The surprising success of third-string goaltender Justin Peters has left the now-healthier Carolina Hurricanes with a perplexing dilemma.
Should general manager Jim Rutherford risk losing Peters for nothing on the waiver wire, or force himself to trade away a valuable depth player on an injury-prone team?
As team reporter Michael Smith reported on Monday, Peters—even though he was originally called up from the AHL on emergency-recall-basis—will have to pass through 24-hour waivers to return to Charlotte.
Given the goaltender-health epidemic sweeping the NHL today, and Peters' .941 save percentage over his last six starts, the chances of him falling through untouched are highly questionable.
Such an obstacle translates into an interesting and important decision by a forced-hand Rutherford, who has not always gotten the best trade return in situations like this (i.e. Jussi Jokinen, Brian Boucher and Anthony Stewart).
What should the 'Canes do? A breakdown falls on the coming slides.
According to Article 13, Chapter 1, Section 2 of the new league CBA that went into place last winter, "Waivers will now be required to loan a Player who plays 10 or more NHL Games (cumulative) while on Emergency Recall."
Since Peters has now played a dozen games since his Oct. 14 recall, he falls under such condition.
No. 35 has been on waivers a number of times before, nonetheless, but never after playing as well as he has over the past month. The former second-round draft pick is 4-2-1 in his last seven games and sports a 2.49 GAA on the season.
If the 'Canes did put Peters up for grabs, which teams might consider entering a claim? A look at a few of the most likely candidates lies below:
New York Islanders: After squeaking into the playoffs last year, the Isles currently rank dead last in the Metropolitan division and third-to-last in the NHL in team defense. With Evgeni Nabokov on Injured Reserve, they'd probably enjoy adding an experienced goalie next to current starter Kevin Poulin.
Los Angeles Kings: Superstar netminder Jonathan Quick will be out until Christmas; despite Ben Scrivens' incredible ongoing hot streak, Peters would give L.A. a much more stable unit for the time being.
Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers rank 29th in goals allowed and would surely love to add a goalie to compete with Devan Dubnyk, who is 6-10-1 with an .897 save percentage this campaign.
The same plethora of franchises which may want to pluck Peters off the waiver wire may also be intrigued by Peters' presence on the trade block.
Jim Rutherford wants to get some kind of return for his nine-year project; making a minor trade or packaging Peters onto a package deal could fulfill that minimum standard.
Said Rutherford to Michael Smith:
“We’re going to have a tough decision to make. We don’t have to make it yet, but we’re aware of it. We’ve got everybody weighing in on it, and we’ll make the decision at the time when we have to.”
On his own, No. 35 might be worth a mere mid-round draft pick, bottom-six forward or C-grade prospect.
If the 'Canes are hoping for more, however, they may consider pairing him with another potential trade bait item like Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason or Drayson Bowman to garner a more meaningful return.
If not for financial and legal restrictions, the best option for Carolina would certainly be to keep Peters in the NHL.
He's kept the team's struggling offense in contention night-after-night lately, and Cam Ward showed some signs of rust in his return from injury on Monday night—a 4-1 loss to Boston.
Anton Khudobin's expected return in the coming weeks will bump the Hurricanes' goaltender total up to three and push them even closer to the salary cap. Peters will be able to fit, but not by much—and his presence would greatly reduce roster flexibility with future call-ups as well as trades.
The 'Canes may well follow this ideology for the next few weeks, until either a clear starter re-emerges or Peters cools off enough to pass through waivers untouched.