Before tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers made a trade, with the Oilers sending third-string goaltender Jason LaBarbera to the Blackhawks. In return for LaBarbera, the Blackhawks will be sending future considerations.
The 33-year-old LaBarbera will likely become a starter for the AHL Rockford IceHogs in front of Mac Carruth. Ilya Bryzgolov is now healthy, which would have meant a demotion for LaBarbera anyways. For the Blackhawks, however, LaBarbera adds a significant amount of depth as both Corey Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin are multiple weeks away from their respective returns.
From a depth standpoint, LaBarbera is now the Blackhawks’ insurance plan as neither Carruth or Allen York, who is on a professional tryout, are NHL-ready. York will likely be released from his professional tryout and can return to the ECHL, despite having a shutout in his time with Rockford.
There is also a significant possibility that LaBarbera is called up, thanks in large part to the Blackhawks playing three games in four nights. If that is the case, the best matchup would be Tuesday night against an anemic Nashville Predators‘ offense.
However, this multiple-week stretch in the AHL may be more than just an insurance plan for LaBarbera. At $1 million, LaBarbera was by no means a cheap acquisition, despite his statistics faltering dramatically as he ages.
Per the Blackhawks press release, LaBarbera is 1-3-0 despite starting seven games with Edmonton, and has only been able to muster a save percentage of .870. In the AHL, LaBarbera is much better, allowing fewer than two goals per game and bolstering a .953 save percentage in limited action.
Yet, if the 33-year-old Canadian wishes to remain in the NHL, he needs to improve his performance or take a pay cut. Beyond this season, it is unlikely LaBarbera will find a home unless he can string together some successful AHL starts during the remainder of the season.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486.