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5 Emergency Options For The Golden Knight’s Goaltending

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Semyon Varlamov New York Islanders (Phot- NYI Hockey Now)

On Thursday, the Vegas Golden Knights announced that starting goaltender Robin Lehner would miss the entirety of the upcoming 2022-23 season. He will undergo hip surgery, and an exact timetable will be determined at a later date. All the best to Lehner as he looks to surpass yet another roadblock in his NHL career.

For the Golden Knights, this leaves them in a position where they are without their top goaltender. As much as Lehner struggled last season with the Golden Knights missing the playoffs, he was without a doubt the team’s starting goaltender.

With Lehner’s absence, a challenge for the Golden Knights and general manager Kelly McCrimmon, let’s look elsewhere in the NHL to try and gauge the potential of the VGK bringing in an outside goaltender for reinforcements. We will discuss the team’s current goaltending depth in a separate post and look at Logan Thompson/Laurent Brossoit likely tomorrow.

Braden Holtby- Free Agent

Let’s start with a name that uneducated hockey fans are throwing around as a replacement option- Braden Holtby. Holtby is the only notable NHL free agent goaltender on the market, but like Lehner, he will most likely miss the 2022-23 season with injury and may even retire. I know many Golden Knights fans remember how good he was in 2018, but Holtby is not an option.

Holtby’s season hiatus/potential retirement is not 100% confirmed, so I am including him here but only by the slimmest of margins. Outside of Holtby, Jean-Francois Berube, Cory Schneider, Garret Sparks, Michael McNiven, and Adam Huska are the only remaining goalies on the market.

Joonas Korpisalo- Blue Jackets

A goaltender that is actually in the NHL and likely available is Joonas Korpisalo of the Columbus Blue Jackets. After an infamous 85-save performance in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Korpisalo’s stock has dropped in the NHL as Elvis Merzlikins has taken his job as the Blue Jackets starter.

In 2021-22 he had a save percentage lower than .900 at .877 and a goals against average of 4.15. Ouch.

Despite a rough season, the Blue Jackets decided to keep Korpisalo this offseason and resigned him to a one-year deal worth $1.3 million. There is still a shred of potential for Korpisalo to become a good NHL goaltender, but he likely will not get that chance in Columbus.

Acquiring Korpisalo would be cheap and perhaps worth the risk for the Golden Knights, who just lost their starting goaltender.

James Reimer- Sharks

James Reimer is the definition of a journeyman NHL goaltender. The 34-year-old has played in the NHL for over a decade now as both a starter and a backup. In terms of patchwork goaltender, Reimer is likely the Golden Knight’s best bet as he can play the role of a starter but is better off as a backup. With both Brossoit and Thompson being capable NHL goaltenders, perhaps the VGK roll with a three-goalie rotation with Reimer and the two.

Our man in San Jose, Sheng Peng, says he thinks the Sharks are willing to trade Reimer for the right offer.

“I heard a team was interested in Reimer last month and engaged with the Sharks on him; they just couldn’t find common ground. So they’re taking calls on him, at least,” said Peng.

The price tag for Reimer won’t be anything major. He has a cap hit of $2.25 million and is a UFA at the end of the season. Another option for the VGK, but it is unlikely the Sharks would trade with their rival team, the Golden Knights.

Semyon Varlamov- Islanders

Last season at the 2022 NHL trade deadline, there were rumors of the Golden Knights being interested in New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov. With the Islanders already having an up-and-coming starting goaltender in Ilya Sorokin, Varlamov has been involved in NHL trade rumors as a name Lou Lamirelli could potentially move on from.

He has an identical cap hit to Lehner at $5 million and is in the final year of his deal. The Islanders are in a position where they need to move out salary, too, as they are the likely landing spot for Nazem Kadri, who still remains unsigned.

Varlamov is a tenured NHL goaltender who will be entering his 15th year in the league at age 34. Last season he played in 31 games for the Islanders and posted a 10-17-2 record. Despite this losing record, he registered a respectable 2.91 goals against average, and a .911 save percentage. He is the definition of a safe starter in the NHL, and could be an option for the VGK.

John Gibson- Ducks

The big-name goalie on the NHL trade market is John Gibson. Despite being on a rebuilding Anaheim Ducks team, Gibson remains one of the most athletic goaltenders in the league. Last season he struggled with a 3.19 goals against average and .904 save percentage. However, in his overall career, he owns a .915 save percentage and 2.67 goals against average.

With the Ducks rebuilding, Gibson could be shipped out for futures. The price for Gibson will be high both in trade value and in cap hit as he makes $6.4 million for the next four years. Someone like Nicolas Hague would have to be included in a potential deal for Gibson. The Golden Knights are no strangers to making big trades and could perhaps replace Lehner with another big one.

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Owen Krepps covers the Vegas Golden Knights for Vegas Hockey Now. A 2022 Robert Morris University graduate, he has previously written for RMU Sentry Media, Colonial Sports Network, The Titusville Herald, Pittsburgh Sports Now, and Pittsburgh Hockey Now.

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