With the trade deadline just over one week away, the Colorado Avalanche are humming along as one of the leagues top teams, and atop of the Honda West Division standings. The Avalanche have seen practically all of their success in goal from Philipp Grubauer, who owns 23 of the Avs 25 wins on the season, with Hunter Miska and Jonas Johansson each owning one of the other two wins.
On the other side of the United States, the Florida Panthers are in a dogfight for the top of the MassMutual Central Division with their in-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Panthers have seen a lot of surprises throughout the roster, with the most pleasant surprise being the bounce back year that Sergei Bobrovsky is having in net, sporting a record of 15-5-2, a 2.79 GAA, and a .910 SV%, numbers far better than his freshman campaign in the Sunshine State last season.
Another good thing the Panthers have had going for them has come from the backup, Chris Driedger. The 26-year old netminder has been stellar behind Bobrovsky, sporting a 10-4-2 record, a 2.18 GAA, and a .927 SV%, and early into the season was pressuring Bobrovsky for his starting role.
The idea of a team in the fight for the top of their division trading away a valuable asset definitely seems outlandish, but why would there be any reason to believe that Florida would trade a 26-year old netminder who has been arguably better than the starter they’re paying $10 million for until 2026?
One reasonable conclusion comes from their top goaltending prospect, Spencer Knight. Knight is fresh off of signing his Entry Level Contract (ELC) with the Panthers Wednesday, and he could slide into that backup role with a lot of promise for the Panthers. Knight is up with the NHL roster, so there could be plans to keep him around on the Taxi Squad while the Panthers have two NHL caliber goaltenders.
Knight most recently played for Boston College in the NCAA, sporting a 16-4-1 record, a 2.18 GAA, and a .932 SV%, and also backed Team USA to a gold medal at this past Winters World Junior Championship.
Another issue Florida could have on their hands comes at the upcoming Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. With Bobrovsky on a full No Movement Clause (NMC), Florida is forced to protect him, which would leave Driedger on the table for the Kraken to snag up for free. If Knight is with the team already, why not look to cash in on your valuable asset?
A very similar situation is playing out within their division, as the Carolina Hurricanes have Petr Mrazek, James Reimer, and Alex Nedeljkovic in the NHL. Mrazek has been hurt most of the season, but no doubt will return to a key role when healthy (which is soon), and Nedeljkovic has been a revelation for Carolina in Mrazek’s absence, making Reimer expendable. The only real difference there is that while Spencer Knight is exempt from the expansion draft, Carolina does not have that luxury with Nedeljkovic.
Driedger is a UFA at seasons end, and with the expansion draft looming, the Avalanche should look to be in the realm of a rental price. While draft picks could be on the table, there is one prospect that Florida could see interest in with Captain Aaron Ekblad’s season done after his gruesome leg injury: Conor Timmins.
While Timmins is a promising prospect, his injury issues have been damaging to his chances to keep a roster spot with the Avalanche, and the rise of Jacob MacDonald has only made that hill steeper to climb for Timmins. While Timmins is promising, you have to think that perhaps the Avs won’t be able to maximize his value with how loaded the defense corps is.
Possible packages for Driedger:
2021 3rd Round Pick, 2022 3rd Round Pick
G Chris Driedger
This one likely isn’t enough to get a trade done.
D Conor Timmins, 2022 3rd Round Pick
G Chris Driedger, D Brady Keeper
Other Potential Targets: