As the NHL continues to evolve, the need for a competent backup goaltender continues to increase. The days of having your star goalie play 70 games a year while having an inexpensive backup fill in a few times a year are over – sorry, Scott Clemmensen and essentially everyone who backed up Miikka Kiprusoff during his heyday.
On Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Kings moved goaltender Jack Campbell and forward Kyle Clifford to Toronto for Trevor Moore and a pair of draft picks. It was just the second trade involving a goalie during the regular season – but the first involving an actual NHLer (Detroit sent Eric Comrie to Arizona for defenseman Vili Saarijarvi, but Comrie didn’t play a game before heading back to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose). In Campbell, the Leafs finally address the team’s lack of depth behind Fredrik Andersen, something that’s been an issue since the club let Curtis McElhinney walk via waivers prior to the 2018-19 season. With Andersen out day-to-day (at the moment) and Michael Hutchinson struggling to fill the gap this season, Campbell is a low-risk, high-reward move that could fill in the gaps for the time being. Plus, with an extra year on his contract, the Leafs could hold on to Campbell if the experiment pans out.
This summer, Braden Holtby (Washington), Jacob Markstrom (Vancouver) and Robin Lehner (Chicago) are three of the big-name UFAs available, but the real attention turns towards the backup market. Thomas Greiss, Cam Talbot, Jaroslav Halak, Anton Khudobin and Brian Elliott, among others, will be available for pickup and, as proven veterans, they won’t come cheap. Teams that have them don’t want to give them up, making them valuable trade assets if a fit exists. With just under three weeks to go until the trade deadline on Feb. 24, 2020, let’s take a look at six other goalies who could be on the move this season:
Alexandar Georgiev, 23 (NY Rangers)
Georgiev’s name has been linked to trade rumors for more than a year now, specifically to the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s not an option now, but with Henrik Lundqvist and Igor Shesterkin holding the fort in the Big Apple. Georgiev is the odd man out. Georgiev would be an NHLer on nearly any other team right now, but when your team’s other options are a franchise legend and a star prospect, there’s not much he can do. Georgiev has a career SP of .913 through 67 games with a 30-27-6 record for a team that’s been in full rebuild mode since his arrival in 2017-18. The Bulgarian-born netminder has a cap hit of $729,500 until he becomes an RFA this summer, so a team in need of a more stable long-term option could turn to Georgiev before the deadline.
Robin Lehner, 28 and Corey Crawford, 35 (Chicago)
Chicago’s goaltending situation has been a must-follow all season long, and with both goalies set to become UFAs this summer, we might not be far off from a decision about the team’s goaltending situation. On one hand, Lehner is the younger goaltender who still ranks among the best options in net after finishing as a Vezina Trophy finalist a year ago with the New York Islanders. On the other hand, Lehner holds much more value and can help address depth concerns in the Hawks lineup. Crawford has battled injury issues in the past few years but when he’s healthy, he can hold the fort in net. Crawford has two Stanley Cups to his credit and can still handle a sizeable load down the stretch, so if a team wants to take on a portion of Crawford’s $6-million cap hit (there’s no way the Blackhawks aren’t forced to retain at half his salary in a deal) to bring in a veteran backup, Crawford might be the answer. Either way, unless Crawford decides to take a steep discount to stay with the only team he’s ever known, it’ll be tough for the Blackhawks to hold on to both of them next season.
Ryan Miller, 39 (Anaheim)
The Anaheim Ducks don’t have many trade-bait options that could really shake up the struggling roster, but Miller’s name hasn’t been totally absent from trade rumors. The sample size is small due to limited playing time, but at 5-on-5 among goalies with at least 14 starts, Miller’s SP is a strong .931 (ninth of 60 qualified goalies). For an experienced goaltender that once played 76 games in a season for the Buffalo Sabres, Miller is more than capable of filling a role as a backup and is prone to stealing victories – a 46-save effort over Los Angeles in his last start over the weekend is a perfect example. Miller holds a $1.12-million cap hit, so a team looking to solidify its backup situation down the stretch could use him – but are the Ducks confident that Anthony Stolarz or Kevin Boyle can fill the gap?
Casey DeSmith, 26 (Pittsburgh)
DeSmith had some flashes of brilliance with the Penguins last season but was ultimately surpassed by Tristan Jarry on the Penguins’ depth chart. DeSmith has carried the brunt of the work this season over AHL veteran Dustin Tokarski, with DeSmith sitting with a 16-11-2 record with three shutouts and a .907 SP. With the Penguins last season, DeSmith had a .929 SP (13th among 43 goalies with at least 35 starts) and 8.10 GSAA (16th), so he can handle a sizeable workload with favorable starts. Jarry and Matt Murray are pending RFAs and the Penguins could explore a trade option for one of them, but DeSmith’s $1.25-million cap hit until 2021-22 could be favorable for a team with expendable depth at the wing and in need of an experienced backup.
Pheonix Copley, 28 (Washington)
Copley has seemingly fallen out of favor in Washington; first, Ilya Samsonov surpassed Copley as the Capitals backup (and subsequently, the better option in D.C., period) and Vitek Vanecek’s strong play with Hershey has pushed Copley down to fourth on the depth chart. Here’s the thing: the Capitals signed Copley to a three-year extension last spring worth $1.1 million a season, so he’s an inexpensive option you can keep around for a few years – hint, hint, Florida. Copley’s stats weren’t anything special in the NHL last year but the North Pole, Ala. native could benefit from a new home.
Want more in-depth features, analysis and an All-Access pass to the latest content? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.