The NHL regular season is right around the corner. There are 11 days until opening night on October 10 displaying a three-game show. One of the teams playing on said night is the Tampa Bay Lightning and they just faced a very crucial injury. Star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy underwent successful surgery for a lumbar disc herniation. Vasilevskiy is to miss the next 8–10 weeks to recover, which places him to miss at least the first two months of the season. This obviously leaves a giant hole for the Lightning. Their current backup is Jonas Johansson who hasn’t exactly ever played to starter potential. The Lightning have two choices: take the risk with Johansson or explore the market for a stronger option.
The weak market for NHL goalies
Through signings and PTOs, the goalie market has dried up and become weak. This leaves the Lightning with minimal options to find a temporary starter and potential future backup.
They could first look to what’s left in free agency and the only viable option left seems to be Jaroslav Halak. The veteran goalie is 38 years old and has spent the last 17 seasons in the NHL. Halak served as Igor Shesterkin’s backup last season with the New York Rangers posting a .903 save percentage and 2.72 goals against average in 25 games. Halak expressed his desire to continue playing in the NHL this season and the Lightning could offer him that opportunity while having a good understanding of the goalie they are getting.
The next option the Lightning have is to wait for waivers. A couple of solid goalies could hit waivers before the season starts and that includes Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon. Ironically both have been a part of the other Florida team at some point in their careers. Starting with Stolarz, with the return of Spencer Knight, Stolarz will become the third-string goalie for the Panthers likely leading to him landing on waivers. For the past three seasons, he has served as a pretty solid backup for the Anaheim Ducks. Moving on to Lyon, he found himself on a hot streak to end the year with the Panthers last season that got them into the playoffs. He displayed quality goaltending that caught the eye of the Detroit Red Wings who signed him in the offseason and now may catch the eye of the Lightning.
The final option the Lightning could have is exploring the trade market. Some potential solutions could be Sam Montembeault from Montreal or Karel Vejmelka from Arizona. The problem there is that these two are fairly young and considered to be their team’s starters, so it’s very unlikely either of the two teams would give them up for cheap or even budge at all. Another option could be Antti Raanta as the Hurricanes have Pyotr Kochetkov coming up. Raanta also holds a sustainable $1.5 million cap hit. He did just re-sign with the Hurricanes this past summer so who knows if they’ll want to move him.
Having said that, the Calgary Flames could be the trade partner the Lightning are looking for.
Does a Vladar trade work for both teams?
One of the main talking points surrounding the Flames has been their goalie situation. They currently have three goalies that all seem to be NHL calibre. Jacob Markstrom and Dan Vladar have been the team’s tandem for the past two seasons but with Dustin Wolf having another phenomenal season in the AHL, he seems ready for NHL action. This has left the Flames in a sticky situation.
Markstrom is under contract with a no-move clause for the next three years with a cap hit of $6 million, Vladar’s extension just kicked in, and he is now on a deal for the next two seasons with a cap hit of $2.2 million. Markstrom’s high cap hit and no-move clause makes him nearly impossible to trade so Vladar looks to be the odd man out. That said, a $2.2 million cap hit and lack of a no-move clause ends up making Vladar a much more flexible piece for trading.
There’s much for the Lightning to be intrigued about regarding Vladar. He’s still quite young—having turned 26 years old roughly a month ago—and as a goalie, he has yet to hit his prime. Vladar has shown flashes of a future starter so far in his career. His rookie season in 2021–22 was quite decent, posting a .906 SV% and a 2.75 GAA in 23 games. This past season Vladar started out hot but tailed off throughout the season. He finished with four more games played with 27, a SV% of .895, and a GAA of 2.83.
The Lightning are in a tough spot when it comes to cap space. If they do some number crunching, they would be able to add the $2.2 million that Vladar carries. Via PuckPedia on Twitter, it would start with waiving Phillipe Myers and Logan Brown to send them down to the minors. Myers carries a cap hit of $1.4 million and Brown sits at $775K. The next part includes keeping Brent Seabrook LTIR retired. The Lightning would then be able to add Vladar’s cap hit of $2.2 million and submit a roster of 20 healthy players. They could then put Vasilevskiy on LTIR and call up extras to ensure they have a full roster. Now, what if they can’t afford Vladar when Vasilevskiy is healthy? Well, apparently they can by just sending Johansson down.
What could the potential trade look like?
Even with the cap theoretically working, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Flames took a player back. The player would likely have a contract near the league minimum. That player could be someone like Haydn Fleury who has a year left at $762.5K. Fleury is a defensive defenceman who could serve as the Flames’ sixth or seventh defenceman—an actual roster gap they can currently fill. A pick would likely be attached to him so a package of Fleury and a mid-round pick makes some sense.
This trade works for both sides
A trade between the Lightning and Flames for Dan Vladar would very likely work for both sides. The Lightning would get their temporary starter while Vasilevskiy is out, who would then become a serviceable backup afterwards. The cap works and Vladar gives Tampa security when it comes to position. As for the Flames, moving Vladar gives them some cap flexibility and a spot for Dustin Wolf. The extra cap space would allow them to have a roster larger than 21 players or money to spend in the future. The most important part is creating that spot for Wolf. Wolf has accomplished everything at the AHL level and has shown that he is ready for the NHL. This would give him the opportunity to show the Flames a good idea of what they have in possibly a future franchise goaltender.
Even if a trade doesn’t come to fruition, the Flames should at least call the Lightning and see what they think about Vladar.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire