The usual happenings took place at the 2015 NHL Draft in Sunrise, Florida, as teenagers with high hopes were given the chance to live out their dreams. Some unusual events also occurred, with goaltenders switching teams faster than a Zdeno Chara slapshot.
A total of seven netminders were traded during the two-day event, many of whom were backups seeking a chance to start. The excuse of being stuck behind someone no longer applies.
The Ottawa Senators got things started on Friday, sending Robin Lehner to the Buffalo Sabres. The 6-foot-5 Swede went 30-36-13 with two shutouts and a 2.88 goals-against average in 86 games during his tenure with Ottawa.
A concussion suffered in a February game against the Carolina Hurricanes put an end to Lehner’s season. The 23-year-old began working out in an effort to get back into playing shape, without knowing he’d be doing so for another team.
“He fits with what we’re trying to do,” Sabres general manager Tim Murray told reporters. “And if it takes this year only to get his feet back under him, I’m fine with that, because if we become a competitive team in two years or three years and he’s found his game and becomes what we think he is, it’s the perfect fit.”
Martin Jones was the next goalie on the move, as he was shipped from the Los Angeles Kings to the Boston Bruins. The 25-year-old had a stellar debut season in the NHL, going 12-6-0 with four shutouts and a 1.81 goals-against average in 2013-14, and also played well last campaign as he was 4-5-2 with three blankings and a 2.25 GAA.
While Lehner will have the opportunity to be the No. 1 goalie for Buffalo after being in a logjam with Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond in Ottawa, Jones’ situation likely won’t change. The British Columbia native was stuck behind Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles and now finds himself in back of Tuukka Rask.
The Carolina Hurricanes made a pair of deals involving netminders, acquiring Eddie Lack from the Vancouver Canucks and sending Anton Khudobin to the Anaheim Ducks. Lack was Ryan Miller’s backup in 2014-15 but saw more ice time than expected due to an injury and went 18-3-4 with two shutouts and a 2.45 GAA in 41 games.
“We certainly think he’s a guy that’s coming into his own in the league,” Carolina general manager Ron Francis said. “We think he’s a really, really good goaltender.”
Lack, who battled Roberto Luongo for playing time in his first season with Vancouver, likely will be doing the same with Cam Ward in Carolina. And that suits the 27-year-old Swede just fine.
“Cam Ward has been playing great for a lot of years,” Lack said. “We’re going to push each other and hopefully achieve some really great results together.”
The acquisition of Lack left the Hurricanes without a use for Khudobin, who was traded to the Ducks. The 29-year-old native of Kazakhstan appeared in 34 games with Carolina last season, going 8-17-6 with one shutout and a 2.72 GAA.
Khudobin goes from battling Ward for playing time to potentially being part of a three-headed monster in Anaheim. Frederik Andersen had a superb first season as the Ducks’ No. 1 netminder while John Gibson has matured into a quality NHL goalie.
Much like Carolina, the New York Rangers traded their current backup and obtained another, sending Cam Talbot to the Edmonton Oilers and bringing in Antti Raanta from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Talbot probably was the most sought-after goalie on the market after posting a 21-9-4 record with five shutouts and a 2.21 GAA in 36 games. The 27-year-old was in a no-win situation in New York, however, as he was sitting behind Henrik Lundqvist.
“Playing behind a guy like Hank for a couple of years, you just get to learn a few things and maybe pick up a thing here or there,” Talbot told Oilers.com. “But no matter how well you play, when you’re playing behind one of the best in the world, it’s hard to advance.”
That’s now the spot Raanta is in. The 26-year-old Finn has performed well in a backup role in the NHL, however, going 20-9-5 with three shutouts and a 2.41 GAA in 39 games with Chicago over the last two seasons.
Antti Niemi will have a new address next season, as he was traded from the San Jose Sharks to the Dallas Stars, who reportedly are close to inking the restricted free agent-to-be to a new contract.
The 31-year-old Niemi went 31-23-7 with five blankings and a 2.59 GAA for the Sharks last season. The Finn, who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, will battle countryman Kari Lehtonen for the starting job with Dallas, although the latter posted a career-worst .903 save percentage in 2014-15.
“Antti was at the top of our list,” Stars general manager Jim Nill told reporters. “This is an opportunity to add an elite goalie. He’s won a Stanley Cup, he’s played in pressure situations. We are looking forward to having a good one-two punch with him and Kari.”
Devan Dubnyk decided not to make it eight goaltenders on the move, as he agreed to terms with the Minnesota Wild on an six-year, $26 million contract. The 29-year-old resurrected his career with the Wild, going 27-9-2 with five shutouts and a 1.78 GAA to earn himself a nomination for the Vezina Trophy.
“The most exciting thing for me is knowing I get to be part of a really good hockey team for a long time,” Dubnyk told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Getting a chance to play with that group of guys last year was the best experience for me. I’m real excited.”