By make the blockbuster Ryan Miller deal early, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong sent the trade dominoes tumbling for goaltenders.
Several netminders changed teams before this NHL trade deadline.
The Vancouver Canucks made the big move, off-loading Robert Luongo and his onerous contract on the Florida Panthers. Luongo welcomed his return to the Sunshine State. That struggling franchise gained a marquee player to sell to its withering fan base, albeit at staggering cost.
“It is huge,” Florida GM Dale Tallon said. “He's a big name down here, and it sets the tone for our franchise. [We] want to win the Stanley Cup, and talk is cheap, so we're acting and we're following up on what we said we would do.”
This would have been a much better deal a year ago, when Vancouver still owned emerging star Cory Schneider.
Now the Canucks have the tag team of Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom, who came from Florida in this trade. These two played together in the Swedish Elite League.
Markstrom has been a highly regarded prospect who has been unable to find traction playing behind the suspect Panthers. It will be interesting to see what he can do with this fresh start.
“There’s going to be a drop-off in experience, for sure,” Canucks GM Mike Gillis told reporters in a conference call.
Luongo, 35, had nine years and $40.5 million left on his contract heading into this season. The Canucks had to eat 15 percent of that to facilitate this swap.
He took the high road out of town, remembering the 2011 playoffs that nearly brought Vancouver the Stanley Cup.
“There are a lot of great things,” Luongo told the Vancouver media. “We had a great run and fell short and that’s going to hurt me for a while. I wish we could have done more to win that (Game 7). There was a lot of stuff that happened in between and I have nothing but good things to say about the fans who were really supportive to the end and it didn’t go unnoticed for sure. The organization brought my game to another level. It’s all positive stuff.”
With Luongo in the house, the Panthers shipped veteran Tim Thomas to Dallas where he offers insurance behind the injury-prone Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen
The Buffalo Sabres tried to pitch Minnesota Halak to the Wild, but that team opted for Ilya Bryzgalov instead, paying the modest price of a fourth-round pick to get him from Edmonton. The Wild showed faith in fill-in Darcy Kuemper while opting not to acquire more significant insurance in the form of Halak or New Jersey Devils icon Martin Brodeur.
The Oilers then spent third- and fifth-round picks to pry Viktor Fasth out of Anaheim. Fasth’s return from the injured list gave the Ducks three quality goaltenders and that team opted to take the picks now rather try to move one of them in the summer. Frederik Andersen played well this season for the Ducks and team also has prospect John Gibson tearing up the AHL.
Buffalo GM Tim Murray finally moved Halak to the Washington Capitals, getting goaltender Michal Neuvirth in return.
Let’s face it, this whole Adam Oates this is not working out for the Washington Capitals.
The rookie NHL head coach is off to a 1-5-1 start. He is playing superstar Alex Ovechkin on a line with two muckers.
He buried 2012 playoff hero Braden Holtby after two starts in goal, starting Michal Neuvirth in the nets for the next five games. (Holtby will start tonight’s game against Philadelphia.)
The Capitals are struggling to master his offensive and defensive systems. They are awful at even strength and they earn far too many penalties.
Washington has already sunk to the Eastern Conference cellar, five points out of the No. 8 playoff spot. Pittsburgh looms next on its schedule after the Flyers game.
How long will general manager George McPhee let this slide? And how much longer will owner Ted Leonsis allow McPhee to oversee the team?
In Thursday night’s 3-2 loss at Toronto, the Capitals were outshot 41-22. They took eight minor penalties, all of them bad. They have taken five or more penalties in six of their seven games.
“You spend so much energy trying to kill those penalties that maybe you run out of a little bit of juice,” Oates told reporters after the game. “For some of the plays, guys have got to be maybe a little bit more focused on their sticks.”
Somehow they took a 2-1 lead into the third period, but once again they wasted that margin and failed to gain any points.
“Discipline’s been probably what’s costing us since the beginning of the year,” center Mike Ribeiro told the Washington Post. “If you don’t change that, then it’s just going to keep snowballing like that. You have to be disciplined on everything: on your shifts, how we play, how you chip the puck, how you take penalties, discipline in your game plan.”
Braden Holtby gets his another crack at establishing himself as the lead goaltender for the Washington Capitals.
Will he stand tall or muck it up?
Holtby allowed six goals on 34 shots during Washington’s season-ending opening 6-3 loss at Tampa Bay. First-year coach Adam Oates vowed to give his other goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, plenty of work this season.
So some observers wondered if that work could come in Washington’s the home opener against the Winnipeg Jets. Alas, Oates decided to come back with Holtby after attributing the Game 1 fiasco to miserable team play.
But Holtby knows he wasn’t as good as he needed to be at Tampa. Some of those goals allowed were clearly his fault.
“I think the first and the fifth were ones that I felt I could have played better,” Holtby told the Washington Post. “I don’t know if they would have went in still, but I felt that my positioning could have been better and reading the play. As a whole it was just one of those nights the puck went in.”
Last season Holtby spent most of the season in the American Hockey League. But he excelled in the playoffs, posting a 1.95 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in 14 appearances.
That earned him the initial nod over Neuvirth, who slipped last season after a strong 2010-11 showing: 27-12-4 with a 2.45 GAA and .914 save percentage. With back-to-back games looming Thursday and Friday, Oates won’t have to wait long to give Neuvirth his first look.
The Washington Capitals goaltender-go-round has implication far beyond the playoff race.
With veteran Tomas Vokoun still hobbled by a groin muscle strain, prospect Braden Holtby gets to start a key game against the Buffalo Sabres. He is 2-0-1 with a .955 save percentage and a 1.29 goals-against average during his latest recall.
“Pretty excited for it,” Holtby told the Washington Post. “It’s a big game but at the same time, it’s just another one. It counts as two points just the same as all the others do. Got to go into it with that mindset but there will be a little extra motivation to have the team going and get a win.”
If Holtby wins, odds are he will continue to start. That is the way coach Dale Hunter operates.
And if Holtby keeps starting, the impact could extend to future seasons:
Holtby, 22, has a chance to surpass Michal Neuvirth as the Next One in goal for the Capitals. In his limited exposure to the NHL, he has flashed star qualities. “He’s come up here and has played well. It’s a big game for him,” Hunter told reporters. “Going into Detroit, going into Philly, those are tough situations. He’s been good under pressure; he’s always been good under pressure, people tell me. He’s a kid that wants to rise to the occasion.”
Vokoun signed a one-year deal as a free agent hoping to bolster his value for his next contract. At times he has looked worthy of a big-dollar commitment. But at times Vokoun has struggled – and when the Caps needed him the most this season, he pulled up lame.
If the Capitals believe Holtby and Neuvirth can be a low-cost goaltending answer for next season and beyond, the team will be able to allocate more money toward keeping the core lineup intact.
Veteran goaltender Tomas Vokoun seemed like a good free-agent bet for the Capitals. His history of posting high save percentages on bad teams made him an attractive buy that is at its best playing skate-and-shoot hockey.
Vokoun was eager to reestablish his market value after settling for Washington’s low-ball bid. That high motivation made him seem like the perfect get.
But Vokoun’s mediocre play (2.81 goals-against average, .906 save percentage) thus far opened the door for young Michal Neuvirth make his play for the No. 1 designation. For the first time all season he earned three consecutive starts.
“He’s got a clean slate since I started coaching,” new Capitals coach Dale Hunter told the Washington Post. “We ran the numbers and he’s got over a .920 save percentage, which is good, so he’s back in tonight and I liked his practice today.”
Vokoun allowed four goals during a 5-1 loss to the Flyers in his previous start. Neuvirth allowed just two goals on 54 shots during his previous two starts, giving him a .923 in five appearances (four starts and a relief stint) since Hunter took over.
“He’s a young guy still, he’s a competitor and he wants to win,” Hunter said.
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The Hot List
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