NHL Goalie Rumors – March 28, 2017

NHL Goalie Rumors – March 28, 2017

Should the Boston Bruins consider moving Tuukka Rask this summer?

Latest on Tuukka Rask, Ryan Miller, Peter Budaj, Antti Niemi and Philipp Grubauer in your NHL rumor mill. 

CSNNE.COM: Joe Haggerty recently noted that “Boston’s franchise goaltender and $7 million man Tuukka Rask couldn’t physically answer the bell for one of the biggest games of the year,” sitting out last Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders with a lower-body injury. Noting Rask’s recent struggles leading up to that game, Haggerty suggested ” there’s a real issue developing with Rask and how much trust the Bruins can have in him when the games matter most.” He pointed out the goaltender won’t have full no-trade protection when this season ends and suggested it might be time for the Bruins to consider other options between the pipes this summer. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Rather that try to dump Rask for a better option, perhaps the Bruins would be better off finding a more reliable backup. Rask’s had to carry a heavy workload over the last three seasons behind a defense corps that’s thinner in talent than it used to be. Besides, I don’t think there’s better options out there this summer for the Bruins, and shedding Rask’s $7 million annual cap hit (which runs through 2020-21 and comes with a modified no-trade clause starting this July) could be a tough sell if the salary cap fails to significantly rise this summer. 

VANCOUVER SUN: Jason Botchford recently noted the solid play of Canucks goalie Ryan Miller in the second half of this season and Jacob Markstrom’s struggles over the same period. He suggested it’s created a situation where the Canucks need to bring Miller back on a one-year contract. Botchford believes there won’t be many options via free agency for Miller, who turns 37 later this year. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Canucks could consider other options via trade or the free-agent market. Scott Darling could be a better UFA option, while Antti Raanta of the NY Rangers and Philipp Grubauer of the Washington Capitals could be trade candidates in June. Still, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Canucks re-sign Miller to a one-year, $4 million contract.

TAMPA BAY TIMES: Joe Smith recently suggested goaltender Peter Budaj’s future with the Lightning could last beyond this season. Smith feels Budaj is a good fit as Andrei Vasilevskiy’s backup and the remainder of this season could be an audition for the veteran netminder to earn a new contract with the Bolts. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’ll depend upon Budaj’s asking price for his next contract. His solid play this season will earn him a significant raise over his current one-year $600K deal. The Bolts have limited cap space for next season and must re-sign Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat plus they must acquire a top-four defenseman. Still, if Budaj seeks a reasonable contract, the Bolts could keep him. 

THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: During a recent live chat, Mike Heika speculated that the reason the Stars are playing Kari Lehtonen more frequently is they’ve lost faith in Antti NIemi. He felt they might want to see if Lehtonen is worth keeping beyond this season. A lot will depend upon whether they acquire a goalie before the buyout window closes on June 30. He’s guessing they’ll buy out Niemi for sure. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Stars could protect Lehtonen in the expansion draft and hope the Vegas Golden Knights select Niemi in the expansion draft. Should the Stars buy out Niemi, the annual cap hit will be $1.5 million for the next two seasons. I doubt he’ll attract much interest in the trade market. 

WASHINGTON POST: Isabelle Khurshudyan reports Capitals backup goalie Philipp Grubauer has heard the speculation he could be selected in this summer’s expansion draft by the Vegas Golden Knights. For now, he’s keeping his focus on this season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Grubauer was selected by the Capitals in 2010, when Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was Washington’s GM. As the Caps will obviously protect Braden Holtby, I expect Grubauer to be snapped up by the Golden Knights in June. 

Lightning Ship Bishop to the Kings

Lightning Ship Bishop to the Kings

Tampa Bay Lightning trade goalie Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings.

The Tampa Bay Lightning traded goaltender Ben Bishop and a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for goalie Peter Budaj, defenseman Erik Cernak, a seventh-round pick in 2017 and a conditional 2017 pick. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos last night reported the Kings were looking at Bishop or Vancouver’s Ryan Miller as a possible backup for returning starter Jonathan Quick. Despite the solid play of Budaj filling in for Quick dating back to October, the Kings obviously felt they needed a potential starter with playoff experience in case Quick is sidelined again or struggles over the remainder of this season.

Bishop, 30, has had injury issues of his own over the last couple of years, but he’s also only a year removed from being a Vezina Trophy finalist. He’s an unrestricted free agent this summer and obviously a rental player for the Kings. After struggling earlier this season through injury and inconsistency (the latter likely due to uncertainty over his future), Bishop has shown signs of returning to his once-stellar form over the last couple of weeks. 

With a healthy Quick and Bishop, the Kings have a solid tandem to share the duties over the remainder of the season. However, this move fails to address the their anemic offense. With a 2.44 goals-for per game as of Feb. 26, they are among the league’s lowest-scoring clubs. If they don’t find a way to address that problem, having an all-star goalie tandem won’t help them reach the playoffs.

Budaj has played well this season and should continue to do so with the Bolts, but he’ll be backing up Andrei Vasilevskiy, who’s now their full-time starter. Like Bishop, Budaj’s a UFA this summer. If he plays well over the rest of the season, perhaps the Lightning will bring him back as Vasilevskiy’s backup.

The Lightning are in need of blueline depth. Cernak, 19, won’t be an immediate answer as he’s currently playing for the OHL’s Erie Otters. The 6’3″, 203-pounder defenseman apparently has the potential to be a shutdown blueliner. Perhaps he can fill that role for the Bolts down the road. 

This move should leave no doubt that Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman is in sell mode and  probably has other moves in store leading up to deadline day. Center and pending UFA Brian Boyle could also be dealt by the deadline and restricted free agent Tyler Johnson has also popped up in recent trade speculation. 

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 5, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – February 5, 2017

Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby scores one of his two goals against the St. Louis Blues.

Game recaps, Devils trade Fiddler to Predators and more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.COM: Sidney Crosby scored twice and set up another to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Crosby is the first player to reach 30 goals this season and is only three points shy of 1000 for his NHL career. The Blues also lost winger Robby Fabbri in the first period to an apparent left-leg injury

Mikael Granlund netted a hat trick and added an assist as the Minnesota Wild doubled up the Vancouver Canucks 6-3. Granlund has a 12-game point streak going, collecting 17 points during that stretch. 

Peter Budaj picked up his league-leading seventh shutout and Jeff Carter scored the only goal as the Los Angeles Kings blanked the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0. 

The Toronto Maple Leafs blew a 4-1 lead but would go on to beat the Boston Bruins 6-5. James van Riemsdyk tallied the winner late in the third period and teammate William Nylander netted his first career NHL hat trick. David Pastrnak scored twice for the Bruins. Earlier in the day, the Leafs claimed defenseman Alexey Marchenko off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings and placed blueliner Frank Corrado on waivers. 

Nicklas Backstrom’s early third-period goal stood as the winner as the Washington Capitals edged the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby made 20 saves for his 10th straight win.

Taylor Hall scored twice and Cory Schneider made 31 saves to give the New Jersey Devils a 5-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Earlier in the day, the Devils shipped center Vernon Fiddler to the Nashville Predators for a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fiddler, 36, is an unrestricted free agent this summer who no longer fit into the Devils long-term plans. The move now gives the Devils 10 picks in this year’s draft. Some of them could be used as trade bait to land a quality player either by the trade deadline or leading up to this year’s draft weekend in June. Fiddler is returning to the team where his NHL career began and should provide the Preds with checking-line depth at center as they push to secure a playoff berth. 

Speaking of the Predators, they fell 1-0 to the Detroit Red Wings, with Petr Mrazek making 42 saves for his first shutout of the season and Mike Green scoring the only goal. 

Robin Lehner turned in a 37-save shutout performance and Jack Eichel collected two assists as the Buffalo Sabres downed the Ottawa Senators 4-0. 

Corey Crawford made 31 saves while teammates Artem Anisimov and Marian Hossa each collected two assists to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 5-3 win over the Dallas Stars. 

Ron Hainsey scored twice, including the winner in overtime, as the Carolina Hurricanes squeaked past the New York Islanders 5-4. Anders Lee and Josh Bailey each had a goal and an assist for the Isles. 

Brian Boyle’s shootout goal gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks, snapping the Bolts three-game losing skid. Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov had two assists. The Lightning were playing without winger Ondrej Palat, who’s listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury

Matt Duchene collected three assists and Jarome Iginla scored a goal and set up another to lead the Colorado Avalanche to a 5-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets, snapping the Avs nine-game losing streak. 

Mike Smith made 38 saves and Radim Vrbata tallied the game winner in a shoot out as the Arizona Coyotes defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-2. 

NBC SPORTS: Yesterday was the deadline for all NHL goaltenders to switch to the new streamlined goalie pants. Some, such as Arizona’s Mike Smith and Chicago’s Scott Darling, aren’t pleased with the change, with Darling claiming netminders are being punished for getting better at their position. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Goaltenders will adapt to this equipment change, just as they did with previous modifications. It could be worse, the league could’ve gone to a bigger net. The only problem I have with this change is the timing. It should’ve been implemented at the start of 2017-18, rather than midseason. 

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER:  The Anaheim Ducks depth in defensemen could make blueliner Josh Manson the odd man out when they submit their list of protected players for this June’s expansion draft.