(photos via nhl.com)
Pre season is underway and one problem many NHL teams have in common is having a crowded crease. It happens every year, but this year that number seems rather absurdly high. There will definitely have to be some tough decisions made by NHL management teams as to who stays, and who goes.
I took a look at a few of the three headed monsters that are currently occupying NHL creases and it really is interesting as there’s going to be some rather talented goalies being shipped to the minors, Europe, or possibly other teams.
Either way, its becoming very evident that there’s certainly no lack of skilled goaltenders when it comes to filling NHL creases.
In my Pacific Division preview, I stated that having Alex Stalock as the backup would give the Sharks a good number two for Martin Jones, simply because Stalock has a bit of experience. However, as camp opens up for the Sharks it’s clear they’re taking a long look at youngster Troy Groesnick to fill that backup slot.
Maybe youngster was the wrong term for Groesnick who is 26 years old and really coming into a big year for him career wise. He’s spent the last 2 seasons with Worchester of the AHL posting a winning record both seasons, going a combined 38-27-3, with a GAA of 2.63 and a SV% of .905 both seasons.
I’ve never seen Groesnick play before, so it’s tough for me to make the call on this one, but he’s been talked up a lot. I still feel however that the safe play for the Sharks would be to keep Stalock as the backup as he could provide a safety net if Martin Jones faulters at all in his first season as a number one goalie.
I also believe its entirely possible for the Sharks to go out and get a new backup goalie. If I were them, I would be looking at one of the leftover goalies from Calgary or even Niklas Backstrom from Minnesota.
The Flames come into the pre-season with three goalies on one-way deals. Joni Ortio, Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo are all competing for two spots, and it’s as wide open as can be.
These three aren’t making it easy on management either. All three posted nearly identical numbers through their first pre-season appearance, and then Joni Ortio stole the show by making 35 saves and shutting out the Colorado Avalanche.
It’s farily certain that Jonas Hiller will have a spot on the team, but after that it depends if the Flames will go with the experienced Ramo or with the future in Joni Ortio. Both would have to be sent through waivers, and both would msot likely be claimed, so that route wouldn’t make sense. A trade would be more likely with San Jose, Buffalo or possibly even Pittsburgh being the possible landing spots.
Another possibility is if Calgary management is impressed enough with Ramo and Ortio, could they move pending UFA Hiller out for a larger return then what they could get for Ortio or Ramo? Anything is possible in Cow-Town when it comes to their goaltending.
The Wild have had a sticky goalie situation for year that didn’t change this year. Once again, there are three capable goaltenders in Minnesota and only two can stay. So what will they do?
Devan Dubnyk is a lock for the starters spot. He was brilliant last year since coming over from Pheonix and although I feel his 1.78 GAA and .936 SV% are highly unsustainable. Regardless of how Dubynk does in training camp, the real question in Minny is who will back him up?
My money is on Darcy Kuemper who played 35 games last year, putting up a 2.60 GAA and a .905 save%, very respectable numbers. He’s also only 25 and just beginning to enter his prime as an NHL goaltender, so its not a stretch at all for him to push Dubynk for that starter spot as the season goes on.
If Kuemper backs up Dubnyk, that means Niklas Backstrom has got to go somewhere and I don’t believe he would report to the AHL. A trade would be most likely (with retained salary) and I could see San Jose taking a run at him to get some veteran insurance for Martin Jones. I could also see Backstrom calling it quits and going to Sweden if the Wild decide to put him on waivers.
Those were the three scenarios that peaked my interest. San Jose in particular because they have two goalies in camp both perfectly capable of taking over the backup role in my opinion, yet I still have this feeling they may go out and grab some insurance early in the season. Especially, if Martin Jones gets off to a slow start.
Theres also a few I didn’t touch on in this piece. Edmonton has a good battle going for the backup spot behind Cam Talbot between Ben Scrivens and Anders Nilsson. After the first few pre-season games it looks like Nilsson could have the edge there.
The battle for the starters crease in Toronto will be exiting especially after Babcock’s statement of wanting to pick one guy a really go with him. Not having that back and forth mentality some Leafs coaches have had in the past. I still give Jonathan Bernier the upper hand here, but it’ll be interesting to see what James Reimer does. I’ve always liked Reimer’s game.
Boston has had Malcolm Subban in the pipeline since they drafted him in 2012, but if they feel he isn’t ready are they confident enough in Jeremy Smith? Or could they be another team who goes to the trade market for a backup? A trade might not even be necessary as a pretty solid ‘tender might show up on the waiver wire for free.
The goalie scenarios around the league are just another one of the story lines flying around during training camp. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see what moves are made, or even what moves aren’t.