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Goalie trades drastically alter landscape of NHL

by Dan Rosen

SUNRISE, Fla. -- As disappointing as Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray was to trade goalie Robin Lehner to another team in the Atlantic Division on Friday, he appeared to feel better about doing it after watching the goalie carousel yield smaller results Saturday.

"I did it at the right time, there's no doubt," Murray said. "I thought I had the best goaltender available, and I guess it proved out to be that."

Murray acquired the No. 21 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft from the Buffalo Sabres in a trade involving Lehner on Friday. The Edmonton Oilers, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars didn't have to give up an asset as significant as a first-round pick when they jumped into the goalie market Saturday, even though there were rumors heading into the draft that most goalies on the market would fetch that much.

The Oilers got Cam Talbot from the New York Rangers for three picks (Nos. 57, 79 and 184). The Rangers turned around and got Antti Raanta from the Chicago Blackhawks in a trade for forward prospect Ryan Haggerty.

The Hurricanes acquired Eddie Lack from the Vancouver Canucks for two picks (No. 66 this year and a seventh-round pick next year). Carolina, in turn, traded Anton Khudobin to the Ducks for defenseman James Wisniewski, who has two years left on his contract, which carries a $5.5 million NHL salary-cap charge.

The Stars traded for the negotiating rights to Antti Niemi, giving the San Jose Sharks a seventh-round pick. Dallas general manager Jim Nill said he is confident he'll be able to sign Niemi before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

"Once one (goalie) is gone it doesn't mean the price goes down," Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli said. "Sometimes it goes up. Usually the next guy is the next guy for everybody, so you have to be wary of that.

"[The price] went down."

It didn't go down enough to make Buffalo GM Tim Murray regret giving away a first-round pick for Lehner because he coveted the goalie, who is 23 years old and signed for two seasons.

Talbot, Lack and Khudobin are older than Lehner and are unrestricted free agents next summer. Niemi isn't signed.

"We were willing to pay a price on him that we weren't willing to pay on some other guys," Tim Murray said of Lehner.

Chiarelli was willing to pay a similar price to acquire Lehner, but he was outbid by Buffalo. It might have worked in Edmonton's favor because not only was Chiarelli able to get Talbot, the GM used picks Nos. 16 and 33 on Friday in a trade to get defenseman Griffin Reinhart from the New York Islanders, addressing another of Edmonton's needs.

Talbot will compete with Ben Scrivens to be the No. 1 goalie in Edmonton. Chiarelli said Talbot's play when Henrik Lundqvist was out of the Rangers lineup swayed his thinking on him. New York won 16 of Talbot's 23 starts when Lundqvist was out with a vascular injury.

"I think he's really come into his own," Chiarelli said. "It's such an inexact science with these goalies, but he played really well for the last two years and he really played well in crunch time."

Carolina felt it needed to get better on defense, so it targeted Wisniewski, who the Ducks were looking to trade. Once Hurricanes GM Ron Francis figured out the cost would be Khudobin, because Anaheim was looking to bolster its goaltending, Francis knew he couldn't make the trade without finding another elsewhere.

Francis said he thinks Lack can grow with the Hurricanes and potentially could be a long-term solution. Cam Ward is signed for one season with Carolina.

"We certainly think that he's a guy that's coming into his own in the League," Francis said of Lack.

The Canucks weren't thrilled that they had to make the trade for less than a second-round pick.

"At the end of the day we talked to probably eight teams, and the only real offer we got was for that pick at the top of the third round," Vancouver GM Jim Benning said. "People might say we didn't get enough, but at the end of the day that's the only real offer we got."

Anaheim got into the goalie market to acquire depth and to get rid of Wisniewski's contract. GM Bob Murray accomplished both in the trade with the Hurricanes.

Now the Ducks have Frederik Andersen, Khudobin and John Gibson, who could start the season in the American Hockey League. Bob Murray was adamant he is keeping all three goalies, and forcefully shot down rumors Gibson could be on the market now.

"John Gibson is not getting traded," Bob Murray said.

Nill was as adamant that Niemi will be signed by the Stars before July 1 in order to play in a platoon next season with Kari Lehtonen. That's why Nill acquired his negotiating rights.

"We think the game has almost become a two-goalie game now with the travel, the back-to-backs, the pressure of winning," Nill said. "We've got lots of cap room and it was a situation we had to get better at. We knew last year there were some games that our backups weren't good enough. Gotta be better. This is an opportunity to add an elite goalie who has won a Stanley Cup (with the Chicago Blackhawks). We're looking forward to having as good of a one-two punch as there is."

Nill's thoughts on the two-goalie game are interesting, and timely, considering all of the trades involving goalies Saturday gave the teams involved at least two NHL goalies they feel they can contend with.

The Oilers feel OK with Talbot and Scrivens. The Hurricanes like Ward and Lack. The Stars will be thrilled with Lehtonen and Niemi. The Ducks have three goalies they feel are NHL-caliber. The Rangers gave one up but got one back. The Canucks have Miller and Markstrom.

Lehner is the only goalie for the Sabres now, but that will likely change once the free-agent market opens Wednesday.

"Even if you're a stud No. 1, to play the number of games when you've got the onerous travel of the Western Conference, you've got to have a No. 2 that you really trust," Sharks GM Doug Wilson said.

Ironically, San Jose is seeking a No. 1 goalie. Alex Stalock is the only NHL goalie the Sharks have under contract. Troy Grosenick is second on their depth chart.

Wilson said he's still trying to acquire a No. 1 goaltender and will likely do so through a trade.

The question is, at what cost? If it's anything like the prices paid Saturday, Wilson will probably be fine with it.

"There are teams that are looking to do things whether it be for cap reasons or whatever," Wilson said. "We're in all those conversations."


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