Trade Targets: Backup Goaltenders
DISCLAIMER: I’m no NHL Insider(r?) nor am I pretending to be. My only sources are my own pure speculation based on what I know from watching other teams around the league. Nothing in this post should be interpreted as insider information or substantial rumors.
One of the time-honored traditions of being a hockey fan in armchair-GMing. What’s more fun that speculating about trades for your favorite team? As a hockey fan with an aversion to sleeping on time and a GameCenter Live subscription, I see a good bit of non-Penguins hockey and I’ve gotten to know how a lot of other players play. This is a series that will profile some of the players around the NHL who might look good in a Penguins uniform.
In this installment, we’re going to take a look at some goaltenders. Tomas Vokoun will miss an extended period of time and while Jeff Zatkoff deserves an opportunity to make his place in the NHL, I don’t think anyone would complain about a more experienced goaltender behind Marc-Andre Fleury, who is sort of a mystery right now.
Jose Theodore (age 37)
Contract Status: UFA 2013
Cap hit: N/A
The good: Theodore is an accomplished netminder. He won the Hart and the Vezina in 2002, and while those years are far behind him, he has settled into more of a secondary role in recent years. Generally regarded as a pretty good guy, Theodore feels like the kind of veteran backup you’d want, especially when your starting goaltender might be a head case. He scored a goal against the Islanders once.
The bad: His career .909 save percentage isn’t anything to write home about, and his save percentage declined significantly last year (.917 in 2012 to .893 in 2013). His performance the past two years coincided with the Florida Panthers as a whole, so it may not be fair to judge him by his stats alone. Still, at age 37, a decline is to be expected and that might be what we’ve seen of Theodore lately.
Johan Hedberg (age 40)
Contract Status: UFA 2013
Cap hit: N/A
The good: Let’s just get this out of the way: The push for Hedberg by Pens fans on Twitter is largely a product of nostalgia. Hedberg was a cult hero in Pittsburgh in the early 2000s and a lot of people would like to see him bookend his career in black and gold. But on the ice, Hedberg has been comfortable playing a smaller amount of games for most of his NHL career. Would you believe me if I told you he’s only played 373 NHL games? Even dating back to his time in Europe and the minor leagues, Hedberg has never been a start-every-game kind of guy. So at age 40, he certainly isn’t a young guy, but there isn’t as much wear on his tires as a guy like Martin Brodeur or Miikka Kiprusoff.
The bad: He’s still 40 years old. He was released from a PTO with the Rangers this year, and if you’re not fit to back up Henrik Lundqvist (who plays almost every game) then something must not be working for you. Hedberg’s career .901 save percentage isn’t anything special, and with his best years behind him, we might be looking at another case of Brent Johnson’s being-likable-but-not-good-enough in his last season here.
Ryan Miller (age 33)
Contract Status: UFA 2014
Cap hit: $6.25M
The good: Here’s the blockbuster. This idea was floated by Adam Proteau a week or two ago on Twitter. Ryan Miller is wasting away in Buffalo, and he looks like a guy in desperate need of a change in scenery. Miller is a talented goaltender, with his 2010 season his crowning achievement, taking home Olympic Silver, Olympic Tournament MVP honors, and the Vezina Trophy. A few years later, his team is dying for a rebuild and the return for a goaltender of his ability would be significant.
The bad: That cap hit is a problem. If the Penguins want Ryan Miller, it’s almost a given that Marc-Andre Fleury would have to go the other way in the deal. Fleury isn’t exactly a hot commodity these days and Darcy Regier would almost certainly demand more, be it picks, prospects, or both. I don’t see Ray Shero making that much of an earth-shaking move just to make it, and if Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t causing problems in the regular season (he typically doesn’t), then this move will remain all it is now: rampant speculation.
What do you think about the Penguins’ goaltending depth? Should they sign or trade for one of these players? Ride it out with Zatkoff and hope Vokoun gets healthy in time to make an impact? Or might you have your eyes on someone else in the NHL?
Brian is on Twitter, @BlitzburghBrian