Heading into Tuesday afternoon, aside from a few minor transactions, all was quiet on the goalie front for the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline.
The stagnant goalie market reminds me of the glassy surface of a placid Minnesota lake; all it takes is one big fish to break the surface and send waves splashing from coast to coast. Whether or not that happens is still unknown, but there are clearly some juicy names being dangled as fresh bait for teams seeking an upgrade in goal.
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I also wrote about five potential backups that could be traded on NHL.com last Thursday: Jonathan Bernier, Michal Neuvirth, Ben Bishop, Nikolai Khabibulin and Steve Mason. With the Stars clearly turning into “sellers” with the trade of Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr, it looks like Richard Bachman or Cristopher Nilstorp could be on the move as well.
Regardless of what goes down over the next 24 hours, as always, I’ll keep you updated on whatever happens, including movement of any prospects on my radar. Below is the updated list of moves:
1. Patrick Killeen traded to Columbus (link).
2. Jared Coreau signs ELC with Detroit (link).
3. Jeff Deslauriers traded to Minnesota (link).
4. Matt Hackett traded to Buffalo (link).
5. Michael Leighton traded to Columbus.
6. Steve Mason traded to Philadelphia (link).
7. Ben Bishop traded to Tampa Bay (link).
8. Reto Berra acquired by Calgary (link).
9. Drew MacIntyre signed by Toronto (link).
10. Chris Rawlings released from ATO by Idaho (link).
11. Garret Sparks signs ATO with Toronto (link).
BISHOP TRADED TO LIGHTNING
Ben Bishop has a chance to earn an extension from Steve Yzerman since Anders Lindback is stuck on the IR with an ankle injury. Bishop, an RFA at the end of this season, has come a long way since he was traded from the Blues at last year’s trade deadline. The opportunity to play behind Craig Anderson allowed him to establish a presence as a full-time NHL goalie, and one that could potentially be a durable long-term starter.
Not only did his 2.45 GAA and .922 SV% in 13 games raise his stock, but he went a perfect 4-0 in shootouts, allowing just three goals on 19 opportunities, a .842 SV%. Along with his 5-on-5 and PK efforts (.889 SV%), his body of work went a long way in proving to scouts he could read a variety shot releases and make big saves under pressure, two main factors a scout evaluates when a backup tries to prove he’s a potential starter.
Bishop went 5-2-0 on home ice with a 1.84 GAA and .941 SV% on home ice, and 3-3-0 with a 3.11 GAA and .903 SV% on the road.
With the appeal of having over 13 feet worth of goaltending in the crease next season, I fully expect Bishop to earn an extension with the Lightning. Lindback is signed to a $2.2 million cap hit next season, which means we could see an excellent young 1-2 punch in goal. Both guys bring an intimidating presence to the crease, both have starter upside, and both can feed off each other by competing for starts. It’s not a bad situation for Yzerman to have next season.
Knowing that size is everything these days, the main knock against the potential behemoth tandem will be a lack of NHL experience. Bishop is 26 and has played in 36 NHL games, while Lindback is 24 with 59 games played (95 combined).
From discussions I’ve had with scouts, and from what I have learned on my own, it appears that Tampa Bay has been trying to get Lindback to play a more conservative butterfly style. He’s clearly quite athletic for his size, so they have worked towards getting him to bolster the positional foundation of his game. As I predicted way back in the summer, this year has clearly been a major transition for Lindback; there have been more lows than highs, and his development has been put on hold until his ankle is better.
To know that they are also trying to change a fair share of technical aspects to game comes with the territory of being traded into a larger role, but it doesn’t make that transition any easier.
Bishop, however, has already established that he’ll play, and thrive, within that positional blueprint. He already executes the quiet, economical, size-first butterfly fairly well, so I feel that may have played a big role in the Lightning making the trade for Bishop. I’d have to believe when they scouted him over the past month, that aspect of style vs. substance between the two goalies was a big part of Tampa Bay’s internal discussions.
I also feel as if Bishop will have enough time this season to get comfortable playing within the Lightning’s system. This is clearly an unknown; nobody can truly predict how many games it will take him to get comfortable, but he’s already playing quite well, he has been playing in the Eastern Conference all season, and there’s just under a month of hockey left to play.
So not only does April act as an opportunity for Yzerman to determine what type of upside or contract extension Bishop deserves, it’s an opportunity for Bishop to work with goalie coach Frantz Jean and put a stranglehold on the starting role with the Lightning for next season, and possibly beyond.
This by no means counts Lindback out of the long-term equation, but it does mean they will battle for the starting role for next season. There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition between two legit NHL goaltenders, especially when the 6-foot-6 Lindback is the shorter of the two.
FLAMES ACQUIRE BERRA
On Monday night, the Flames acquired 26-year-old Swiss prospect Reto Berra in the deal that sent Jay Bouwmeester to the Blues.
Berra was a workhorse in the NLA (Switzerland) this season for Biel, posting a 3.01 GAA and .906 SV% in 49 regular season games. He had better numbers in the playoffs, posting a 2.74 GAA and .909 SV% in six games. He played in the Spengler Cup for Davos earlier this season, but really struggled, posting a 4.27 GAA and .901 SV% in three games.
From discussions I’ve had with a Swiss scout for NHL Central Scouting, Berra is still trying to find a level of maturity and consistency needed to thrive at the AHL or NHL level.
I know from my own evaluations that he has the talent to thrive in the AHL and eventually be a fringe NHL backup. He has a terrific athletic base to his game for a 6-foot-4 goalie, and he also has great reflexes, good foot speed, and a crowd-pleasing “edge” or flair to his game.
He competes hard and can make the highlight-reel timely save, but he struggles to maintain that level of play on a consistent basis. Whether you call that streaky or not really depends on his day-to-day performances, but this is the reputation he has developed over the past few seasons with Biel.
His durability is worth noting; he played 38 games for Biel in the 2009-10 season, followed by 40 games two seasons ago, and then 49 games both last year and this year.
Berra has been actively seeking a job in North America since early-February, when he announced he would not be re-signing with Biel. Originally drafted 106th overall by the Blues way back in 2006, Reto was voted as the NLA Goalie of the Year in 2012 after posting a 2.44 GAA and .916 SV% in 49 games.
The latest I’m hearing is that the Flames will sign Berra to a contract, per this tweet from Matias Strozyk, a writer for Elite Prospects:
“G Reto Berra joining the #Flames for 2013/14. His agent told ’20 Minuten’ it’s a one-year contract. Should be made official by next month.”
I believe Berra fits nicely into their plans as an AHL goalie with potential as an NHL backup, so my guess is that they will sign him to a low-cost two-way deal.
Similar to what we saw with Cristopher Nilstorp this season, Calgary will look to strike gold by letting him get comfortable on the smaller ice surface to begin the season, then hopefully play his way into an NHL role depending on his performance.
Maybe they’ll give him a chance to win a job in training camp, but the odds of that happening are very low.
I do expect Karri Ramo to play a major role for the Flames next season, but now that GM Jay Feaster has finally decided to “blow things up” and rebuild, anything could happen in goal.
This is especially true if they opt to trade Miikka Kiprusoff.
LEAFS EYING KIPRUSOFF?
On Tuesday morning, the Maple Leafs signed Drew MacIntyre to an NHL deal for what could be considered as “insurance” purposes. If they choose to hold firm with their tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens, MacIntyre provides more experience than Jussi Rynnas.
The Leafs also graduated Guelph workhorse Garret Sparks by signing him to an ATO with the Marlies.
In terms of Maple Leafs goaltending, all of the trade rumors right now are focused on Kiprusoff, who looked asleep at the wheel in the first period of last night’s 4-1 loss to the Oilers. He gave up three goals on six shots and was pulled just 16:28 into the game.
Despite the feeble save percentage and weak outings this season, Kiprusoff brings non-tangible “x-factor” value to a team like Toronto. His resume and experience speaks for itself, and I don’t think the vastly improved play of Reimer has anything to do with the merits surrounding the potential acquisition of the Finnish veteran.
If Kiprusoff can help support and sustain a deeper playoff run, there’s no reason not to add a goalie of his caliber, even if he’s merely a rental. I think the more important question is in terms of dollars and his salary cap hit.
You can do all the stats digging and number-crunching you want, but it won’t change my opinion that the Leafs would greatly benefit from a veteran presence in goal. Adding Kiprusoff is not a knock on Reimer’s play this season, nor do I think he joins the team to completely de-throne Reimer as a “starter” … this would merely be an acknowledgment that James could benefit from the support and presence of an even-keeled elder.
I’ve screamed to the heavens on this topic ever since J-S Giguere became a free agent and signed with Colorado, and I’ll continue to do so until the Leafs add a decent veteran in goal.
Take nothing away from Reimer’s potential in a Leafs uniform moving forward — he clearly has injected more athleticism into his game. He looks like a bigger goalie in the crease, and his technical game becomes more consistent the more he plays. I also feel like he’s more relaxed and comfortable in a Leafs uniform, partially due to the improved team play (penalty killing, offensive production, etc).
But the lack of playoff experience is still a risk. No matter who you are or where you come from, if you’re entering the playoffs with two goalies that have never been to the Stanley Cup dance before, you’re taking a risk.
Yes, the only way Reimer (or Scrivens) gains NHL playoff experience is if they’re granted that opportunity, but if they struggle, it leaves a gaping hole in the goal, and there’s no reason to take that risk. Both Leafs goalies have their whole career ahead of them — chances to earn playoff experience will come.
At the same time, I understand Kiprusoff’s cap hit plays a major role in the equation, but I’m not broaching that topic here since I focus on talent projections and evaluations.
Finally, Scrivens’ whereabouts also play into the equation, as he would have to clear waivers in order to be sent down to the Marlies. There’s risk involved in that as well, so clearly there are many pieces to arrange before the puzzle of a trade is completed.
One can never know the true innerworkings of potential trade conversations between two teams. Unless you’re in the room or on the phone calls, you have no real clue. But evaluating a trade after-the-fact gives us a glimpse into the world of value, talent assessment, and the affirmation of a team’s current assets in the eyes of a team’s scouting staff (collectively) and GM.
How much faith do the Leafs really have in a Reimer/Scrivens tandem heading into the playoffs? Does GM Dave Nonis really feel like Kiprusoff has some gas left in the tank? What can Feaster get in return for an aging elite Finnish netminder that just posted a terrible performance in his most recent outing? What do the Kings expect to get in return for Bernier? Do other GM’s feel like he has a large enough sample size of games played to be acquired as a starter?
As it so often goes with goaltending, there are way more questions than answers. Labels like “starter” and “backup” and “fringe NHL backup” are merely in the eye of the beholder, but on the eve of the Trade Deadline, there’s no escaping the labels that help create a goalie’s overall reputation.
But I’m sure you’d all agree with me when I say, for the sake of giving us something to talk about BESIDES the great goalie gear debate, let’s hope an NHL goalie or two (or five) gets moved before the deadline.