Analysis

Should The Blackhawks Pursue a Top Goalie?

By Joseph Felicelli
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MARCH 25: Kevin Lankinen #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks makes a save against the Florida Panthers at the United Center on March 25, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Panthers 3-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MARCH 25: Kevin Lankinen #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks makes a save against the Florida Panthers at the United Center on March 25, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Panthers 3-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Jun 22, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) makes a second period save against the Montreal Canadiens in game five of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 22, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) makes a second period save against the Montreal Canadiens in game five of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

The Trade Market

Trading for a Goalie is always tricky, especially if you are looking for a starter. Teams are not especially willing to part with a starting goalie, and the ones that would be willing to part with one give the buyer pause, as there must be a reason why they want to move on from them. But there are goalies for sale in the trade market, and several of them could help the ‘Hawks if they want to upgrade their second slot alongside Lankinen.

Marc-Andre Fleury: There were rumors that started shortly after the ‘Hawks traded Robin Lehner to Vegas that there wasn’t going to be room for both goalies on that team, but they went into this season with both on the roster (to the tune of $12M in cap space), and Fleury went on to have a Vezina-caliber season, with a 1.98 GAA, and .928 save percentage.

At 36 years old, not only was this a great story, but makes Fleury a much more valuable commodity to a team looking for a top-shelf goalie to help them to the next level. He would immediately upgrade the Blackhawks goalie room, and be a solid mentor for Lankinen.

At $7M in cap cost, the ‘Hawks would need for Vegas to either take on salary in return, or retain a portion of his cost to take him.

Braden Holtby: Holtby was acquired by Vancouver as a free agent after a Cup run with the Capitals. However, with the emergence of Thatcher Demko, he is a little expensive for a backup ($4.3M in 2021-22). While doing deals with the Canucks is not ideal, he is definitely a starting goalie in the NHL.

By his standards, the last 2 seasons have been a struggle (under .900 save percentage, and over 3.00 GAA for the first time in his NHL career), but at 31, he is 5 years younger than Fleury, and almost $3M less expensive.

Elvis Merzlikins/Joonas Korpisalo: Columbus has a problem. They have 2 really good goalies who both want to be the man for their team. Korpisalo appears to have the upper hand in how they were viewed, but it’s a new regime in Columbus, so is that changing? With the tragic passing of Matiss Kivlenieks in July, they may not be as likely to trade one of them, but they were considering it prior to that news.

Korpisalo is much steadier in goal, where Merzlikins is more flashy, and might have more upside, which is why he currently is the higher-compensated of the two. There is a connection between Korpisalo and Lankinen, with both being Finnish natives, and knowing each other from growing up and playing in the same circles. That could be a positive situation for both, but might not satisfy Korpisalo’s desire to be the #1 guy, if the ‘Hawks are planning a platoon.

There are rumors that others could be pried away from their respective teams (Kuemper, Price, Jarry, and a few others) but given their teams’ lack of options if they moved these players, I am not considering them in this.

Don’t see anything you like enough to pull the trigger on a trade? Well, there are a lot of goalies out there in Unrestricted Free Agency to choose from.

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