As October draws to a close, several NHL teams are in need of goaltending depth.
The Carolina Hurricanes tandem of Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin have been sidelined indefinitely with lower-body injuries, as was Florida Panthers starter Tim Thomas. Predators netminder Pekka Rinne is out at least a month following a bacterial infection in his surgically-repaired left hip.
Edmonton Oilers starter Devan Dubnyk is still struggling and there’s concern among NY Islanders followers over the club’s over-reliance on ageing Evgeni Nabokov.
Some of these teams could soon begin shopping for help between the pipes.
The Panthers hope recalling veteran Scott Clemmensen to back up youngster Jacob Markstrom will address Thomas’ absence.
The Hurricanes dipped into the shallow free agent pool to sign former Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro to a professional tryout contract with their AHL affiliate in Charlotte.
After the Oilers 5-4 loss on Saturday to the Phoenix Coyotes, The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson begged GM Craig MacTavish to trade for either a top-four defenseman, a goaltender or more defensively responsible forwards.
The Oilers 3-8-2 record leaves MacTavish dealing from a position of weakness, which could force him to part with a good young forward to add a quality starting goalie.
He could turn to free agency, but with the Hurricanes signing DiPietro, the best available options are Ilya Bryzgalov and Jose Theodore.
John Vogl of The Buffalo News suggested the Sabres may have missed their best chance to move Ryan Miller, citing the lack of regular season trades in recent years involving goalies, as well as the limited returns in such deals.
Vogl believes the Sabres best bet to net a big return for Miller is for a team to lose its starting goalie to injury or be desperate for a playoff run.
That certainly seems to apply to the Hurricanes, Predators, Oilers and Islanders, but Miller’s $6.25 million cap hit makes him difficult to move at this point in the season, unless the Sabres are willing to retain half of it in a trade.
Then again, the Sabres shipped high-priced winger Thomas Vanek on Sunday to the Islanders for Matt Moulson and draft picks without picking up any of Vanek’s salary, so perhaps they can find a desperate GM with cap space willing to take Miller off their hands.
The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reported Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray received enquiries about his plans for Jonas Hiller or Viktor Fasth following his re-signing of Frederik Andersen to a two-year contract extension.
Hiller is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer, while Fasth has another season at $2.9 million left on his contract. Andersen’s new contract, which begins next season, is a one-way deal at an annual cap hit of $1.15 million.
Garrioch also noted the Ducks have promising John Gibson, who is off to a strong start with their AHL affiliate in Norfolk.
The Ducks are off to a 9-3-0 start so Murray isn’t under pressure to make a significant move. While Garrioch speculates Hiller’s free agent status makes him the likely trade candidate, it’s doubtful Murray shops his starter unless Fasth or Andersen out-plays him over the course of the season.
Fasth is currently sidelined with a lower-body injury. Andersen is in the final season of his current two-way contract, meaning he can be sent back to the minors when Fasth is ready to return.
Other clubs with goaltending depth include the Toronto Maple Leafs (Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer), Ottawa Senators (Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner), St. Louis Blues (Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott)and the Tampa Bay Lightning (Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback). None of them, however, are currently shopping their spares.
The New York Rangers also had some early-season goaltending issues. Starter Henrik Lundqvist was recently forced from the lineup with an undisclosed injury that bothered him since the start of the season, while veteran backup Martin Biron announced his retirement.
Lundqvist, however, is expected to make his return for the Rangers home-opener, while call-up Cam Talbot performed well in his absence. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported the Rangers long-term intent is to stick with Lundqvist, so for now they aren’t seeking goaltending depth.