But MacLellan also made clear his interest in a No. 3 goaltender, who would be the top netminder in the organization’s American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey and could be called on if Washington’s Braden Holtby or Philipp Grubauer got injured.
MacLellan said he’s been trying to acquire such a goaltender “for a while.” Why? Vitek Vanecek and Joe Cannata have struggled in Hershey this season. Vanecek, a second-round pick in 2014, has a 2.77 goals-against average and .904 save percentage; Cannata, a free-agent signing initially intended to be the organization’s No. 3, has a 3.24 goals-against average and a .875 save percentage. Neither has played in an NHL regular-season game.
But with teams preparing for the expansion draft by signing (and then hoarding) eligible goaltenders to potentially expose, trading for one has been a challenge. Teams can protect only one goaltender in the expansion draft, and if a team has two good ones, it may choose to trade one before the draft to get some value out of him and then expose a different one. The one goaltender exposed also can’t be a pending unrestricted free agent.
“It’s a hard market,” MacLellan said. “If you’re a playoff team, you don’t want to give up your [No.] 3 because you want your depth, just like we want to have a depth guy, too. There’s not many names available in that market.”
One might be Los Angeles’s Jeff Zatkoff, who cleared waivers on Thursday. Claiming him off waivers would have put him on the NHL roster, which already has two healthy goalies. Now that he’s cleared, he could go straight to the AHL, which makes him more attractive in a trade, though as MacLellan mentioned, the Kings may not want to part with him because they too need goaltending depth for a possible postseason appearance.
Washington also is preparing for the possible loss of Grubauer in the expansion draft. He’s an impressive 10-4-2 this season with a .932 save percentage and a 1.98 goals-against average, likely getting the attention of Las Vegas’s scouts. Grubauer is a restricted free agent this summer.
“He sure looks like he’s playing well,” MacLellan said. “Sample size is probably small, but he has a good look when he’s in the net. He’s calm, he’s making saves, his numbers are all good. I think the more games he gets and the numbers stay the same there’s going to be a lot of interest in him as a No. 1.”