FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Get your goaltender, any goaltender. Well, at least one of a handful of goaltenders.
In the lead-up to the NHL draft, the goalie trade market is hot and more unique than ever. The Ottawa Senators are shopping Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, the Vancouver Canucks could deal Eddie Lack or Jacob Markstrom, while backups Cam Talbot of the New York Rangers and Martin Jones of the Los Angeles Kings are available.
"It's probably a different market," Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said last week in Voorhees, N.J. "There's some decent goalies out there in the market. There's probably a couple teams looking for (starters) and it depends where you view them. It's a tough call."
Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli called it a buyers' market because there are more goalies being dangled than teams looking to acquire them. The six most prominent goalies out there also represent a wide range of experience and expectations.
"You've got some younger, smaller-sample-size guys, you've got some more proven guys," Chiarelli said in Edmonton this week. "This goalie thing we've been looking at it very closely and it's tough."
Along with the Oilers, the Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks are in the market for starting goalies. Four could be dealt, counting one of the Vancouver goalies, one of the Ottawa goalies, Jones and Talbot.
Yet the price for one hasn't yet been set. The first trade could lead to a cascade.
"There's some big-name players in the market place right now," Canucks GM Jim Benning said. "I think once that domino happens it opens it up for all the other guys."
Chiarelli said he'd consider trading one of the Oilers' two second-round picks (33rd or 57th) for a goalie. A second-rounder for the less-proven young guys, Talbot and Jones, could be just right.
It's different for the Senators, especially if they deal Anderson in the wake of Andrew Hammond's breakout performance in the second half of the season. Neither Anderson nor Lehner will come cheap.
"We probably have the best one on the market. We feel like either Anderson or Lehner are the best guys available," Ottawa assistant GM Pierre Dorion said. "Craig Anderson, arguably you can say he's one of the top 10 goalies in the league. And Robin Lehner has the upside to be one of the top five goalies in the league."
Proven success versus potential is the dilemma for Benning, too. Vancouver wants to keep veteran Ryan Miller, so the choice is between Markstrom's ability to be a long-term starter and Lack's stability.
On the buying end, teams interested in Talbot or Jones must try to gauge whether short stints are evidence either will turn into a No. 1 goaltender. Each started his NHL career on an absurd run, and Talbot added another in place of the injured Henrik Lundqvist this season.
Chiarelli knows from his time as Boston Bruins GM that judging young goalies is difficult. Tuukka Rask worked out, while Michael Hutchinson didn't blossom until he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets.
"You see some of the trades of goalies in the past, you don't know how they're going to pop," Chiarelli said. "It's an inexact science."
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