The New York Islanders' internal desire for a goalie upgrade may be on hold now that Evgeni Nabokov has come off IR and played quite well in his return. That doesn't mean the need won't re-assert itself in due time, as the Isles face the choice of either over-working this 38-year-old average (at best) goalie, or leaning more on what are unproven (at best) and thus far inadequate backups.
Regardless, even if the Goalie Crisis 2013 is on pause, they should be very careful about whom they place new faith.
When teams are desperate, they are vulnerable to other teams offering them snake oil; it is wise to resist. Conversely, when teams' records are better than their actual play, they are wise to try to sell high on their weakest links. That kind of dynamic may be in play in the Metropolitan Division.
The Carolina Hurricanes are 11 points ahead of the Islanders and currently hold the third spot in the Metro, but that is a bit deceiving: They are among the six Metro teams with negative goal differentials, and when games are up for grabs ("tied/close"), in about 1000 minutes of data so far they are in the company of Buffalo, Edmonton, Toronto, and a trio of other Metro teams (but not the Islanders) in getting outshot with regularity.
As such, the Canes need improvements, and it sure sounds like they are angling to do it by selling their junk to other teams in need.
Throughout December, there have been reports of GM Jim Rutherford trying to offload surplus assets:
Close to returning. Canes getting trade interest in both him & Peters. MT @NHLCanes Khudobin will travel with the team this week.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) December 2, 2013
That's in addition to report early in December, chiefly by Darren Dreger of TSN, that the Canes expect to trade Tim Gleason "very soon."
...the talk is you can have pretty much have anybody on the Carolina roster with the exception of C Eric Staal, C Jordan Staal, LW Jeff Skinner and G Cam Ward. The Hurricanes are pushing for a playoff spot in the East, but Rutherford would like to make changes. The three names we’ve heard the most: D Tim Gleason, LW Jiri Tlusty and LW Tuomo Ruutu.
It almost reads like a message board or fantasy team trade post: NEED UPGRADES. AM WILLING TO TRADE ANYONE ON MY TEAM WHO ISN'T ALL THAT GOOD.
The Isles defense has been hit by injuries, but hopefully the Isles knew not to want any part of Gleason.
But let's focus on Peters:
Carolina signed Anton Khudobin in the offseason specifically because they didn't believe in Justin Peters as their backup goalie. Nothing in Peters' career says they should believe in him, but he's done fine this season -- including a win over the Isles, of course -- after Cam Ward and Khudobin each got hurt. They are wise to shop him and try to sell high here.
Earlier in Garrioch's Sunday column captures exactly where the Peters sales pitch would come from:
The 27-year-old has a solid .925 save-percentage with a 2.23 GAA on an inconsistent Carolina team. He'd be a nice fit.
I was about to go into why, at 27, the best bet is that Peters would not be "a good fit" anywhere, but a blogger who focuses on another possible trade victim, Jonathan Willis covering the Edmonton Oilers, outlined it already:
Most importantly, though, Justin Peters isn’t an especially good goaltender, despite his numbers this season. In 64 career NHL games the 27-year-old has a 0.905 save percentage. Among goalies with more than 50 games since 2009-10, that ties him with Scott Clemmensen, Joey MacDonald, Marty Turco and Antero Niitymaki. That’s two third-string goalies and two guys who have since been pushed into retirement.
Peters’ AHL numbers suggest much the same; he’s a career 0.909 save percentage goalie in 214 games played at that level. If we limit ourselves to the past three seasons, that save percentage number jumps to 0.916, which we would roughly expect to translate to a 0.909 NHL save percentage. That’s the rosiest possible interpretation of his long-term work, and it still projects him as a sub-average NHL goalie.
Assuming it's true, as reported by Newsday's Arthur Staple and others, that Garth Snow used the Nabokov injury period to kick the tires and check prices on goalies around the league, then Isles fans should hope that Snow, for the above reasons, resisted Rutherford pitched him.
With a losing streak escalating and Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson incapable of bailing the Isles out -- save for Poulin's standout performance in San Jose -- it might've been tempting to roll the dice on another career AHLer. But chances are, despite Peters' good (and small sample) run this season, it wouldn't have worked.