Josh Harding To Be Dealt

Jonathan Willis
June 07 2009 10:23AM

Harding

It has been obvious since the Wild re-signed Niklas Backstrom that backup goaltender Josh Harding would be available for trade.

Last week, Jim Matheson floated the idea that Minnesota was talking to Edmonton about the young goaltender, with the Oilers possible offering up Robert Nilsson or Rob Schremp and a draft pick, while the Wild would be asking for Patrick O’Sullivan. This week, he’s not floating anything:

Minnesota has targeted four teams - the Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings and the Philadelphia Flyers - to try and trade backup goalie Josh Harding, who had a 2.21 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in 19 games in the 2008-09 season. The 2002 second-round draft pick played for Rob Daum when he coached the Wild's AHL farm club in Houston, should they need a scouting report. The Wild will try to get a second-line forward back for Harding, who turns 25 on June 18.

In other words, those deals that Matheson mentioned last week are certainly being discussed.

Even though the Oilers have a surfeit of second-line players, I wouldn’t like to see them move O’Sullivan in exchange for Harding. Here’s what I said about that possibility last week:

As for Patrick O'Sullivan, while the trade might be fair value for the Oilers, we've seen how little goaltenders have fetched on the trade market, and so that would likely be an overpay (and have a better chance of coming back to haunt them, too). If the Wild won't play ball on a spare parts offer (some combination of the above players or any of Pouliot, Brodziak, Staios, Brule, Potulny and Deslauriers) than the Oilers might be well-advised to try for a player like Jaroslav Halak or Ondrej Pavelec.

I haven’t become any less convinced of that point in the time since; if anything, I’ve become more certain that O’Sullivan for Harding would be a mistake. Tyler gave his opinion on the goaltending market on Friday, and I tend to agree with him:

If Philadelphia goes ahead and signs Emery, by my count that leaves two teams without a clear starting goaltender: Edmonton and Colorado. Otherwise, it’s backup jobs available, unless some team is willing to eat a pile of money. There are a ton of competent or better goalies available: Craig Anderson, Nikolai Khabibulin, Dwayne Roloson, Martin Biron, Manny Fernandez and Manny Legace probably top the list. You can probably toss Scott Clemmensen onto the list, although I don’t find him that interesting. All of those guys presumably want to be starters. None of them really have much in the way of palatable options. The talk from guys like Robin Brownlee is that Dwayne Roloson wants a two year deal. If the Oilers end up giving it to him, they’ve almost certainly failed to maximize their leverage.

On top of that list, there are trade options like Harding, Halak and possibly one of the Thrashers goaltenders (Lehtonen or Pavelec). Ken Holland was well ahead of the game on this one when he said that it made little sense for teams to sign above-average goaltenders to big-money contracts; there’s a lot of fluctuation in goaltender performance year over year (hello, Mathieu Garon) and there are plenty of effective goaltenders. Let’s just take a look at the average save percentage of goaltenders who might be available over the past three seasons.

  • Anderson: .928 SV% (.931, .935, .924)
  • Harding: .922 SV% (.960, .908, .929)
  • Biron: .913 SV% (.899/.908, .918, .915)
  • Khabibulin: .909 SV% (.902, .909, .919)
  • Roloson: .909 SV% (.909, .901, .915)
  • Conklin: .909 SV% (.871/.892, .923, .909)
  • Clemmensen: .909 SV% (.889, .839, .917)
  • Garon: .908 SV% (.907, .913, .895/.894)
  • Gerber: .907 SV% (.906, .910, .899/.905)
  • Fernandez: .906 SV% (.911, .832, .910)
  • Labarbera: .906 SV% (.910, .893/.915)
  • Legace: .904 SV% (.907, .911, .885)
  • Boucher: .904 SV% (.884/.866, .932, .917)

It’s important to keep in mind that Craig Anderson played very few games over the past three seasons, while Josh Harding also played very few games and played them for Minnesota; something that was bound to push his save percentage in a positive direction. I’m rather surprised to say that Martin Biron is probably the best available goaltender (why Philadelphia would dump him to pursue Ray Emery is beyond me) and someone Edmonton should seriously consider. Players like Anderson, Roloson, and Clemmensen might also be of interest, but with so many names available I think the Oilers would be well-advised to go with a true tandem next year, even if that means that Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers is playing somewhere else next season.

Josh Harding is still a player I think they should be interested in, but with this many options he isn’t a player they should pay dearly for. Spare parts like Nilsson and Schremp would be fine; a player with O’Sullivan’s track record would not be.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Cory Dakin
June 07 2009, 08:16PM
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@ Jolene L Fendelet: Penner is an Oiler until the end of his contract whether we like it or not. He is untradeable at the deal he was signed to. I, for one, actually think he will have a good year.. Maybe I'm just a hopeless optimist...

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#52 Cory Dakin
June 07 2009, 08:21PM
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@ lenny: You just copied over the exact post you left earlier, and I don't think Willis' opinion would change.. Nilsson is a one-trick pony, and his one trick is inconsistent at best. The reason MacT played Nilsson so much was because of the flashes of brilliance he showed last year playing with Gagner.. He was hoping to recover some of that magic.. And it didn't work out

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#53 Chris
June 07 2009, 08:29PM
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@ lenny:

Last season Nilsson ate up two million in cap space and a quality second line roster spot; and payed the Oilers back with soft inconsistant play and NINE measley goals. Unless some guys like Cogliano and O'Sullivan are moved by way of trade; I doubt Nilsson will be back.

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#54 Archaeologuy
June 07 2009, 09:34PM
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lenny wrote:

Why not trade Pouliot, Reddox and Jacques and save some money so people like Nilson can play under different couch and finally show what they can do.

What couch these guys are under makes a huge difference. I mean if he's under a Love-Seat it's going to be a heck of a lot lighter than if he's under a sectional. If it's a Lazy Boy he will have more room when the leg rest is up. If it's from Ikea it will weigh less than some custom built couch made with real wood.

Big Difference.

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#55 Robin Brownlee
June 07 2009, 10:02PM
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@ Archaeologuy: Welcome to Furniture Nation . . .

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#56 Archaeologuy
June 07 2009, 10:05PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Are we gonna write a commercial for Furniture Nation like we did for Beautiful Basements?

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#57 MattL
June 07 2009, 10:11PM
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At first I wondered whether Biron had an attitude problem (I didn't like his body language in the playoffs) but then I realized who they're replacing him with...

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#58 BigE57
June 07 2009, 10:13PM
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Well if it's Robert Nilsson under the couch, then it's got to be from Ikea and no longer do we use the phrase throwing guys under the bus.......

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#59 Archaeologuy
June 07 2009, 10:19PM
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@ BigE57: Yup, Nilsson has a lot of work ahead of him and no Allen Wrench in sight.

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#60 BigE57
June 07 2009, 10:21PM
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@ Archaeologuy: At least he will be able to read the directions.

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#61 Archaeologuy
June 07 2009, 10:22PM
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@ BigE57: LMFAO

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#62 Bob Cob
June 08 2009, 08:31AM
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Cory Dakin wrote:

The Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup last season and are likely to do it again. Perhaps you should let Ken Holland know that the tandem system doesn’t work.

Ill give you the assist in proving my point that tandems dont win. Here is a rhetorical question that will drive it home; How many games has Ty Conklin played in this Playoffs year? That would be 1, for 9 shots and 19 minutes of back up action.

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#63 Bob Cob
June 08 2009, 08:34AM
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I meant Jonathon Willis not Cory Drakin. My bad.

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#64 Ogden Brother
June 08 2009, 08:40AM
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lenny wrote:

J. Willis, I am not trying to argue with you. Please remember that Oilers were not only fighting for play-offs but McT was fighting for his job to, so if he played Nilson over others it can only mean Nilson is better. Why not trade Pouliot, Reddox and Jacques and save some money so people like Nilson can play under different couch and finally show what they can do.

Because:

- He's (by far) the worst out of 5 similar players on the roster

- He put up 4th line #'s and provided nothing else

- IF Minny is will to trade us something we need for something we don't, we'd be nuts to let the deal slide by

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#65 Archaeologuy
June 08 2009, 08:45AM
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@ Bob Cob: Do you think Osgood could have played 65+ games and still had Gas in the tank in the playoffs? Babc*ck didnt.

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#66 Jonathan Willis
June 08 2009, 09:13AM
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@ Bob Cob:

Nobody says you can't ride the hot hand in the playoffs; but having a tandem gives you two different options.

Speaking of Stanley Cup winners who have usedtwo different goalies in the playoffs, it could be argued that the 2006 winners only got to where they did because they had a good second option when Martin Gerber started struggling. It could also be argued that the other finalist (Edmonton, if you remember) only lost because they didn't.

And speaking of tandems, how close would the Oilers have been to the playoffs this year if they hadn't had a Dwayne Roloson to take over when Garon started struggling? Or how about the year before, if they hadn't had a Mathieu Garon to turn to when Roloson put in a subpar year?

If recent history with the Oilers tells us anything - anything at all - it's that two are better than one.

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#67 Jason Gregor
June 08 2009, 10:39AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

It could also be argued that the other finalist (Edmonton, if you remember) only lost because they didn’t.

Markannen was not the reason they lost the series. He played fine in the six games he was in. He was a very capable back up. After sitting out as long as he did and then come in the Finals and play as well as he did clearly showed he was fine. The Oilers didn't lose the series because of goaltending.

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#68 Librarian Mike
June 08 2009, 10:52AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

If recent history with the Oilers tells us anything - anything at all - it’s that two are better than one.

And three is not the answer. :)

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#69 Austin Ayala
June 08 2009, 11:18AM
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Great article. Great read. Great proposals. Great blog.

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#70 Jonathan Willis
June 08 2009, 05:16PM
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@ Jason Gregor:

Sorry to be unclear Jason; I meant more that had the Oilers had a capable - and less rusty - backup than Ty Conklin sitting on the bench for Game 1, they might have won that contest.

It would have made a critical difference in the series if they had.

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#71 Godzilla
June 08 2009, 05:53PM
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@ RossCreek: I don'T think Niitimaki is a viable option.

What about Tuuka Rask in Boston? He's up for a new contract next year and with the kind of money they're giving to Thomas, they will have to move him.

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#72 Librarian Mike
June 08 2009, 06:36PM
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Godzilla wrote:

What about Tuuka Rask in Boston? He’s up for a new contract next year and with the kind of money they’re giving to Thomas, they will have to move him.

Is he any good? If not, a great nickname for him would be 'Tuuka Beating'.

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#73 Antony Ta
June 09 2009, 05:34PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I’m rather surprised to say that Martin Biron is probably the best available goaltender

I'd hate to sound like a homer, but I would argue that Roloson is, but I have no real evidence. Long term? Probably not. But as a one-year thing he wouldn't be too bad of a backup/mentor to one Josh Harding.

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