Most Flames fans will have a lot of trepidation about the potential movement of Miikka Kiprusoff this off-season.
As discussed in a previous article, moving a top Goaltender has not historically worked out for the team trading them. It isn't just the movement of him but the hole it will create in the Flames line-up. Expect the Flames to acquire a Goalie either through UFA or through a potential trade to help fill it.
In the Flames case he is the single most valuable asset they have.
In 2004 Kipper birthed a whole new generation of Flames fans in a sleepy hockey market on its 7th year out of the playoffs. If he leaves the Flames 8 years later in 2012 he may assist in the re-birth of the team itself, if the trade is constructed properly.
It is a good off-season to move him. The market is not crowded with top goaltending competition; several teams are looking for a strong starter. Unlike Jarome Iginla, his NMC expires and there will be no limitations on where he can be moved.
Make the jump for a review of market supply and demand.
Kipper is not the only G in the market this off-season but he is one of the more attractive ones, especially for a team pushing to make the playoffs.
Cory and Luo – The Canuck Conundrum
Vancouver may have a goaltending issue with Schneider and Luongo. It is highly unlikely another team will take Luongo. It isn’t that Luongo is a bad goalie, he isn’t, he is a very good one but his contract is a monstrosity. Only the top of the Cap teams would even consider it and then, only for a moment with a new CBA on the horizon.
That leaves Cory Schneider and two possible hands to play. They can sign him on a one-year reasonable price deal, gamble that no one is going to offer-sheet him and proceed with a great back-up into next year’s playoffs.
Schneider himself may be more than happy to comply. It would rocket them to the top of the NHL in dollars allocated to goaltending but they are not that far out.
Luo’s Cap hit is 5.33 million and estimating Schneider signs on at 3.5 million means the Canucks allocate 8.8 million to goaltending. The current team who spends the most on the position is the New York Rangers with a cumulative Cap hit to G of 7.75 million. It isn’t an impossible scenario but it is risky and unlikely.
RFA compensation at this price point would be a 1st and 3rd round pick and depending on the team that may not be worth it. The Canucks will likely want control of the situation, which means Option B – Trade.
Among teams that will want a strong young Goalie and can dangle an attractive return are the Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets. Both these teams can offer up their 1st round picks in this draft and whether it is 1st overall or 2nd overall the Canucks will be listening. Nail Yakupov is a RW and Mikhail Grigorenko can play RW as well and who doesn’t immediately see one of them on the Sedin line. The Oilers could even offer Taylor Hall instead of Yak and the Canucks would still be listening although a little Cap shuffling would be required.
From the Oilers perspective they are getting a true #1 Goaltender ready to play, no adding water or development needed. They can deal Dubynk for some return and let Bulin play out his contract.
The logic is the same for the Blue Jackets although they will have to find a way to dump Mason. Something certainly can be worked out here to solve the Canucks conundrum with either of these teams.
Tomas Vokoun - The Red Army Red Herring
I don't think Vokoun is really on the market. Technically he goes UFA but the swan song of a deal that so nicely slotted into the Capitals Cap limitations last year looked a little fishy to me. It looked to me like a handshake deal, a wink and nudge that they are going to resign Vokoun to a better deal when the Capitals had Cap opening up this year.
Vokoun clearly wants to play in Washington and I will not be in the least bit surprised if he signs a longer deal to finish off his career, contingently removing him and the Capitals from the Goaltending market this off-season.
Vokoun does have injury issues surrounding him. Suffering a groin injury late in the season but regardless I expect him to be back in D.C. next year.
Aside from Kipper, Harding is probably the best Goalie available out there. The Flames, if they trade Kipper, may even go after him.
He has a 117 NHL games under his belt, is not that old at 27 and has a respectable 0.916 SV %. He is definitely going to go snagged by someone and will get a decent raise in the process.
After Harding the Goalie market takes a significant drop in quality. The following goaltenders will be available but will not be ideal targets and distant 2nd choices to Kipper and Harding. They also may be good candidates for the Flames to pick up for next season.
Biron will get a look from some teams. He is no ones idea of elite but at the age of 34 with 500 NHL games under his belt he is experienced. He will be cheap and a team like Calgary may consider him to solidify an uncertain G position in Kipper's absence.
Highly unlikely to be re-signed in Toronto and hardly impressing anyone in the NHL but like Harding he is only 27, has 107 NHL games under his belt. His numbers are not impressive BUT I have seen him show flashes of strong play.
Did the fishbowl in Toronto do him in? Is he worth another look? I would not be averse to taking Gustavvson, although some will cringe at this statement. A change of scenery may do him wonders. He let in some terribly soft goals but his fundamentals are decent and I like the fact he is only 27.
Remember some G take time, Kipper, Hasek, Thomas all emerged at an older age.
There is nothing substantial on the supply side of the market. If Schneider is available it will broaden demand to teams who may be willing to give up assets to target him long term but really after Schneider, Vokoun, Harding and Kipper that is it.
Goalie Market Demand
Several teams this year are looking for an upgrade. For the purposes of this discussion I am going to exclude Schneider because I think he will broaden market demand even further. Additional teams will enter the market if Schneider is there.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Dwayne Roloson has had that year at the age of 42, he hung on longer than most but his play really dropped off this year. I doubt if he will have any offers and TB is looking hard for a top G. They gave up the most goals in the NHL this season by a huge margin at 281, worst in the NHL and only their scoring prowess kept them respectable, scoring the 9th most goals for.
Given the state of the team in the standings and with a older Mathieu Garon at age 34 they will be looking for a true starter. This is a team that should be in the mix for Kipper, if they are intending on going for the playoffs in the next couple years.
Goalie Demand - Very High
The Chicago Blackhawks – After the Huet disaster this is a team that was previously G shy but if they take a first round exit to the Coyotes, it will be because of the soft play of Corey Crawford. This team should be lethal and going deep each year. They may get a pass last year against the Canucks but not this year against the Coyotes. They may be a surprise team to go after Kipper with a strong offer and if they get him, it very well may mean another Cup for them.
Goalie Demand - Moderate
The Red Wings – Like the Hawks an early first round exit just may be on the man between the pipes.
The Red Wings were the first team to innovate and recognize the narrowing gap between the elite G and average G. Seeing the position expendable in a Cap world in favor of the puck moving D and top C, I don’t expect them to make a big move, not in their nature but they could have used a better G this year. I expect them to pick up a Biron like G on UFA.
Goalie Demand - Moderate to Low (due to low prioritization of the position)
The Toronto Maple Leafs – Brian Burke made no bones about it in his end of the year presser. The man is on the hunt for a #1 G. The Leafs will be a prime trade team for the Flames and the thought has to send shivers through Flames fans. After two literal pillages of trades from Toronto there might be a special phone that sounds sirens and red lights when the Leafs call – with the word "Danger, Danger" blaring in the background from a speaker.
Regardless one has to be rational about the situation. There is no logical reason to refuse to trade with Toronto just because past trades haven’t worked. They are the team that may very well put the best offer on the table.
Goalie Demand - Very High
Florida Panthers – Dale Tallon is a wild man. Widely mocked in every advanced hockey stats circle known to man last year, he somehow defied the odds and delivered a playoff team and on top of that, actually won two playoff games, so far. Gasp. He has wet his beak on the Free Agent market, had success and look for him to be in the hunt as well.
I do not pretend to be privy to the workings of Dale Tallon, he could do anything on this front. The fact is clear that Florida, however you want to break it down, ended up with success this season and he will need at the very least a G to split duties with Jose Theodore next year. He may just resign Clemmenson though, who knows.
Goalie Demand - High
Columbus Blue Jackets - Scott Howson, took a hard hit last year and has problems on a lot of fronts. One of them is Goaltending. I'll admit to being one of those people who predicted the Jackets would be pushing for the playoffs this year and feel a little sorry for Howson. On paper his moves last year were not bad for a GM wanting a playoff team.
Nonetheless, water under the bridge and one of his concerns this off-season along with moving Rick Nash has to be his Goaltending. Steve Mason has busted out since his rookie year, and is overpaid with a 2.9 million Cap Hit. Howson will certainly be looking for a better Goalie and if he can move Mason at the same time he probably will. A contract structured like Kipper's will be attractive with only 1.5 million paid in his final year.
Goalie Demand - High
Washington Capitals – This one is a little overblown in my mind. I am willing to give 50/50 odds that Vokoun is resigning in Washington. Just a little too fishy that deal last year. One year 1.5 million deal, yeah right. The Capitals need a G and will have Vokoun off the market fairly quick.
Goalie Demand - I predict none with a resigning of Vokoun
New Jersey Devils – Last but not least is the Devils. Will Martin Brodeur retire next season? His contract is up; if he plays again it will certainly be with the Devils and they may get one more year out of him.
Goalie Demand - I predict none with a resigning of Broudeur for one more year
Kipper Candidate Teams
If we cross off the Capitals and Vokoun, assume Schneider is in the running and Josh Harding. We have 3 reasonable goalies with Kipper, Harding and Schneider on the market and a min of 4 teams taking a hard look at them.
Realistically speaking market demand is Toronto, Tampa Bay, Florida, Columbus with an outside chance of Chicago if they have lost patience with Crawford. I don’t really see the Jackets going for Kipper because of his age, unless Calgary would take Mason back in the trade. Not impossible but unlikely. Same logic applies for the Hawks, they would want to move Crawford to keep their overall Cap hit on G down.
Chicago can continue on with Crawford but again, I see them as a potential surprise team in the bidding because this team could squander its Cup window with a weak Goaltender.
The min teams in the hunt then are Toronto, Tampa, Florida and Columbus with the three top G on the market being Schneider, Kipper and Harding falling somewhere and one team left out in the cold.
Kipper trade scenarios in the next article.