A Roberto Luongo trade is inevitable and it is expected to happen sooner rather than later. The writing was on the wall after Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault decided to start Cory Schneider in Game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings. Schneider lost the previous game and the team was in a 3-0 series deficit.
Luongo was the team’s franchise goaltender and in 2011, he took them within a game of the Stanley Cup. Teams win with their franchise players and lose with their franchise players. The message was clear: the Canucks were going to win with Schneider or lose with Schneider.
Canucks assistant general manager Lawrence Gilman recently told Dan Murphy of Sportsnet that he expects “a flurry of activity” and there will be time to make a deal once a new collective bargaining agreement is signed between the NHL and the Players’ Association.
When that deal is made, the Canucks will need a backup goaltender and one player they could target is Calgary Flames goaltender Henrik Karlsson.
During the lockout, the Flames have suddenly become a team with quite a bit of goaltending depth. Journeyman goaltenders Barry Brust and Danny Taylor have been lights out for the Flames farm team, the Abbotsford Heat. The two are among the best in the American Hockey League.
In November, Brust set a new AHL record for the longest shutout streak at 268 minutes and 17 seconds. On the season, he has a 8-3-1 record with a sparkling 1.26 goals-against average and .951 save percentage. Taylor has been just as good posting a 2.02 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
The two have combined to start 24 of the Heat’s 29 games so far this season. The Flames top goaltending prospect Leland Irving has started the other five games.
Ivring had been the undisputed number one goaltender with the Heat the past few seasons, but has taken the backseat this season behind Brust and Taylor. He was expected to supplant Karlsson as Miikka Kiprusoff‘s backup this season in Calgary.
Even though Irving has not seen much action this season with the Heat, we can still count on him backing up Kiprusoff. It is the logical next step in his development after spending three seasons in the minors.
This makes Karlsson expendable and despite being 29 years old, still carries a lot of potential. Remember, Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom did not start his NHL career until he was 28 years old.
It is clear from these videos that Karlsson is a big goaltender who anticipates the play well. Here are what some scouting reports say about him:
A large-framed goaltender. Plays a modern style. Is mobile despite his size. Good at cutting down the angles and good along the ice. Fast glove hand. Needs to improve his puckhandling skills. (Elite Prospects)
ASSETS:Has impressive size at 6-6, 209 pounds, so he can cover a lot of net. Is also fairly technically sound and a cool customer under fire. Displays an excellent attitude. FLAWS: Needs more experience against the best shooters in the hockey world, which in turn could do wonders for his somewhat shaky level of confidence. (Sports Forecaster)
Karlsson hasn’t had much of an opportunity to play behind Kiprusoff and has just 26 games of experience in two seasons.
Similar to the Canucks back in the days of Dany Sabourin and Curtis Sanford in 2006-07 and 2007-08, the Flames have been a team that spends most of a season fighting to enter the top-8 in the Western Conference game in and game out. There has been little room for error and opportunity for Karlsson to start more than a handful of games.
The Canucks, now one of the best teams in the league, could give Karlsson the opportunity to play and build up his confidence. To acquire Karlsson from the Flames, it should not cost more than a late draft pick. He may even be available on waivers as teams rush to comply to roster and salary cap restrictions.