The goaltending situation for the Carolina Hurricanes has been a huge headache for anyone associated with the team.
Heading into the season, Carolina had Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin in net. Either goalie had the capability to bang out a win on any night. While Ward was the established franchise goalie, he hadn’t returned to his previous cyborg self since his season-tanking injury last year. It was Khudobin who stepped in and was leading the team while Ward continued his inner existential conflict.
October was a time of strife, seeing both goaltenders hurt within a week of one another. The loss of just one goaltender can toss a team into a tail-spin, however both netminders going down at once can kill a season. All things considered, Carolina has actually weathered this storm pretty well. With AHL goalies Justin Peters and Mike Murphy being recalled from Charlotte to fill in, things surprisingly got better. Granted they couldn’t get much worse, but improvement is improvement.
Murphy didn’t see a moment of ice time during his call-up, but Peters actually ended up being the hero of the day and led the Hurricanes to a huge points streak and logged his third career shutout. For a kid who had no business in the NHL just weeks prior, Peters came up huge in the show.
Plans have changed, as they have a habit of doing. With Ward healthy again, hope has returned if only briefly. After the loss in Ward’s comeback game, head coach Kirk Muller made the head-scratcher move of starting Peters against the Detroit Red Wings – which predictably ended in disaster.
Now with Khudobin returning to practice, there are three simple options being thrown around. If you’ve been in a cave all week, here’s what’s being discussed by everyone with a keyboard. First, the Hurricanes can carry three goaltenders. Second, they can send Peters back to the AHL and play on as if nothing happened. And third, one of them can pack their bags and get traded for another goaltender who knows how to butterfly without tearing something. Three simple options.
Carrying three goaltenders is like smoking at the gas station. Sure you might look cool, but something’s going to blow up in your face. Bad idea and anyone who suggests this as a viable option should be deported for treason. No good can come from carrying three goalies when the power play is fat, drunk, and stupid. The solution to bad offense is not to take away depth. Toss this idea out.
Trading for another goalie is a dicey affair. More than anything, who do you trade and for whom? Are there seriously any goaltenders on the market who could help? Jonas Hiller is a complete liability for the Anaheim Ducks, who would be fifty shades of thrilled to unload that problem child. However, Hiller has nothing to offer the Hurricanes other than being a project that doesn’t help the present. For the sake of argument, say GM Jim Rutherford respects continuity and trades for someone nobody wants. Who goes? Ward can’t, he’s still got a chunk of that $37.8 million contract left. Even if he waives his no-trade clause, who wants that cap hit? Plus, fans would burn down Glenwood South in protest. Ward is Carolina’s problem for a good long while.
Khudobin is off the trade block until he shows how healthy or not healthy he is – so that’s out.
Trading Peters is the only option, but then that leaves the Hurricanes back where they started with Ward and Khudobin fighting it out for the “Shakiest Season” award.
All three goaltenders need to go where they belong. Ward to the crease, Khudobin to the bullpen, and Peters elsewhere. Should Rutherford go for the trade, Peters would be great bait for a forward that can actually help the Hurricanes’ offensive output or – just a thought, here – the power play.
If nothing else is true, it’s that three can never be a magic number for Carolina’s goaltending corps.