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.
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.