As I’ve stressed before, the Pittsburgh Penguins should strongly consider searching for another goaltender before the end of the season.
Current backup netminder Jeff Zatkoff has zero experience performing in the playoffs, let alone in the National Hockey League (NHL). And despite what he may or may not do this year, the postseason is an entirely different animal to grasp.
The team is holding out hope that goaltender Tomas Vokoun pulls through his current blood clot dilemma, but the timeframe for his return (3-6 months) seems awfully close to playoff time and who knows what type of player he’ll be if-and-when he comes back.
Fleury has played exceptionally well to start the 2013-14 campaign; however, because of the uncertainty surrounding his postseason capabilities, it’d be appropriate insurance to have a well-seasoned veteran backing him up.
I suggested that Anaheim might be a potential trading partner in terms of dealing for a goaltender, considering they’ve got a plethora of reliable ones, but there’s one netminder that could be a valuable piece for a low price — Tim Thomas.
Thomas, 39, was signed by the Florida Panthers this offseason to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. And due to his familiarity of playing in the postseason — back to his Boston Bruins days — he presents a very viable option for backing up Fleury in the near future.
The only issue that would stall the completion of this deal is his health. Already being shelved twice this season for a nagging lower-body injury, his recurring ailment might shy Pittsburgh away from acquiring veteran goaltender.
Pittsburgh has enough injuries as is, and adding to that list would only further push the depth inside the organization.
Thomas has held up his own when he’s been healthy though. Currently owning a 2-5-0 record with a 3.24 goals-against-average and a .900 save percentage, you have to think because Florida isn’t playing well it sequentially attributes to his stat-line. Their team defense is inadequate and poor puck management has caused Thomas to be in a lot of awkward positions so far this season.
The other snag that would prevent the Pens’ from landing Thomas is deliberating on who they’d give up for him. Defenseman Matt Niskanen has been wildly speculated as the feasible piece because of his contract situation, but I don’t know if Thomas is enough value in return for the former first-round blueliner.
Although he may not seem like a whole lot, I guess it all depends on how much the team could benefit in having Thomas on the roster. And having him on the squad certainly gives the coaching staff more options towards selecting a starting goaltender.
Thomas makes more than Niskanen though, so the front office is going to have to figure out a plan to integrate him into the payroll. However, I’m confident players can be re-assigned here-and-there to meet the $200,000 difference.
If a deal doesn’t finalize at some point this season, hold your breath Pens’ fans, because the season will all be on Fleury come playoff time.