The update on the health of goaltender Pekka Rinne issued by the Predators last week may have sounded rosy on the surface, but anyone who read between the lines could have surmised that there is a very real chance the All-Star stopper won’t be back this season.
The team finally handled up on that grim possibility today. Recognizing that their playoff chances were slipping away, and that they weren’t going to climb back into the race with a pair of rookies between the pipes, the Preds sent veteran forward Matt Hendricks to the Oilers in exchange for goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
Dubnyk began the season as Edmonton’s No. 1 goalie, but lost whatever tenuous hold he had on the job when the team picked up Ilya Bryzgalov in November. That he hasn’t been able to reclaim it while Bryz has gone 3-7-2 with a 3.27 GAA and .902 save percentage illustrates how fully Dubnyk had lost the faith of the Oilers’ coaching staff. And it shows just how little it took to upgrade Nashville’s current situation, where Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec weren’t getting it done.
Getting out of Edmonton might be the best thing to happen to the former first rounder (14th overall, 2004). He won’t make anyone forget Rinne, but playing behind a more structured defense than he has during the past few years gives him a chance to create some impression of value before he heads to unrestricted free agency this summer.
Hendricks seems like the “type” of player the Oilers need — a gritty, hardworking banger with some leadership ability — but it would be a mistake to overstate his actual value. Sure, he can kill penalties and win his share of draws, but he lacks the speed to be an effective junkyard dog, and is easily beaten in transition, limiting his effectiveness on the forecheck.
He’s also 32 years old and comes with a ridiculously hefty commitment. He was signed as a free agent by the Preds last summer to a four-year deal that pays him an average of $1.85 million per year. That’s way too much to spend on a player who doesn’t bring tempo or offense (a career high of just 25 points, and he’s 2-2-4 in 44 games this season).
So, who wins this deal? On top of bringing in an experienced, albeit low-end, NHL goaltender to address an obvious need, Preds GM David Poile dumped an ugly contract and created a roster space for a younger, more dynamic forward (Filip Forsberg, anyone?). It’s probably not enough to revive Nashville’s playoff hopes, but the roster looks better.
Dubnyk had no future in Edmonton, so whether he went out now or during the summer hardly makes a difference. Still, if the Oilers were going to move him, it’s hard to believe the best option was another team’s worst contract along with retaining half of Dubnyk’s salary. Hendricks may be of some use to the Oilers, but it’s hard to see them getting value commensurate with his nearly $2 million paycheck from a borderline fourth-liner during the next three-plus years.
But as badly as he was fleeced on that swap, full credit to Oilers GM Craig MacTavish for his second deal of the day, one that saw him send a third-rounder to the Kings in exchange for early season sensation Ben Scrivens.
Scrivens comes to Edmonton with a 7-5-4 record, a 1.97 GAA and a .931 save percentage. He won’t match those numbers — not with Edmonton’s sieve of a defense — but he’s a clear upgrade with something to prove before he heads to market himself this summer.
The Kings smartly added a draft asset while clearing space for Martin Jones, the new backup in L.A. who ends up looking like the biggest winner of the day.