With the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline in the past the focus shifts towards the future for Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee. As the expansion draft draws near the available talent at goalie will be plentiful for McPhee to choose from.
For Vegas the one thing that they can’t do is declare and not to declare with current clubs on a particular player or players while this season is still ongoing. Any sort of deal of this magnitude will have to take place when the 2016-2017 campaign is done and over.
With the Golden Knights they will have some interesting options to chose when it comes to defending their net for the 2017-2018 NHL season.
Arguably the top selection will revolve around the Pittsburgh Penguins. At this years trade deadline there were rumors around veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fluery whether he would be moved given his no-movement clause.
If the longtime netminder of the franchise were dealt that would have put Pittsburgh into a position that may have exposed rookie goalie Matt Murray. Murray during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs carried the Penguins team on his back and lead them their 4th Championship in the hockey clubs history.
The Golden Knights may want to wait until the end of season to make a deal with the Penguins to potentially acquire Fluery’s services.
Another choice on the horizon that George McPhee could target is around goalies with experience. Leading the pack in the category are former Tampa Bay Lightning starting netminder Ben Bishop who is now with Los Angeles, Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, and Chicago Blackhawks Scott Darling (1-B starter with the Hawks organization).
Among these options that are set to become available for Vegas to target in the goalie position 7 year NHL veteran Ben Bishop.
Bishop is currently 30 years of age with 7 seasons of experience under his belt. In 33 games this season he has 16 wins with a 2.53 GAA along with a .912 save percentage.
Don’t let the GAA of this campaign fool you he carried the Bolts to the Stanley Cup Finals back in 2015.
Detroit’s Jimmy Howard is still under contract with the Red Wings with two years remaining on his current deal. At age 32 Howard has spent the 11 seasons backstopping the Red Wings with 8 campaigns as their starter.
This year Howard has played in 17 games this year in what is considered to his standards a season of redemption. Before being hurt the Red Wings starter put out a .934 save percentage and an impressive 1.96 GAA.
This numbers should definitely get the attention of Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee.
For Scott Darling he has been a surprise to many around the league. Even though he is penciled in as back up netminder he actually in fact Chicago’s 1-B starter along with Corey Crawford.
At 28 years of age Scott Darling continued emergence in the NHL has gotten everyone’s attention. In three seasons with the Blackhawks he has .927 save percentage with a 2.22 GAA’s in 144 games played.
Darling has earned his right to become a #1 goaltender for a hockey club looking for one going forward. With experience under his belt with and playing the Chicago style of hockey McPhee should take a hard look at Darling as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
If McPhee wants to be aggressive in going after Darling he may entertain trading for his negotiating rights.
With Scott Darling he is on a path similar to that of current San Jose Sharks starting goalie Martin Jones who was formerly a backup in Los Angeles.
The choice of quality backups is a short list with Washington’s Philipp Grubauer and New York Rangers Antti Raanta.
With Philipp Grubauer he has familiarity with current Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee. When McPhee was GM for the Capitals he got to see the 25 year year old first hand.
This season of Grubauer a .927 save percentage in 17 games along with 3 shutouts to his credit behind the best goalie in the league this year in Braden Holtby.
Another bonus for Grubauer is that of Golden Knights Director Dave Prior who is in charge of the organizations goaltending department was previously Washington’s goaltending coach when McPhee drafted Philipp back in 2010.
Up north in the Big Apple comes Antti Raanta. The former Chicago Blackhawks draft pick has spent the last few seasons backing up the New York Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist.
Since being with the Rangers Raanta has be able to experience in small periods of playing time as a starter. However he is best at playing the role of a traditional backup.
On the year Raanta has 21 games to his credit with 17 games as the starter at 12 wins and 5 loses. His GAA is 2.36 with a .920 save percentage.
When Raanta was with Chicago back into the 2014-2015 season he put up a career high numbers in net registering a 1.89 GAA along with a .936 save percentage.
For McPhee as both NHL Expansion Draft and Free Agent Frenzy gets closer he’ll have some tough choices to make of which tandem he wants to defend the Golden Knights net for their inaugural season in the NHL.