Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
With the NHL trade deadline inching closer a potential suitor for Buffalo back up goalie Chad Johnson leaning in a different direction, all eyes were at the Shark Tank last night as the Sabres visited San Jose to take on the Sharks.
Goalies in general aren't really a prime area of focus for most teams looking to bolster their lineup at this time of year, but every trade deadline there are a couple that garner interest. Said goalie is usually a back up and a pending free agent who would be considered an upgrade. This year, possible suitors for Johnson's services is very limited and looked as if it was coming down to two teams--the Sharks and the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues had a stellar duo in net featuring veteran Brian Elliott and upstart rookie, Jake Allen before Elliott went down with a lower body injury this week against, oddly enough, the San Jose Sharks. The 30 yr. old veteran of eight NHL seasons with three different teams hit injured reserve with a 17-7-6 record, 2.14 goals against average and a .929 save percentage.
Allen has been equally strong going 18-12-3 with a 2.17 GAA and a .923 SV%, but with the Blues in a heated battle for Central Division supremacy (three points separate them from first place,) every point counts and relying upon 22 yr. old Jordan Binnington in a backup role is making them kinda jittery.
So they were said to be in the market for a backup goaltender, which they indeed addressed by landing Oilers backup Anders Nilsson for a 5th round pick earlier today.
The Sharks are having trouble in net as backup goaltender Alex Stalock has been struggling all season. Stalock is a disappointing 3-5-2 on the season with a rather large 2.94 GAA and a porous .884 SV% and word on the street for quite some time is that Sharks GM Doug Wilson wants to bolster that area. Wilson geared up for the playoffs when he traded for Toronto's Nik Spaling and Roman Polak earlier this week leaving backup goalie as his only area of concern.
Enter the best free agent backup goalie on the market--Johnson--who left the San Jose ice last night with first-star honors after allowing only one goal on 26 shots (.960 SV%) in the Sabres 3-1 victory over the Sharks.
Nice work in a showcase for a possible new team and if Johnson is traded, he'll leave Buffalo with a tidy 14-14-3 record, 2.45 GAA and .917 SV%.
Buffalo's playoff fate was pretty much sealed earlier this month went they went on a four-game losing streak (0-2-2) that placed them firmly near the bottom of the NHL standings and as GM Tim Murray has stated on numerous occasions, in that situation, he doesn't want unrestricted free agents to walk for nothing. Johnson and F, Jamie McGinn are the two best UFA's the Sabres have to offer and it's likely both will be gone by the end of the trade deadline at 3 P.M. on Monday.
Ironically enough, a case could be made that the Sabres should extend both players instead of trading them. Both Johnson and McGinn have stated time and again that they like the team, organization and area and from a Sabres standpoint both bring quality to the roles they play. And one could also argue that with 20 draft picks in the next two years, the Sabres are saturated.
But with the team currently 26th in the league and a prospect pool made thin due to 2015 acquisitions, trying to keep the pipeline filled with as much talent is possible is essential to long-term success. Having more draft picks means the odds of hitting on one or a few of the lower picks are all the more better. Although it may only slightly increase the odds, it's better than a stick in the eye.
With the confirmed trade of Nilsson to the Blues, if the Sharks want to bolster their goaltending, there aren't many choices, especially at Johnson's $1.3M cap hit, which is 300K lower than Stalock's. If Wilson wants Johnson in an extremely tight market there's no reason the pick or prospect coming back to Buffalo should be anything less than a third-rounder or a mid-level prospect.
Based upon Johnson's performance last night, sounds like a pretty good deal for both the Sharks and the Sabres.