Buffalo - January 8, 2015 - It’s still a little early yet for trade deadline rumors to get into full swing, but the Sabres might be finding themselves in the rumor mill more and more these days.
No, we’re not talking about the Boston Bruins and their supposed interest in soon-to-be free agent winger Chris Stewart. These rumors instead involve the goaltending tandem in Buffalo of Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth.
The goaltending situation for the Minnesota Wild has been somewhat of a mess this season, between injuries (the Josh Harding saga) and performance (they have the second-lowest save percentage as a team in the NHL).
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, that has led to general manager Chuck Fletcher to gauge the trade market for goaltenders:
What General Manager Chuck Fletcher is gauging is this: Do you give up significant assets now to get a short-term fix when there’s no guarantee a goalie can save the season or do you stay patient, continue to ride out the instability and wait for the right move to come along that will address the long-term need?
The interesting part about that is that the possibilities include Enroth and Neuvirth. It’s also interesting given the recent trading history between Minnesota and Buffalo. If you’ll recall, Buffalo sent Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson to the Wild as deadline deals over the last two years. So to say that the Sabres are familiar with the assets in the possession of the Wild would be a bit of an understatement.
What’s also interesting is just how much value each goalie holds not only on the market, but in the eyes of the Sabres. Going forward, will they want to go with the more talented, but oft-injured Neuvirth or the diminutive but resilient Enroth? The latter also had a streak earlier this season that saw him playing at superhuman levels for a month stretch that saw the Sabres win 10 of 13.
More importantly, what kind of assets could they fetch? On the surface, unless one of them gets ridiculously hot (or in the case of Enroth, hot again), the Sabres are probably looking at something resembling a middling pick and a second-tier prospect. Will that be worth it for a goalie who can reasonably act as a #1 goalie for this team going forward?
Realistically speaking, there’s no one on the immediate horizon. Prospect Linus Ullmark has the potential to become a quality NHL goalie, but he’s still years away. Who will eat up minutes between now and then?
Don’t be surprised if the Sabres hold onto both as the deadline nears. They both have value, but the goaltending market is a difficult one to gauge and possessing even a very good goaltender can still leave you taking any deal you can get (think Vancouver with Roberto Luongo). Couple that with the lack of NHL-ready prospects in the pipeline and the Sabres would have to get an offer that really knocked their socks off to move one of their netminders.
Then again, if a team like Minnesota finds itself in a pickle, the Sabres could come out smiling in a potential deal.
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