With Christmas quickly approaching, several NHL contenders may be looking to expand their gift collection with a new goalie.
It has grown more difficult for playoff contenders to trade for a strong goalie in the middle of the season since the league instituted a salary cap in 2005–06. Putting such a move into action probably entails trading from a weak position to let the other team set the price.
It’s much easier said than done, from the goalie’s point of view, to move away from a set role and keep up that level of play in a new setting behind a new group of defensemen. In a situation like this, goalies are under tremendous pressure to produce outcomes that will immediately benefit the team.
However, the goalie market is starting to take shape, with a few teams carrying three excellent netminders and a few playoff contenders having trouble with injuries or subpar play at the position. Just prior to the season began, Winnipeg re-signed Connor Hellebuyck to a lucrative seven-year extension, offloading a major trade chip.
Since Tony Ferrari posted a list of seven goalies that are affordable to pursue on November 11th, a lot has happened, making certain goalies even more tradeable to teams that are struggling with their goaltending.
31-year-old in just his second year of a five-year, $25 million contract on waivers. Stuart Skinner’s early-season play wasn’t much better, as he only managed a pitiful.865 save percentage in his first 13 games. But since then, the 2022–23 Calder Trophy finalist has improved, winning seven straight starts before the team’s Thursday 7–4 loss to the Lightning.
The New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes, who are expected to compete for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division this season, have dropped out of the postseason picture due to goaltending concerns.
Antti Raanta and Pyotr Kochetkov, the goaltending tandem for the Hurricanes, have combined for an unimpressive.879 save percentage since Frederik Andersen’s early November blood-clotting problem sidelined him.
In his second season as the starting goalie for the Devils, Vitek Vanecek has been a huge letdown, with a 3.33 goals-against average and a.883 save percentage in 18 games. The Devils were helped by 2018 fifth-round draft pick Akira Schmid to get past the first round of the playoffs, but the 23-year-old hasn’t been able to replicate that success this year.
Though there are still almost three months until the trade deadline, holding off in the hopes of spotting improvement can be risky and could hurt the team’s chances of making the playoffs.
In addition to the list from November, the following goalies could be available and could support a contender:
Jake Allen, Montreal Canadiens
With the Canadiens signing Sam Montembeault to a three-year, $9.450 million contract earlier this month, the seasoned goalie finds himself in the rumor mill. The Habs now have three goaltenders under contract through 2025, so something has to give with this move.
Allen’s career statistics show that he has played in over 400 games with a 2.73 GAA. Teams looking for a seasoned goalie on a friendly contract will find him to be an appealing option if they have some cap space. This season, Cayden Primeau has seen a stall in his development; trade talks may also come up. But at this point in his career, the 24-year-old netminder is still an unproven asset.
For the most part, the lack of goal scoring is to blame for the Habs’ winless record over Allen’s previous seven starts. Teams looking for a temporary solution, like Edmonton or Carolina, would probably be better off with Allen.
James Reimer, Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings face the same issue as the Habs: having three competent goalies on their roster. Reimer is the only netminder with a contract that is about to expire, which makes him a prime candidate for trade.
With the Red Wings, a team that is making significant progress this season, the 15-year veteran is off to a strong start. Reimer is an intriguing sell-high target for teams looking to upgrade in the secondary role because of his reasonable $1.5 million cap hit. With a few million in cap space available, the Los Angeles Kings might be a good fit.
If he were to leave, Ville Husso and rising star Alex Lyon—who has impressed in six starts this season—would have more opportunities to start.
Kaapo Kahkonen, San Jose Sharks
The extremely challenging task of stopping pucks behind a poor San Jose blueline falls to the 27-year-old Finnish goalie. Kahkonen has a positive Goals Saved Above Expected of +4.0 through 14 games this season, despite the circumstances.
Since the Sharks are at the bottom of the NHL standings, practically all of their assets ought to be tradeable. Kahkonen, who has defeated mostly elite opponents in four of his previous six games, is a top trade target and could make an impact in the postseason this year.
The season will come to an end when his contract expires. There’s not much reason to hang onto the Finnish goalie, who could land the Sharks a second or third round draft pick, especially with goalie prospects Eetu Makiniemi and Magnus Chrona calling the shots.
Karel Vejmelka, Arizona Coyotes
Following a stellar sophomore campaign in 2022–23 for the Coyotes, the 27-year-old Czech goaltender set career bests in every statistical category. Since making his debut as an invitee to the development camp almost three years ago, Vejmelka has consistently performed well for some poor Coyotes teams.
Though Connor Ingram has outperformed him, Vejmelka has seen his time in the mound decrease since the beginning of the season, when he was the clear No. 1 in Arizona. Given that Ingram has started in net for the Coyotes in 16 games and won 11 of them, coach Andre Tourigny is likely to keep Ingram on a roll.
The reconstruction The Coyotes are willing to take on a bad contract and are hoping to add draft picks. In order to clear Campbell’s contract and address a goaltending need, the Oilers might be willing to part with a draft pick.