As a follow-up to yesterday’s piece, I will be breaking down possible goaltending options to pursue this offseason
For the sixth time this season, rookie goaltender Mads Sogaard has allowed four-or-more goals in one game. At the same time, he is Ottawa’s future in net. Both things can be true. Sogaard has been forced into a starter’s role way too early in his young career. The 22-year-old is not ready for a full-time spot in the NHL, but that’s okay. He is only 22 years old and has a long career ahead of him. As captain Brady Tkachuk has said “He’s our goalie of the future, he’s gonna take us to the Stanley Cup.” It is important for Senators fans to remember that he is still very young and will be ready in time. For the near future however, it is important to explore who will serve as Anton Forsberg‘s backup goalie next season.
Ottawa’s current backup goaltender (injuries aside) is Cam Talbot. He has performed admirably despite fighting injury all season and being left out to dry thanks to the Sens’ weak d-core for a majority of the season so far. In 32 games so far this season, he has gone 15-14-1 sporting a .905 Save Percentage with a Goals Against Average of 2.85. These numbers are good considering how bad of a team the Ottawa Senators were to start the year, and you’d think he’d be the number one option for backup next season. However, it was reported by Andy Strictland that he rejected a contract extension around the trade-deadline and he could likely be moved. Obviously, he was not traded. Mostly due to Anton Forsberg’s MCL injury. This however rules out the likelyhood that Talbot returns to the Sens for next season.
The only other option currently in Ottawa’s system I’d be willing to consider for the backup-role would be Antoine Bibeau. The 28-year-old veteran goaltender is currently on Belleville’s injured reserve, but started the season as the Starter and mentor to Sogaard. In 20 games with Belleville, he went 9-8-1 with a .894 S% and 3.43 GAA. Those numbers don’t jump out to you, but the team has been bad this season and is far from the playoffs. I don’t think Bibeau is the number one option for that backup goaltender job, but I think he should be the first callup in order to give Sogaard the full year in the AHL.
Free Agency Options
Here are a few options for goaltenders who could be available this free agency period.
MacKenzie Blackwood The 26-year-old has seen a lot of ups-and-downs so far in his career. MacKenzie Blackwood is currently on the injured reserve and only played in 17 games for the Devils this year. In those 17 games he went 8-5-2. The reason I believe he will go to free agency is because it appears as if he has been shoved down the Devils’ goaltending chart behind Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmidt. Blackwood would be a good tandem option as he could be a viable 1B to Forsberg. I also don’t think he would come at the highest price-tag.
Alex Nedeljkovic While Alex Nedeljkovic has lost his starting job in Detroit and has actually been playing in the AHL recently, he has been playing lights out for the Grand Rapid Griffins and is only a few seasons removed from being a Calder Trophy Finalist for Rookie of the Year. I think he could be a decent reclamation project, playing in a tandem with Forsberg. I highly doubt Steve Yzerman brings the american goaltender back as he has already replaced him with Ville Husso.
Laurent Brossoit of the Vegas Golden Knights will surely come to an end soon as he is currently third on Vegas’ depth chart behind Logan Thompson and Robin Lehner (assuming Lehner is able to come back from his surgery recovery for the beginning of next season) Brossoit is a veteran backup who has made his way around the league. He was expected to start the season as Lehner’s backup but the emergence of Thompson quickly changed things. Brossoit is a very safe option who would be reliable as a backup, but should not play in a starter’s role.
Adin Hill is in the exact same situation as Brossoit as he was brought in after Lehner’s injury. Vegas went into this season expecting Lehner and Brossoit to be the tandem but Lehner fell to injury. Before the emergency of Logan Thompson, Adin Hill was brought in to play in a tandem role with Brossoit this season until plans changed. Hill will definitely hit free agency this year based on this. His best hockey was played with the Arizona Coyotes, and since then has not gotten a legitimate chance at being a full-time NHLer. I think he would be a gamble, but given his numbers I think it would be a safe gamble.
Joonas Korpisalo Even though he was just traded to the Los Angeles Kings, I could see a world where he hits the open market if he does not get the offer he wants from the Kings. I think Joonas Korpisalo would see the highest price-tag in terms of who’s available in free-agency, but given Ottawa was linked to his services around the trade-deadline I feel it’s at least a good idea to consider him. Korpisalo would likely demand a starter role wherever he ends up. I would only consider this option if Forsberg’s status is unlikely come July 1st. If you can’t expect Forsberg to be ready to start the year, you now have to find two goalies instead of one. If that were the case, you’d have to consider someone who can serve as a legitimate starter.
Free Agency is not the only place to get a goalie. There are legitimate options in net currently advertised to be on the trading block from their current teams. Here are a few viable options
John Gibson Let’s start off with a big name. John Gibson has seen a decline in recent years, but that could be partly attributed to a declining team as a whole. That’s not to say Gibson is still the goalie he once was, cause he’s not. However, he should still be considered a legitimate starting goalie in the NHL. The 29-year-old is one of many names that are likely to head out the door as the Anaheim Ducks are in the middle of a rebuild. I think if the price is not exorbitantly high, he should be considered. I don’t think he should be Ottawa’s number one target in net this offseason, but if other names are off the board and Forsberg’s recovery is not progressing in the way he and the organization would hope, I’d be comfortable trusting Gibson in holding down the fort until Sogaard is ready to slowly take over as starting goalie in a few years time.
Tristan Jarry The Pittsburgh Penguins are not in a rebuild (yet) but if they miss the playoffs this season, a rebuild could (but likely won’t) start. While realistically I don’t think the Penguins will start selling anybody off until the likes of Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin retire or move on, Tristan Jarry could be one of the first players to go as he is a relatively young goaltender who has seen success so far in his career. The 27-year-old is an RFA this offseason and would be a viable option in net if Ottawa is looking for a starter.
Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators could be a victim to a starting rebuild under incoming General Manager Barry Trotz, Juuse Saros is a top five goaltender in the National Hockey League and if he becomes available, Trotz will receive 31 calls inquiring about his services. This means that the cost would be undoubtedly high. His cap hit of 5 million dollars is rich but he is absolutely worth that salary. He would likely cost a lot of assets, but given he’s 27 and just entering his prime as a goaltender, he would be Ottawa’s goalie of the now and goalie of the Future. This would give Sogaard more time to develop if the Ottawa Senators chose to not extend Saros and trade him away when his contract came up. This also gives Ottawa the option to trade away Sogaard if they are happy with Saros as goaltender of the future.
Thatcher Demko As the Vancouver Canucks appear to be beginning yet another rebuild, Thatcher Demko has been advertised as available for trade. Just like Saros, he is an elite netminder and is a top 10 goaltender in the NHL. He is also 27 years old and would show the same type of role that Saros would. For me, what makes me favor Demko over Saros is the contract. While they’re both making the same amount of money each year, Demko is locked down under contract for longer than Saros. Demko is under contract until the end of the 2025-26 season while Saros is under contract until the end of the 2024-25. Otherwise, both goalies have an equal amount of value for me.
Want your voice heard? Join the SenShot team!
The options in net are quite endless for the Ottawa Senators. The number one question to answer however is Anton Forsberg’s health. If he is healthy, he has earned the starting gig in Ottawa and that means Ottawa would more likely lean towards a backup goaltender like Adin Hill or Laurent Brossoit. If he’s not healthy, and his career were to end a-la Anders Nilsson, I could see Ottawa more violently go towards a guy like Demko or Saros.