When Brian MacLellan declared his intention to change up the Washington Capitals' goaltending situation, the seasoned general manager knew he was joining a crowded market given how many teams already had the same need.
It didn’t matter. He made a move anyway to trade a goalie and create a void in net.
“I jumped in,” MacLellan said. “I jumped into the fire. Probably not the smartest thing, right?”
Certainly not the cheapest thing. The goalie carousel kept spinning on the second day of the NHL draft, with MacLellan trading Vitek Vanecek to the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings acquiring and signing Ville Husso from the St. Louis Blues.
Those moves were half of four completed Friday involving NHL players. The Philadelphia Flyers also got polarizing defenseman Anthony DeAngelo from the Carolina Hurricanes for three high draft picks and the San Jose Sharks sent a pick and a prospect to the Nashville Predators for forward Luke Kunin. But the wheels in motion for goaltenders dominated the conversation and will continue to with free agency opening Wednesday.
“If you line it up and you look and kind of pay attention to what teams are thinking, it’s a little chaotic and scrambly,” MacLellan said. “You’ve got to be constantly monitoring it and seeing what’s happening.”
Things started happening Friday morning even before the start of the second round, with St. Louis trading Husso’s rights for the 73rd pick and Washington sending Vanecek and No. 46 to New Jersey for picks 37 and 70.
The domino effect started Thursday when the Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche got Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers. That move ensured playoff starter Darcy Kuemper would hit the open market.
There’s no shortage of teams interested in Kuemper and other goaltenders available by trade or in free agency.
Husso was set to be one of those options before Detroit sent the 73rd pick to St. Louis for the 27-year-old Finn. He got a $14.25 million deal with a $4.75 million annual cap hit over the next three seasons.
The Red Wings will now pair Husso with Alex Nedeljkovic, whom they acquired last offseason, as they move from rebuilding into contending.
New Jersey is still a couple of years away from that, but the Devils needed a goalie and got one in Vanecek along with the 46th pick after sending Nos. 37 and 70 to Washington. The Capitals are in the market for a veteran netminder to play in tandem with Ilya Samsonov, unless they also move on from him.
GMs not yet in the thick of the goalie search but preparing to enter it understand why colleagues were quick to address the situation at the draft.
“I think it’s natural to have that feeling,” Kevyn Adams of the Buffalo Sabres said. “You have to have a plan, and you have to have a priority list. I’ve had a lot of discussions with teams about different options, things that we think about, and then you go through that list and check it off. Maybe some conversations pick up a little bit more, some go away. We’ve had that, we’ll continue to have that. We know there are some options available if we decide to go that route, but what we won’t do is panic.”
The Hurricanes didn’t panic when it became clear they were having difficulties re-signing DeAngelo. They instead got the 101st pick, a third-rounder next year and a second in 2024 from the Flyers.
“We had teams that were interested,” GM Don Waddell said, “so we did our best to maximize the return value.”
Philadelphia paid a hefty price because it was able to agree to terms on a $10 million, two-year deal with DeAngelo, an offensively skilled right-shot defenseman who put up 51 points in 64 games last season. But DeAngelo’s play has never been the problem as much as off-ice questions.
DeAngelo was sent home by the New York Rangers during the 2021 season following an undisclosed incident, went unclaimed by the rest of the league on waivers and was bought out. He was suspended three games by the NHL for abuse of officials late in 2016 and eight games by the Ontario Hockey League in 2014 for directing a racist slur at a teammate — the second time he was involved in such an incident — and has been criticized for social media posts.
Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher said his team looked into adding DeAngelo last year and is confident the player has learned from his mistakes, adding that new coach John Tortorella was on board with the trade.
“I don’t anticipate any issues,” Fletcher said. “We’re confident this will be a good relationship.”
Elsewhere around the league, the Panthers continued their relationship with forward Eetu Luostarinen, signing him to a $3 million, two-year deal.
“Eetu is a selfless, dependable and cerebral player who plays with consistency each and every night,” GM Bill Zito said. “We are excited to have him back in our lineup.”