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 was hot and more unique than ever. With Robin Lehner and Martin Jones on the move, two more could be dealt before the hockey world leaves South Florida this weekend.
Lehner went from the Ottawa Senators to the Buffalo Sabres for the 21st pick, and Jones was part of the Los Angeles Kings' trade for Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins.
Sabres general manager Tim Murray believes he got a goaltender who's "just scratching the surface" at 23-years-old. It wasn't out of the question that the Bruins could flip Jones to another team given the interest in his potential.
Meanwhile, the Vancouver Canucks are still shopping Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom, while backup Cam Talbot of the New York Rangers is very much available.
"It's probably a different market," Philadelphia Flyers GM 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 goaltenders 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 San Jose Sharks are in the market for a starting goalie and the Calgary Flames would like someone to share netminding duties with Jonas Hiller.
"We're always looking at stuff," Flames GM Brad Treliving said. "I'm not going to comment on the goalies, but we haven't even started yet. I've still got some phone battery left, might as well still use it and see if there is anything else out there."
Canucks GM Jim Benning said the first trade could create a domino effect. If nothing else, the Senators getting a first-round pick (21st overall) from Buffalo for Lehner and veteran centre David Legwand sets a market price.
Chiarelli was good to his word on not trading the 16th pick for a goaltender. Instead, he sent it to the New York Islanders along with the Oilers' top second-rounder at No. 33 for defenceman Griffin Reinhart.
"We're in on a few of these goalies," Chiarelli said. "We're in on some free-agent goalies. We want to do the right thing, but we don't want to overspend, either."
Second-round picks for a less-proven guy like Talbot could be just right, whether it's Edmonton or someone else paying.
The Senators cashed in more for Lehner, who assistant GM Pierre Dorion said "has the upside to be one of the top-five goalies in the league." Dorion said whichever of Lehner or Anderson Ottawa dealt was the best goalie available.
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 must try to gauge whether short stints are evidence either will turn into a No. 1 goaltender. After starting his NHL career on an absurd run, Talbot filled in for 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."
With files from John Chidley-Hill in Bal Harbor, Fla.
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