Ben Bishop and Jaroslav Halak should find new homes this summer. Image by: Getty Images
The NHL trade market is closed for the remainder of the regular season, but business will pick up again in the off-season. When it does, several goaltenders could be on the move.
ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun believes Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury and the New York Islanders Jaroslav Halak will be awaiting trades. Fleury, 32, could be asked to waive his no-movement clause before the expansion draft to facilitate a move to a club of his choice. That would allow them to protect young starter Matt Murray.
Fleury spent many years as the Penguins starter, backstopping them to a Stanley Cup in 2009. While he lost that role to Murray in last year's playoffs, he could be an attractive option for clubs seeking experienced depth in goal.
According to Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos, there's a belief Vegas Golden Knights GM George McPhee could pursue Fleury. Kypreos thinks the veteran Penguins netminder could become a franchise-type player in Vegas.
Fleury could agree to waive his no-movement clause to join the Golden Knights, but he might opt instead for a team with more immediate upside. Since last summer, there was speculation the Calgary Flames enquired about Fleury's availability. Perhaps they'll revisit that interest in June.
A sticking point could be Fleury's $5.75-million salary cap hit through 2018-19. If the Pens get desperate to move him before the expansion draft, they could be forced to pick up part of that cap hit or toss in a draft pick or prospect in the deal.
Halak, meanwhile, is currently playing for the Isles' AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. The 31-year-old is signed through 2017-18 with a cap hit of $4.5 million. His salary was one reason why he passed unclaimed through waivers earlier this season. His inconsistency and long history of injuries also hurt his value. If the Isles fail to find any trade partners, they could buy him out in June.
LeBrun also speculates the Detroit Red Wings have to choose between Jimmy Howard or Petr Mrazek before the expansion draft. He also wonders if the Colorado Avalanche will try to move Semyon Varlamov and the remaining two years of his contract.
Howard, 32, was enjoying a strong start to this season until derailed by a lower-body injury. He carries a $5.3 million annual average salary through 2018-19 with a modified no-trade clause. Mrazek, 25, was considered Howard's heir apparent but is struggling in the starter's role. He has a year remaining with a cap hit of $4 million.
Since Varlamov's 41-win performance in 2013-14, nagging injuries have hampered the 28-year-old's performance and contributed to the Avalanche's ongoing struggles. Having undergone season-ending hip surgery in January, he could prove difficult to move this summer.
The Avs could leave Varlamov unprotected in the expansion draft. If Vegas passes, they could be forced to pick up half of his $5.9 million annual cap hit to drum up some interest in the trade market.
Several notable goaltenders, including Ben Bishop of the Los Angeles Kings, Ryan Miller of the Vancouver Canucks, Brian Elliott of the Calgary Flames and Steve Mason of the Philadelphia Flyers, are eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. LeBrun thinks Chicago Blackhawks backup Scott Darling could also attract interest in the free-agent market.
Bishop will likely attract the most attention. Injury and uncertainty over the 30-year-old's future with the Tampa Bay Lightning affected his performance this season. However, he has three straight 35-plus win seasons (2013-14 to 2015-16) and was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2016. He backstopped the Lightning to the 2015 Stanley Cup final and to last year's Eastern Conference final.
Coming off a two-year contract worth $5.95 million annually, Bishop could seek up to $7-million annually on a six- or seven-year deal. That could limit the number of serious suitors pursuing him this summer.
The 36-year-old Miller's best seasons are well behind him. Still, he's done a respectable job in goal for the Canucks this season. He could be a mentor for a young goalie.
Elliott carried the St. Louis Blues to the Western Conference final last spring, but he was dogged by inconsistency this season with the Flames. He could find it difficult landing a lucrative new deal.
As LeBrun suggests, Darling could become a more affordable option for some teams. The 28-year-old is playing well as Corey Crawford's understudy with the Blackhawks and could be ready for a full-time starter's job elsewhere. He's completing a two-year, $1.175 million deal and won't be as expensive to sign as Bishop or Elliott.
So where could some of these goaltenders end up?
The Golden Knights could grab one or two via the expansion draft. They could also attempt to sign one of those pending free agents.
If Miller, Elliott and Mason hit the open market, the Canucks, Flames and Flyers will be seeking replacements. The Winnipeg Jets could look for a skilled veteran to mentor young Connor Hellebuyck.
The Dallas Stars could also look for help in goal if they can move Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi via trade, buyout or the expansion draft. The Carolina Hurricanes could seek an upgrade over Cam Ward and Eddie Lack.
If the Avalanche can find a taker for Varlamov, they could also go shopping for a new starter. The Arizona Coyotes need a reliable backup for oft-injured starter Mike Smith.