A week ago, it was unknown how active the National Hockey League (NHL) trade deadline would be. There are only a few teams in the league that could be considered “sellers” at this point in the season, as the vast majority of the teams are either in a playoff spot or in contention for one. That, in combination with the rumored high prices that many general managers are looking for their players, was thought to lead to a relatively slow Wednesday. However, if yesterday’s frantic action is any indication, today’s deadline action should easily surpass any predictions. Roberto Luongo, Ilya Brzgalov and Dustin Penner headlined yesterday’s trading news as many teams took a preemptive strike on the day before the NHL trade deadline.
Roberto Luongo was one of six goaltenders that found themselves shipped off to a new team in recent weeks. Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward Shawn Matthias and goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Vancouver Canucks prospect Steven Anthony was also sent to Florida in the deal. Rumors of Luongo’s discontent in the Vancouver organization stem from last year, when Cory Schneider became the favored goaltender for the Canucks. Vancouver traded Schneider in the offseason, but the play of young Eddie Lack this year created a similar situation for Luongo and the Canucks. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the coach and the organization giving Lack the start in Sunday’s NHL Heritage Classic. Sitting Roberto Luongo for such an important game, both in terms of Vancouver’s place in the standings and in terms of what the game means to Vancouver, sent a strong message to the veteran and irrevocably damaged the relationship between the two sides.
Ryan Miller was another goaltender that found himself a new home. Last week, the Buffalo Sabres traded Miller and captain Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for forward Steve Ott and goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Unlike Luongo and the Canucks, Miller left Buffalo on amicable terms, knowing that the organization traded him in an effort to give the elite goaltender a better chance at winning the Stanley Cup. Buffalo’s acquisition of Halak raised some eyebrows around the league, as the Czech goaltender is an upcoming unrestricted free agent, but it is expected that the Sabres will attempt to trade Halak before three o’clock today, the deadline for NHL trades.
The Anaheim Ducks were a particularly active participant yesterday, moving forward Dustin Penner to the Washington Capitals, acquiring veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas, and trading young prospect goaltender Viktor Fasth to the Edmonton Oilers. When the Oilers acquired Fasth, they quickly parted ways with the often-controversial Ilya Bryzgalov. sending him to the Minnesota Wild for a fourth round pick. The Wild have been in the hunt for a goaltender for months, and while Bryzgalov was not the best available, he was likely the cheapest to acquire.
In the midst of the goalie carousel, one goaltender signed a deal that would keep him with his team for at least another two years. Russian goaltender Anton Khudobin signed a two-year contract extension with the Carolina Hurricanes, earning him $4.5 million over that time span. Khudobin was signed as a free agent in the offseason by the Hurricanes, expecting him to be a suitable backup to franchise goaltender Cam Ward. Injuries and general poor play left Ward to the wayside and allowed Khudobin an opportunity to steal the starting job. It was an opportunity he took full advantage of. He has become the de-facto starter for the Hurricanes, leaving Carolina with a big decision about what can be done with Cam Ward and his 6.3 million dollar contract.
More goaltenders are expected to be on the move today. Both the Winnipeg Jets and the Calgary Flames are in need of someone to solidify their shaky goaltending position and an upgrade in net could turn bubble teams like the Washington Capitals into playoff contenders. The biggest question of the day will be what will be done with goaltending legend Martin Brodeur. Brodeur played in his 1,250th game in the NHL yesterday night, all of them with the New Jersey Devils. Rumors swirl and debate rages about whether the Devils will trade Brodeur before today’s deadline. If Martin Brodeur is traded, he will take the top spot of the day away from Roberto Luongo as the headline for this year’s NHL trade deadline.
This article is one in a series, provided daily, providing coverage, analysis and predictions to NHL fans.
Commentary by Jonathan Gardner
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