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Taking stock of available goaltending options for Canes

With free agency in full swing, we take a look at potentially available goaltenders still on the market and on the trade block.

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Carolina Hurricanes v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

After a busy few days of free agency across the NHL, the available market has dwindled down.

What was a big pool of available goaltenders has shrunk significantly, with the Hurricanes deciding not to make a move on any of them. The Canes signed Jesper Fast and Joakim Ryan, and there’s a good chance the team is done with free agency with little cap space left.

General manager Don Waddell said that doesn’t mean the team isn’t looking to make improvements, the improvements just have to make sense.

“I think I’ve said it before, as the general manager you are always looking to improve your team,” Waddell said. “If there’s something that makes sense, both from the assets you have to give up and from a value standpoint. The other thing is, as I’ve said, we don’t have a lot of cap space either. We’ve got to be mindful of that. If something fits into all those parameters and it makes our team better, then we’ve got to take a look at it.”

Goaltender has been a position of interest for the Canes and Carolina fans this offseason. James Reimer and Petr Mrazek have been solid in net over the past couple of years and both are under contract for next year. Still, there is a possibility Waddell and the Canes could be interested in making a move in net.

Here is a breakdown of who is available, both via trade and still left on the free agent market.

The Free Agent Market

There was a sizable pool of free agent goaltenders, though a lot of that was in older, past-its-prime talent. Since free agency opened up last Friday, that list of available goaltenders has dwindled down significantly, with just a handful of guys still out on the market.

As a reminder, here’s a quick rundown of what has already happened in the goalie market:

  • Robin Lehner — Re-signed with Vegas (Five year, $25 million)
  • Henrik Lundqvist — Signed with Washington (One year, $1.5 million)
  • Braden Holtby — Signed with Vancouver (Two year, $8.6 million)
  • Corey Crawford — Signed with New Jersey (Two year, $7.8 million)
  • Anton Khudobin — Re-signed with Dallas (Three year, $10 million)
  • Jacob Markstrom — Signed with Calgary (Six year, $36 million)
  • Thomas Greiss — Signed with Detroit (Two year, $7.2 million)
  • Cam Talbot — Signed with Minnesota (Three year, $11 million)
  • Anton Forsberg — Signed with Edmonton (One year, $700,000)
  • Mike Smith — Re-signed with Edmonton (One year, $1.5 million)
  • Cory Schneider — Reportedly signed with New York Islanders (One year, $700,000)

So, who does that leave? The five main names left are Jimmy Howard, Ryan Miller, Aaron Dell, Craig Anderson and Michael Hutchison.

For the Canes, the free agent market probably won’t be a place to find a new goalie because, let’s face it, none of those guys are even close to an improvement over Petr Mrazek or James Reimer. That fact, mixed with the Canes’ lack of cap space, means that Waddell almost certainly won’t make a move for any of those available goaltenders.

Trade Options

If the Canes were to bolster things at goalie, a trade would be how it would happen. As Waddell said, the team is always looking for ways to improve in a variety of ways, so you can’t rule anything out of the picture, even if it seems unlikely.

There have been goaltenders across the league that have been linked to trade rumors over the past few weeks, so the options are there. Here are a few of those options:

Marc-Andre Fleury

Since even before Vegas’ season ended in the Western Conference Finals, the trade rumors were swirling around the veteran Fleury.

Between Vegas riding with Robin Lehner in net to Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, tweeting a picture of a sword being stabbed through Fleury’s back (with a nod to head coach Peter de Boer on the blade), it seemed like Fleury departing Vegas was a likely outcome.

Any trade rumor with Fleury came to a halt Tuesday though, as Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon announced that the three-time Stanley Cup champion would be staying with the Golden Knights.

With that announcement it seems that any interest the Hurricanes may have had in Fleury were for naught, though it isn’t as if general managers in sports have always kept their word. Someone could offer Vegas something enticing enough for McCrimmon to reconsider that stance, though it would have to be something very creative.

Darcy Kuemper or Antti Raanta

The Coyotes have some money issues, no cap space and only one draft pick in the first three rounds in 2021, so the rumors surrounding their two NHL-caliber goalies, who have a combined cap hit of $8.75 million.

The early rumors were mostly surrounding Kuemper, who posted a 2.22 GAA and .928 save percentage in 2019-20, but Raanta could also be on the trade block if Arizona decided Kuemper was the starter moving forward. Raanta started a few more games than Kuemper did this past year, putting up a .921 save percentage and 2.63 GAA.

Kuemper and Raanta are intriguing because either one would probably be an upgrade for the Canes, with Kuemper also having the benefit of having two years left on his deal.

This is a trade that, a few weeks ago, would have been very possible for the Canes with the draft picks Carolina had this season, which obviously are no longer in play. Still, the Canes have their full slew of draft picks in the coming years (apart from a fifth-round pick next year) and a bunch of prospects, so if Waddell really wants Kuemper or Raanta, the Canes could probably make it happen.

Joonas Korpisalo

There’s been a lot of buzz around Korpisalo’s availability recently, with the Blue Jackets apparently interested in shopping the 26-year old netminder. Korpisalo had his best season to date in 2019-20, posting a GAA of 2.60 and a save percentage of .911. Korpisalo is under contract for two more seasons, with a cap hit of just $2.8 million both years (less than both Mrazek and Reimer).

Korpisalo would be a big get for any team interested, and Carolina obviously has the prospects and pieces to make an enticing offer. Like with Kuemper and Raanta, if Waddell wants Korpisalo, he could probably make it happen.

Frederik Andersen

What seems like a never-ending trade rumor for the Canes, Toronto goaltender Frederik Andersen is also a potential piece on the trade block. Andersen has a cap hit of $5 million for 2020-21, and he is coming off probably the worst year of his NHL career.

For the Canes, Kuemper, Raanta and Korpisalo are probably more attractive options, though Andersen is probably available if Waddell is interested.