The Lying Time

Eddie Lack

There’s a cute little phrase that nicely sums up the kind of reporting one hears during intense negotiations. It’s “conflicting reports.” There’s a good reason for that: Information is at a premium and the key people on opposite sides of the discussion have a tendency to put out wildly differing accounts of the status of talks.

It’s true of political discussions, labour negotiations and it’s really true at trade time in the NHL.

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Two Limbs and Your Firstborn for a Goalie

800px-Glen_Sather,_2006_NHL_Awards

We’ve seen it this year with goalie discussions particularly. Some of the news makes it sound like there are an infinite number of goalies out there; other reports make it seem like there’s never been a better year to move goalies. How great is the situation, potentially?

In Ottawa, one of two teams (the other is Vancouver) with three waiver-eligible NHL goalies, we’ve heard a lot about what a great position the team is in. We’ve read, for example, about the seven different teams interested in acquiring their goalies, the way none of the three goaltenders are demanding a trade (thereby allowing the Senators to negotiate from a position of strength), and how the asking price is “a good, solid, young player in return and a pick in the top two rounds.” We’ve heard Bryan Murray say he’d like to unload a contract in the same deal, that his team has the best goalie to move and that he will have “no problem” going to camp with three goalies and letting the players sort it out if his asking price is not met.

We’ve heard a lot about Cam Talbot in New York, too. We’ve heard how Glen Sather has turned down an offer of two second-round picks in exchange for the goalie’s services. We’ve read about the “high return” necessary to land a player on such a “great contract”, about the multiple trade offers and the six teams chasing Talbot’s rights.

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It sure sounds like a great time to have a goalie to deal. If you’re interested in my goalie, the acquisition cost starts at an arm, a leg, a firstborn child and the deed to your house and well you’d better take it because I’m getting a call from the guy across the province and I just know he’s going to be able to top that offer. I think we’d better throw in this toxic contract with the goalie, too, just to make sure this deal gets done.

Your Goalie is Garbage and Maybe I Will Take Him Out of Pity

Peter Chiarelli3

On the other hand, we must not neglect the other reports, the ones which suggest that any team looking for a goalie is at an all-you-can-trade-for buffet, with dozens available for the low, low price of $9.99. That’s where we read that Eddie Lack, he of back-to-back 41-game seasons and a career 0.917 save percentage, is available for just a single second-round pick.

That’s the place where we hear things like what Peter Chiarelli said yesterday:

There are goalies out there. We’ve had discussions with teams. We’re in a group of my guess is two or three, maybe four teams that are looking for goalies. There are more goalies than those number of teams, so we’re in a bit of a buyers’ market. Having said that we’ve got multiple picks so I seem to be a popular potential trading partner on that front. Would we trade a second-round pick? Yeah, sure, I’d look into doing that possibly… There’s a couple of groups of goalies out there. I’m not averse to either of the types of groups. You’ve got some younger, smaller sample size guys, you’ve got some more proven guys. For me it’s about fitting in too how we improve our D and how we’re going to play defensively. At the end of the day it takes two to tango so you’ve got to get the right deal in place. I’m not averse to going to the free agent market either, whether it’s the trade market or the free agent market… It’s a real inexact science and you’ve really got to go to the character of the goalie and how the team’s going to play defensively. My guess is we’ll probably be able to do something before the draft but I’m not completely sure.

Oof, that’s tough. Want to trade Edmonton a goalie? Well, maybe, possibly, they might cough up a second-round pick. 

I’m just saying that it’s an inexact science, you know, and there are a lot of goalies out there and not that many jobs and free agency is just around the corner and I’m pretty sure we’ll have a deal in place before the draft anyway and gosh you people are annoying, calling me up and throwing your goalies in my face all the time.

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Who to Believe?

Antti Niemi2

There are a lot of different ways to assess conflicting reports. My preferred method is simply to look at the market, to look at the options available to either side. Back in March we looked at the goalie depth charts for all 30 NHL teams; it’s the best way to get a feel for the number of jobs available and the number of goalies available. Let’s update that look by going through the named teams supposedly interested in Talbot.

  • Buffalo: Yes, that makes sense. They don’t have a starting goalie.
  • Calgary: Sure, maybe they’re looking to upgrade on Jonas Hiller. Of course, that then means either trading Hiller or paying $4.5 million for him to be the backup.
  • Dallas: Yes, they could be looking to upgrade Kari Lehtonen. The trouble is that Lehtonen has three years left at $5.9 million; the Stars would almost certainly need to move him.
  • Edmonton: Yes, that makes sense. They don’t have a starting goalie.
  • Florida: I can’t imagine them being willing to pay much. Roberto Luongo just turned 36 and he’s under contract forever; it’s important to have a fallback plan in place because of his age but he just posted a 0.921 save percentage and paying a premium to backstop him this year seems silly given the club’s other issues.
  • San Jose: Yes, that makes sense. They don’t have a starting goalie.

If there’s a seventh team out there beating the bushes, my guess would be the Minnesota Wild; Devan Dubnyk still hasn’t signed and they may want to consider fallback options.

Ultimately, though, there are still only four starting jobs available, given that Calgary or Dallas adding a goalie would likely result in the availability of Hiller or Lehtonen and that Florida is probably looking about for a No. 1B to Luongo.

Two of those four starting jobs will almost certainly go to high-profile free agents Dubnyk and Antti Niemi. That leaves two starting gigs available; competing for those slots are Talbot, Lack and one of Ottawa’s three goalies, as well as all the maybes on the free agent market (Karri Ramo, Jhonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth, possibly Thomas Greiss). Five names on that list are going to be stuck in backup roles, at least to start the season.

None of that means the reports quoted above are false. A team particularly enamoured of Talbot might have offered multiple second-round picks, and though it would probably be an overpay Sather may have turned it down thinking he could get more (particularly if the picks were, say, Calgary’s No. 52 and No. 53, which may not be preferable to Edmonton’s No. 33 alone). Ottawa probably did start by asking teams for a good young player and a second-round pick in exchange for Lehner.

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35-Khabibulin-2

We’ll see what happens. When I look at the market, though, it looks to me like there’s lots of room for a savvy general manager to address his goaltending position relatively cheaply. No matter what people on either side of the discussion say, the fact is that there are four open starting slots available and nine possibilities to fill them. Bad managers will still make mistakes – the market was much the same when Steve Tambellini gave Nikolai Khabibulin a four-year deal – but competent ones know that math adds up to an excellent bargaining position for teams looking to add a goalie.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS


  • Double Dees

    There’s absolutely NO way I’m giving two 2nds for talbot. I’d rather use one of those for Lack or like PC says and go to a more proven goalie with more experience. Glen Grandpa is way past his expiry date to make his last deal.

    It’d be better to draft samsanov or black wood and sign a ufa goalie for 2-3 yrs and see what else is out there. I’m still sticking with Lack as my first choice. He’s still getting better in my opinion. And if he’s cheaper, heck I’ll even throw in one of our prospect dman in there for Lack and a fourth rounder or something.

    PC ain’t no idiot.

    Well I hope not…

  • I”m not expecting Talbot. His contract being 1 year from UFA status plus the inevitable Sather tax are huge red flags.

    Luckily Craig isn’t on it anymore or we could have kissed the 16th pick goodbye.

  • WhoreableGuy

    I’d go after Ramo.

    He has shown he can win games while his team is being outshot, something that will for sure happen in Edmonton. He will be facing alot of shots until the defense is fixed.

    • CMG30

      Agreed, although if Talbot could be had for the right price he stands to be the solution for years to come. It’s worth seeing if he can be had for the 33rd.

      In any event, PC is playing it right. Wait them out. Every time a goalie is scooped up, the price drops for the rest.

  • pkam

    The best thing to take out of all this public posturing is this:

    Chiarelli knows how to play the game. He legitimately sounds like the smartest guy in the room, instead of worrying about trying to sound like the smartest guy in the room. That’s how MacT always sounded to me.

    Slats also knows how to play the game. He’ll move Talbot before Ottawa or Vancouver make a move, because unlike Jim Benning, who is going to trade one of the two guys he should keep instead of the one he shouldn’t have signed in the first place, or Bryan Murray, who’s shot himself in the foot more than once by waiting too long to pull the trigger on something (the Heatley trade, the Spezza trade, Marc Methot’s contract, the whole Alfredsson to Detroit thing), he knows he doesn’t want to be the guy holding the goalie when all the starter’s positions are filled.

    Chiarelli is definitely in the driver’s seat here. From what he says he seems to have a firm grasp of the market, and doesn’t have the same pressures that a lot of the other guys do to make a splash, like Doug Wilson in San Jose, who’s every move could be his last. I’d bet on the Sharks blinking first and overpaying for Talbot, big-time.

  • Leef O'Golin

    So is it possible that Slats tells one of his minions to let it slip to Dreger that he’s turned down an offer of two 2nd round picks when he’s actually had no such offer? That’s a possibility, right? He could end up poisoning his own well.

  • The Nation demanded Devin Dubnyk’s head. I won’t do the same for Scrivens. He deserves the opportunity to play in front of a quality D. Not Jultz, not Niki, not fringe NHLers. Don’t get me wrong, Scrivens makes me nervous. But before we take on a huge contract and ship away our first born, we should give Ben some thought. Hes cheap at 2.3m and he’s already on the team.

    At this rate we’re not even giving him the opportunity to win BM’s ‘Dubnyk most likely to rebound’ award.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    That hurt my soul when Tambellini wouldn’t give Roloson a 2 year contract just so he would have stability for his family. He said the money didn’t matter, all he wanted was the term.

    “Roloson’s too old to sign for 2 years so let’s sign the old oft-injured Khabibulin for 4 years”

    -Tambellini

    • pkam

      W=227 L=257 SV%=908 GAA=2.72

      Sure he played well in the 2006 run.But don’t forget about that guy called Pronger.He’d be on the ice for 2 mins go to the bench for 30 seconds to eat some hay,drink a little water and be right back out there for another 2 min shift.That and Fernando.

      Rolo has to be one of the most overrated goalies to put on an oiler uniform.He should be thanking Pronger and a few other Oilers for his so called legacy.

      I still hate Pronger but love him for the 06 run.

  • 916oiler

    I feel like Lack would cost just as much as Talbot (for the Oilers) since Vancouver is in our division and wouldn’t do business with us unless we overpaid like crazy.

    I still feel like there’s too much attention on goalies right now – let’s get a top pairing defenseman or 2!!

  • bobinyvr

    Good bit of research and writing JW.

    I agree that the Oilers are in the drivers seat for the crease choice. There seems to be a lot of available talent. If PC has nerves of steel he can wait for waivers.

    It seems he is most interested in getting a fresh system for the overall team defensive play in place.

    The draft picks are far more valuable this year. Lets hope the list that they take to Sunshine this weekend holds some unpolished gems.

  • Zarny

    All of the GMs know the score. Supply outstrips demand. The only way to get paid is if everyone wants the same guy. Hence all of the hot air from Murray and Sather.

    Gibson is the only G I’d consider paying a bit of premium for. Talbot, Lack, Jones…Scrivens? Meh.

    The anticipation of a busy draft day is lots of fun.

  • Puck JammeR!

    Why waste picks for a not sure thing. Talbot is too risky and too expensive. it’d be along term rental at best. I’d go after Ramo or Neuvirth. both UFA’s and could be had for relatively cheaply. im sure PC will do the smart thing. still lets fix the D before dumping cash on a goalie. Lack could be a good fit too but either way make the teams that have to trade a goalie sweat.

    • Jaxon

      “Why waste picks for a not sure thing.”

      How sure a thing do you think picks are? Especially at #33, you’re probably getting down to below 25% that the pick will be a 200GP NHLer. And how much of a sure thing that a #33 will be a starter or a top 4D or a top 6FWD? Probably getting down in the 10% range or less. I think picks are one fo the best things to trade at certain times of the year because they are so overvalued.

      • Be that as it may, there is a 0% chance Talbot/Lack plays more than 200 games for the Oilers before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

        Getting in a bidding war over a goalie is foolish given the current market. If not moved Talbot is going to be warming the bench in NY and both Ottawa and Vancouver will each go into camp with 3 goaltenders.

        The fact is those teams need to move a Goalie this off season more badly than Edmonton needs to acquire one. Especially considering there are still other options (Karri Ramo, Jhonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth, possibly Thomas Greiss).

        I don’t believe Dallas is really in the mix either as they are already paying Lehtonen big dollars.

        So it really comes down to Edmonton and Buffalo, neither of which have to fill the role this offseason.

        If PC holds off until draft day it wouldn’t surprise me if the The 57th gets the job done for Eddie Lack.

        • Klam

          I’d try to pick up Lack and sign him before the season to a cap friendly number.

          Otherwise I would look at a UFA signed for 2-3 years and see if they are better then “The Professor”

        • I can’t speak for Jaxon, but a 3rd rnder for those goalies was worth it at the time and was reasonable value. Hindsight is 20/20…

          the problem is a 3rd rnder for a fired coach/GM….that’s insanity

          • pkam

            I never said that Scrivens or Fasth wasn’t worth a 3rd rounder.

            All I am asking Jaxon is, if an unproven goalie is worth a #33 overall, then isn’t that a great trade by MacT to acquire Scrivens or Fasth with a 3rd rounder, even both of them are considered unproven at the time of the trade.