to impress with his recent recall. Like Gagner, he’s a restricted free agent, but there’s speculation he could be dealt, cut loose to become an unrestricted free agent or head to Kontinental League.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.