I know, I know ... this is going to be a blogger's wet dream speculating and prognosticating on where MAF will land next year. It's not a guarantee, but the writing is on the wall. We've watched this quirky rabbit-toothed kid from the age of 18 blossom before our eyes as an elite NHL goaltender. Marc-Andre, until now, was considered part of the "core," the "untouchables," and undeniably a part of the franchise that resides in the 412. It will be difficult to see him go, and of no fault of his own, it's something we have to be ready for.
With the recent signing of Matt Murray for three years, it makes it even more clear.
Keep in mind that MAF has a no-movement clause in his contract with a provision in which he can choose 18 teams in which he can be traded to.
This can be expanded upon endlessly but I wanted to analyze all possibilities and see what - realistically - can happen with a trade of this magnitude.
I'm going to only address the teams with no real #1 goalie or have a situation where they need a goalie. For example, the Lightning have Bishop and Vasilevskiy; they aren't looking for a goalie.
Lack / Ward
Ward quietly re-signed with the Hurricanes after a team-crippling $6.3 million contract to a manageable $3.3 million. Eddie Lack is (and always was) an average goalie that doesn't really have the capability to steal you a win on a bad night. Yes, Justin Faulk and Ron Hainsey are your best defenders and they help as much as a Wal-Mart employee in the electronics aisle, but neither of these goalies are earning the team wins.
It's not probable, but I can't see them ruling it out. The Hurricanes currently have two second-round picks in 2017 and two third-round picks to play with, and they have a surplus of young prospects to make a deal happen.
Hutchinson / Hellebuyck
My reaction to seeing these two was "Who the hell are these guys?". Hellebuyck took Pavelec's job this season and put up above-average stats for a young goalie. Hutchinson has been a pretty reliable back-up for the Jets for a handful of years. Hellebuyck is on his last year of his ELC (entry-level contract) and becomes an RFA at the end of this season.
Depending on Hellebuyck's performance this year it's not out of the realm of possibility that they could shop for a starting goalie. The Jets, however, do not have a glut of picks to play with and most of their top talents are already playing NHL minutes.
Anderson / Hammond'Member the Hamburglar? Yeah, that's not a thing anymore. Craig Anderson is 35 and getting paid starter money for back-up minutes. The Senators have a great team. Karlsson, Hoffman, Stone, and Ryan are all capable up putting up a ton of offense. The glaring weakness is in goal. Andrew Hammond has come back down to Earth after an extraordinary playoff run years ago. It could be the missing link to a Stanley Cup contender.
The Senators are gutted with picks. No second-round picks in 2017 or 2018. They do have a healthy crop of forwards and if GMJR can grab a roster player off of their top-six, it would help both teams exponentially.
Miller / MarkstromOnce the cornerstone of Buffalo, Ryan Miller has eroded into just a competent goaltender. He can no longer steal a game, stand on his head, or put the team on his back. The last year of his $6 million deal is coming at the end of the season and the rebuilding Canucks need to see if Jacob Markstrom is their answer. Markstrom has been a career back-up and never had a season under 2.50 GAA. Not a good look.
The Canucks are in rebuild mode and have a good amount of untested talent. Although, not rich in the draft pick department, they do have some to offer.
Lehner / Nilsson
The Sabres make the most sense to me personally. They are a team on the rise with Eichel, O'Reilly, and soon Nylander. They also have Dan Bylsma who coached Fleury for years. That fact may determine whether Marc-Andre agrees to move to the 716. Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson's contract also expire at the end of this season. If Sabres GM Tim Murray manages to score another high draft pick and acquires a championship caliber goalie, the Sabres' future looks bright.
The Sabres have eight draft picks in 2017 and prospects to pick from acquired from the 2016 draft.
Elliott / Johnson
The Flames made news this summer by asking about Fleury's availability. Although no deal was made, this shows me that MAF was vetted, researched, and approved by the Flames' suits. Brian Elliot and Chad Johnson's deals are expiring after this season leaving them with zero goalies for next year. They left no goalies under contact this summer with a plan - what I think - to make a deal for Flower.
The Flames are another team on the upswing with Monahan, Tkachuk, Bennett, and Johnny Hockey. They are a team who wants to succeed and is clearly not in the mindset of a rebuild. The Flower fits into that puzzle nicely.
It all depends on the return obviously. Rutherford, in my opinion, has proved himself a competent general manager that gutted a team without a rebuild and brought Pittsburgh its 4th Cup. I have no idea what Flower could be worth. Does Jimmy R have a disadvantage because his hands are almost tied into trading Flower for any assets, or do the teams with no planned goalie for 2018 feel pressured to take the best goalie asset on the market? Time will tell.