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Exploring Carolina’s goaltending options

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With the 2020 offseason approaching, here’s a look at a bunch of goaltenders across the league that could be available for the Hurricanes to explore.

Arizona Coyotes v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

As we finally edge closer to the end of the extended 2019-20 NHL season, what should be a fun, yet hectic, offseason across the league approaches.

The evergreen need for the Hurricanes comes between the pipes, as Carolina should be looking to improve on the netminding tandem of Petr Mrazek and James Reimer. The difficult thing for the Canes there is that Mrazek and Reimer are both under contract for next season, combining for a cap hit of $6.525 million.

To bring a new goalie in, the Canes will almost certainly need to offload one of the guys that they have, so it’ll be a tricky road ahead for Don Waddell. There’s also the matter of big internal names nearing free agency for Carolina, so there isn’t a ton of money there to spend.

Still, Carolina is ready to compete now, and improving in net could be the big step forward the Canes need to jump up to the next level. Reimer and Mrazek have been fine, at times good, but the Hurricanes may want more moving forward.

Carolina absolutely has the option to just stick with Mrazek and Reimer, but if the Canes are to explore the goaltender market, here are some possible options:


Trade Targets

Darcy Kuemper

Arizona Coyotes v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

The Coyotes are apparently interested in dealing Kuemper, who started 29 games for Arizona in 2019-20 after missing a decent chunk of the year due to injury. When Kuemper was on the ice this season, he was fantastic. Kuemper’s 2.22 GAA was the fourth-best mark in the league, while his .928 save percentage had him at third.

Kuemper spent the early years of his NHL career as a backup, before jumping into Arizona’s starting job in 2018-19 after an injury to Antti Raanta. In his first year as the starter, Kuemper posted 27 wins, a 2.33 GAA and .925 save percentage. In his second year as the starter, his numbers were even better.

Bringing Kuemper to Carolina would be a tricky task for Waddell, as the 30-year old Kuemper has two years left on his deal with an AAV of $4.5 million. If he is available, which all indications say he is, then he’s one of the best options out there for any team looking for a goaltender.

The Coyotes gave up a decent package of picks and prospects to bring Taylor Hall out to Phoenix, so trading Kuemper would be a good way to restock in that area for the Coyotes. The asking price will certainly be high for Kuemper, and maybe one that the Canes’ can’t afford. Still, he might be the best goaltending option out there.

Frederik Andersen

Carolina Hurricanes v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

So, there’s been a lot of talk about this one and reports that the Canes are interested in the Maple Leafs’ goalie. Andersen has a ton of NHL starting experience, 10 years removed from being selected by the Hurricanes in the 2010 NHL draft but not signing.

The first thing to look at with Andersen is the contract, as he comes with a hefty $5 million cap hit for the 2020-21 season. As mentioned before, moving Reimer or Mrazek would really be needed to even entertain an Andersen deal. Also worth mentioning is that Andersen has a 10-team no-trade clause, though there’s no knowing if that would come into play.

The second thing with Andersen is his play. In 2019-20, he posted a 2.85 GAA and .909 save percentage. Reimer was better in both categories, while Mrazek had a much better GAA and just slightly worse save percentage.

Sure, Reimer and Mrazek are playing with a much better defense in front of them, and Andersen is probably the better goalie. However, it’s a legitimate worry to ask the question of how much of an improvement Andersen would even be.

Toronto’s asking price for Andersen will likely be high, and his cap hit is also something to keep an eye on.

Others

Carolina Hurricanes v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

There are obviously other trade options out there as well. Marc-Andre Fleury’s time with Vegas could be coming to an end, especially if the Golden Knights re-sign Robin Lehner, though Fleury is on the downturn of his career and has a massive contract.

Pittsburgh, Columbus and the New York Rangers all have excess goalies to think about dealing away, though any of those would be an in-division trade with the Hurricanes that may not make a ton of sense.


Free Agents

Braden Holtby

Carolina Hurricanes v Washington Capitals Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images

A year ago Holtby may have seemed like one of the best free agents in this class, but oh has the mighty fallen after an absolutely abysmal 2019-20 campaign. Holtby posted a 3.11 GAA and .897 save percentage this past season, both by far the worst in his long NHL career.

The good news for a team pursuing Holtby on the market is that his terrible season drove his price way, way down. The bad news for a team pursuing Holtby is that he might just not be a very good goalie anymore.

While 2019-20 was a severe downturn, Holtby’s numbers the two years before that were significantly worse than his career leading into 2017-18. The hope for Holtby is that 2019-20 was an outlier, but it seems he’s been on a downward trend.

Going after Holtby would be a high, high-risk venture. His price probably won’t be too high, but it would also be committing to a goaltender who couldn’t stop much of anything last year.

If the Canes were to go out and get Holtby, it is far from a guarantee that he would be an improvement on either Reimer or Mrazek. If recent trends indicate anything, he would probably be a downgrade.

Anton Khudobin

Hurricanes v Capitals Chuck Myers/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Hello, old friend. The one-time Hurricanes has built himself up to be one of the premiere free agent goaltenders in this class after an outstanding 2019-20. His 2.22 GAA and .930 save percentage in 2019-20 were both the best of his career, and his play for the Stars throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs has made him an even more desirable piece.

Khudobin is playing the best hockey of his career, right ahead of free agency. His price climbs with every great performance he puts in for Dallas, and he’ll be highly sought after on the market. Re-signing with Dallas will be an option for Khudobin, who is playing himself into a good contract.

Jacob Markstrom

NHL: JAN 23 Hurricanes at Canucks Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One of the best free agent options out there, Markstrom will likely get a pretty decent-sized deal. With Andrei Svechnikov and Dougie Hamilton needing contracts soon, a long-term, big-money commitment to Markstrom probably isn’t in the books for the Hurricanes.

Still, Markstrom is a good goaltender and would undoubtedly be an improvement for the Canes. He posted a 2.75 GAA and .918 save percentage this past season, good numbers for a consistently strong goalie. There’s a chance Markstrom re-signs with the Canucks as well.

Robin Lehner

Dallas Stars v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Five Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Let’s touch on this one real quick because it’s not looking like an actual option for the Canes at this point. For one, there have been reports that Lehner has agreed to a deal with Vegas, though he has denied that. Secondly, the price on Lehner will likely be pretty high.

With it looking like Lehner will re-sign with Vegas and it also likely he’ll receive a pretty long, lucrative deal, this one may not happen for the Canes.

Others

Chicago Blackhawks v Carolina Hurricanes Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images

Other free agent netminders include Corey Crawford, Thomas Greiss and Cam Talbot, all entering their mid-30s.