While on one hand you have regular starter Cam Ward trying to decide if he actually wants to be an NHL level goaltender, you have Anton Khudobin on the other. Khudobin was one of the first shots fired in Carolina’s war on injuries, going down with a lower body injury in October. He’s been slow to rehab, but is now reportedly skating with the team in practice and will likely return in the very near future.
Then there’s this kid Justin Peters.
Peters was called up from the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, along with afterthought Mike Murphy in relief of the injured Ward and Khudobin. This was a crisis mode move by Carolina GM Jim Rutherford and one of the few moments of coherent thought he’s had in recent times. Most simply assumed, Peters was a band-aid on a bullet wound and that disaster would ensue until Ward, Khudobin or both regained their ability to stand upright. What nobody accounted for was that this kid could play.
In the stretch of time he’s been in the show, Peters has asserted himself as the real deal. While Ward’s status remains in a perpetual state of flux, Peters continues to play like he never got the memo saying he’s a backup.
Now that Khudobin is up in the gates, someone simply needs to go. Is it as simple as the three of them shouting “not it” and the last one getting traded? Unfortunately, no. Ward is under a contract that in retrospect may have been a tad ambitious. Carolina is stuck with Ward until 2016 to the tune of $6.3 million a season. With a no-trade clause and the inability to go free agent, Ward’s kids will be attending Wake County Schools for at least two more years. Not to mention, trading Ward would be epically stupid. Even if he’s not the cybernetic saves machine he was just two seasons ago, he’s not someone you toss out with the trash.
So who goes? Khudobin? That would be a bit hasty, since he was bang-up before the injury. There’s no reason he wouldn’t perform in top shape now. Peters might be able to go, seeing as he’s had his smatterings of ‘that’s why you’re in the AHL’ moments. However, is it really that smart to trade away a young goalie with potential? Especially when he can co-start with Ward and learn a ton.
Peters is a hot commodity right now. While it seems counter-intuitive, he should be the one to go. Use Peters as trade bait and bring in offensive power. Khudobin is still solid and his style differs from Ward’s just enough to keep opponents guessing. There’s plenty of teams out there who could use a hot, young goaltender in exchange for some skaters they weren’t using.
Honestly, nobody really wants to trade this kid. He’s a good goalie. In the end, though, it’ll be best for the Hurricanes and depending on where he lands, the best move for Peters.