There is some irony on the NHL trade front. The Detroit Red Wings were not happy with goalies Alex Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg and chose not to re-sign either after last season. The Pittsburgh Penguins scooped up both, and both have wins and their name on a shutout win in the first 17 games (Hellberg shared a shutout win over Anaheim with starter Tristan Jarry).
After a couple of solid performances, Hellberg is back in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Such is the life of a third goalie, but perhaps Hellberg has more to give.
That could make him a unique Penguins trade chip for a goalie-starved team, and there are a few on the NHL trade market.
The Edmonton Oilers boat is sinking and they are the most goalie-starved team in the league. They have high hopes and have suffered through mounting losses; some goaltending could have changed their season.
They gave up four first-period goals Wednesday night and lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 6-3.
Edmonton’s net is bare. After the team gave up on Jack Campbell, demoting him to the AHL, he’s continued to battle the puck. Second-year netminder Stuart Skinner has been soft, and Calvin Pickard is not seen as a long-term option. However, he’s recently stacked wins before leaking a few third-period goals in the Florida Panthers’ comeback win over Edmonton Monday night.
Edmonton is scouring the NHL trade market.
Hellberg, 32, might be old for a skater, but he’s in his goalie prime. He has kicked around North American professional hockey since leaving Sweden for the 2012-13 season. He was the Nashville Predators 2011 second-round draft pick (38th overall) but has played just 26 NHL games in his career, spending most of his time as a backup or in the AHL.
However, Penguins goalie coach Andy Chiodo has received praise from netminders for his focus on the mental aspects. Hellberg also told PHN that Chiodo identified a few small changes and was working with the goalie on his post-to-post movement.
The 6-foot-6 Hellberg beat the LA Kings on Nov. 9 with a strong 33-save performance. He has a .922 save percentage in three appearances, including stopping all 11 shots he faced in relief of an injured Jarry as the Penguins shut out Anaheim on Nov. 7.
Results are results.
The Penguins goalie stockpile was purposeful because president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas understands teams often need three and sometimes a fourth capable goalie during a season. It wasn’t a coincidence that he signed three NHL-experienced goalies behind Tristan Jarry, including minor-league signee Garrett Sparks.
While the Penguins have needed a third goalie in each of their last two playoff appearances, they also have top prospect Joel Blomqvist, who has taken most of the starts at the AHL level this season. Blomqvist has an .913 save percentage and is viewed as a potential NHL starter in the near future.
Three with experience and Blomqvist, would that be enough to make Dubas comfortable trading one, such as Hellberg?
The Penguins have a surplus of left-side defensemen but a dearth of righties.
There is no rush to move Joseph out of town, at least from this keyboard, but Ryan Shea seems to have locked down the left side of the third pair. John Ludvig is a lefty who holds promise and some physicality (though he may want to avoid trying to drop bigger players who are at full speed).
Joseph is on IR retroactive to the last game he played, Nov. 4, against San Jose, but his injury is not thought serious. He spoke with PHN about getting back in the lineup a day before the team moved him to the injured list.
Ludvig returned to the Penguins lineup Wednesday, playing the right side as Chad Ruhwedel is out week-to-week. Ludvig kept things simple; he also rattled New York Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko behind the net in the second period.
However, the Penguins have several more NHL defensemen in the system.
Will Butcher is in the organization, though he has not yet played after sustaining an undisclosed injury in September. Ty Smith is awaiting another NHL chance from the discomfort of the AHL. Butcher has 275 games of NHL experience.
Mark Pysyk, who has played 521 NHL games, is currently on an AHL PTO with the WBS Penguins, working his way back to the NHL, too.
Penguins Trade Needs
The shutout loss to the New York Rangers was as frustrating as they get, but it also underscored the Penguins lineup needs. No, they won’t get and can’t afford a top-six finisher, but the bottom six remains achingly silent on the scoresheet. As a whole, the group also remains quiet on the ice, lacking physicality or sparks of energy.
The Penguins lineup could use a few adds, especially at the bottom.
The bottom six have scored only 20 points combined in 18 games, and the Penguins’ third pair has only one assist between them.
There are several teams around the league looking for goalies, but a couple of them are direct rivals in the Metro Division or for the Eastern Conference wild card. With an injury to Joonas Korpisalo, the Ottawa Senators have been forced to use Anton Forberg in the net, and he’s posted an .860 save percentage in six appearances. That’s a good thing for the Penguins but not so good for Ottawa.
The Western Conference team in desperate need is Edmonton.
Edmonton has been sniffing around the Montreal Canadiens over the last week, as the Canadiens have three goalies and would like to move one. Otherwise, teams are hanging onto their goaltending depth.
The Penguins might be the only other NHL team on the NHL trade block with three goalies capable of NHL wins, four with Blomqvist. The Oilers have a surplus of bottom-six forwards and need to make changes before the situation collapses.
Edmonton is rumored to be kicking tires on starting goalies on bad teams, such as Jordan Binnington in St. Louis. Dubas has already orchestrated a pair of three-team deals in his short Penguins tenure, and perhaps he has a goalie replacement for a team that deals their starter.
Or help on defense for a team that needs it, too.
The Penguins’ needs are modest but significant, and their salary cap space is small. Ordinarily, a third goalie would not be the bait to fix issues, but the salary cap continues to strangle most teams, and goaltending is limiting a few others. An inexpensive goalie capable of some wins should have some appeal, just as a bottom-sixer with some jam or offensive ability would for the Penguins.