The NHL trade deadline this year is February 29. While that is certainly an odd date (it’s a leap year) for a deadline, it won’t be odd if no goaltenders end up getting traded. In the NHL it is extremely difficult to trade a goalie in season. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the main reason is that it would make sense that only a team in playoff contention would try to acquire a goaltender and it’s hard to give up prospects or draft picks for goalie that you just can’t be sure will play well for your team. We normally see goalies traded during the offseason, when teams have more time to evaluate and see if that player will fit into their system. Fantasy teams, however, shouldn’t have any such fear. If you need help in these categories you may want to look at teams that have built up a considerable lead in wins, saves, or the ratios. There may be a deal that can be made if you have a forward or defender that they need. As always, it never hurts to ask. As I’ve learned over and over again, just because you think the other owner won’t bite on a deal, doesn’t mean they won’t. You never know what they value. Now for some goaltending news.
Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price was finally able to get on the ice this week and practice. It was a light practice and nothing has changed as far as his timetable. He’s still not scheduled to return to the team until after the All-Star break. If you need a goaltender, you may be able to buy low here as his owner may be tired of this injury-plagued season. When healthy, Price is an elite goaltender and possibly the best one in the game. He is 10-2 this season with a 2.06 GAA and .934 save percentage. I’ll take my chances that he comes back strong in February.
Buffalo Sabres: Robin Lehner is ready to return to action. Lehner has been out of action since early October due to an ankle injury, but he’s good to go and could start as early as Friday. However, unless you are in desperate need of a goaltender, I’m not sure what you’re hoping to gain here if you start him. Buffalo is getting better but they aren’t there yet. They are currently sitting at 15th in the Eastern Conference and they will be sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline, which also means they are only going to get worse, not better. If you’re a Chad Johnson owner (I don’t know why), he can be sent packing.
Columbus Blue Jackets: This has been a lost season for the team in so many ways; not the least of which has been yet another groin injury for Sergei Bobrovsky. The team announced that he could return to the net as soon as next week, but how much can he help Fantasy owners. The Blue Jackets, like the Sabres, are only playing for a higher percentage in the draft lottery. Wins will be tough to come by. The good news is that the addition of Seth Jones should help a defensive corps that needs all the top end talent that it can get, and the Blue Jackets have a history of playing better when the games mean nothing, when there is less pressure.
Dallas Stars: Is there anyone else out there that wishes this team would make up its mind and go with either Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi? If you go strictly by the numbers, it should be Niemi, but those numbers don’t seem to be good enough for Dallas. They are pretty much going with the hot goalie plan, and that drives Fantasy owners crazy. It’s really not a problem in daily lineup leagues if you have both net minders, but in weekly leagues it can lead to some trying times. Stay away if you can, as this is a run and gun team anyway and neither one is likely to put up elite numbers.
St. Louis Blues: Jake Allen was put on injured reserve with a knee injury. His loss alone is frustrating enough for Fantasy owners, but now Brian Elliott will get his chance to prove that he should be the starting goalie. Allen was good this season, posting a 2.17 GAA and .924 save percentage, whereas Elliott has a 2.38 GAA and .917 save percentage. In other words, he’s not that far behind. A strong showing in the next week or two could lead coach Ken Hitchcock to giving Elliott a larger share of the workload in the second half. Remember, Hitchcock is pretty much on a Stanley Cup or bust run to save his job. He will start whichever goaltender he believes will give him the best chance to save his job. There is no tomorrow for Hitchcock if he doesn’t win now.
Arizona Coyotes: If you’re looking for a hot goaltender to grab, it’s Louis Domingue. He may be Cinderella, and he may turn into a pumpkin at midnight, but right now we don’t know exactly when that day will be. Mike Smith isn’t expected to return until late February or early March at the earliest. It could be the Domingue show until then, but if this hot streak eventually ends they could go back to Anders Lindback. The Coyotes have proven to be a better team than we thought so far this season. It’s amazing what a couple of top youngsters like Anthony Duclair and Max Domi can do for an organization.
Vancouver Canucks: Ryan Miller returned to the team Thursday. Miller had been out for almost a month with muscle cramps. Miller got off to a hot start this season but had cooled considerably before the injury. Is he a top notch goaltender anymore? No, but he’s still a solid number two. What should concern Fantasy owners more than his play is that while he was out of the lineup, Jacob Markstrom played well. Now, Markstrom will not take over the starting job for Miller, but he could eat into some of his playing time as the season rolls on.
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