The bargain bin DVD section at Walmart is usually full of terrible choices like a straight-to-DVD Christmas comedy starring Randy Quaid or the latest karate flick by 70-year-old Steven Seagal where he huffs and puffs his way through 82 minutes of subdued “action.” Every once and a while though, if you dig hard enough, you might come across a box set of Ghostbusters 1 and 2 for $5.
That’s what we’re trying to find today as it pertains to a reasonable goaltending option for the Buffalo Sabres. Craig Anderson has been shelved since November 2nd with an upper body injury. The veteran netminder was playing at high level for the Sabres prior to his injury, but now, as his injury absence nears a month, the Sabres are seemingly no closer to having Anderson back in the lineup.
“Because of our initial report, based on where we’re at, it is a concern,” Granato said on Friday. “Obviously, we didn’t feel he would be out this long, and it has lingered. So, there is concern with respect to that, definitely.”
Also not good is the play of Aaron Dell who has been pressed into action in the interim. Dell, 32, has an abysmal save percentage of .862 over parts of 5 contests since the beginning of the month. The Sabres can muddle through with Dustin Tokarski and his .910 save percentage, especially due to his ability to keep pucks out of the net at critical times like we saw last night versus Detroit in the third period. Sure, Tokarski let in a softy in overtime, but the Sabres wouldn’t have earned even a point if it weren’t for Tokarski’s key saves in the final frame.
The Sabres won’t make a move for a goalie in all likelihood. It’s not clear if they even want to win this year and the kids are (mostly) all improving and playing hard. Perhaps if they could find an incredibly cheap option that would be a minor improvement at a cheap-or-free price, though, they would be willing to pull the trigger. The Sabres do not want to rush the rebuild and overspend on a stop-gap goalie for a non-existent playoff push. What they need to do is show the young team that they’re going to at least try give them a little bit of help as the kids have shown they’re more than willing to give it their all.
Let’s take a look at some very cheap options:
Alex Lyon – Chicago Wolves (Carolina Hurricanes)
Lyon, 28, spent his formative NHL years with the Philadelphia Flyers organization after signing as a free agent in 2016 upon the conclusion of his NCAA career with Yale. The NHL numbers won’t blow anyone away: 23 games played over the past 5 years with an .895 SV% in those games. Lyon’s numbers this year as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes look better than that. In one game with the Hurricanes, he has a .931 SV% and in 6 games with the Chicago Wolves, he has a .911 SV% with a 1.95 GAA. Lyon also fits the USA Hockey mold as he played in the USHL and hails from the American hockey hotbed of Minnesota, which would fit in well with what Granato is building at the NHL level. Carolina has Freddy Andersen and Antti Raanta at the NHL level with several prospects in the minors. Perhaps they would be willing to part with Lyon for as little as a 6th round pick and Aaron Dell.
Scott Wedgewood – Arizona Coyotes
Wedgewood is playing far too well for the Coyotes. They need to see this tank thing through Tim Murray style and get rid of him before he blows up their chances of landing Shane Wright first overall. Wedgewood, 29, has a .918 SV% on a team that is otherwise pretty abysmal at the bottom of the league and is clearly in a rebuilding phase. The Coyotes would undoubtedly be willing to part with Wedgewood, but his play would probably raise the price of his acquisition to a level that the Sabres would be unwilling to spend. At his current level, he could fetch as high as a 3rd or 4th round draft selection to a team looking to solidify their minor-league goaltending position for a long playoff run. On the plus side, Wedgewood has a history in the Sabres organization as he was a member of the Rochester Americans back in 2018-19 when he posted a .908 SV% in 48 games.
Andrew Hammond – Minnesota Wild
The intention of this blog wasn’t to go find a bunch of former Rochester Americans and bring them back into the fold. The methodology was to look through organizational depth charts and find expendable veterans playing in the minor leagues who could be acquired for a low price. It just so happens that a lot of those players also seem to have gone through Rochester, as is the case with Hammond. The White Rock, BC native played 33 games for the Americans back in the ‘19-‘20 season, followed by a stint last year with… uh, no one. He didn’t play. This year, he’s playing with the Iowa Wild and has put up a .913 SV% in 7 contests for the Wild’s farm team. The acquisition price for Hammond would figure to be dirt cheap again. A late pick plus Aaron Dell should get it done.
Spencer Martin – Vancouver Canucks
I know what you’re asking: Who?! Martin is a 26-year-old goalie playing for the Abbotsford Canucks of the American Hockey League. He has a very nice draft pedigree as a former 3rd round selection of the Colorado Avalanche back in 2013, after which he bounced around the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch and San Antonio Rampage. Fair warning here: the numbers are not good, as could be expected from a bargain-bin acquisition. He is a borderline ECHL goaltender who has played one game in the AHL this season where he put up a .917 SV% which means he should be practically free to acquire. What you’re betting on here is that there is still something inside of him that made him a relatively high draft pick and perhaps that underlying skill can be unlocked if given the opportunity. Dell plus a 2024 7th round pick gets this done.
Antoine Bibeau – Seattle Kraken
The 27-year-old Quebecoise goalie has bounced around plenty since being taken in the 6th round by the Toronto Maple Leafs back in 2013. He’s only played 18 games since 2019, though, and this year he’s bounced between the ECHL (3 games, .920 SV%) and the AHL (3 games, .912 SV%). Again, this would be a very cheap pick up and there’s no guarantee that he would be any better than Dell. Maaaybe it would take a 7th plus Dell to get it done.
Of all the choices, Lyon would be my favorite idea due to his connections to USA Hockey. It’s likely that the Sabres will do nothing at all, but if Dell plays tomorrow and things go sidewise for him and the team again, the pressure will only mount on Kevyn Adams to get something done. The Aaron Dell experiment can’t go on forever.