OTTAWA - Senators GM Bryan Murray could face a conundrum before next month’s NHL draft.
Should he or shouldn’t he trade a goalie?
The 30 GMs will gather for their annual meeting in New York Wednesday as the Stanley Cup final begins. That’s where teams will start to set the table for changes before the draft June 22-23 in Pittsburgh.
While the Senators will likely try to deal blueliner Sergei Gonchar — who has one year left at $5.5 million, to make room for Erik Karlsson’s new deal — there could be a lot of attention paid to the club’s depth in net.
At least three teams — Columbus, Toronto and Tampa — are looking to shore up goaltending before the draft. There could be a fourth if the New Jersey Devils win the Stanley Cup and Martin Brodeur decides to retire on top.
Senators No. 1 netminder Craig Anderson won’t be going anywhere after coming off a standout season and with three years left on his contract.
However, the Jackets, Leafs and Bolts may covet either Ottawa backup Ben Bishop or top prospect Robin Lehner.
The Senators aren’t in a hurry to trade either Bishop, acquired from the St. Louis Blues for a second-round pick at this year’s deadline, or Lehner, but that mindset could change if Murray gets an offer he can’t refuse.
Since the Senators aren’t going to deal with Brian Burke and the arch-rival Leafs, you can strike them off the list immediately, but Tampa GM Steve Yzerman has already stated he’d like to build around a young goalie.
Columbus GM Scott Howson must shore up his goaltending or the Jackets are going nowhere again next season. You’d have to think he’ll try to secure a goalie in any trade involving Rick Nash, which means a deal with Ottawa won’t work.
While Murray showed interest in Nash before the deadline, he backed off when the asking price was 2011 top pick Mika Zibanejad, top prospect Mark Stone, a first-round pick and a roster player.
Murray has made no secret of the fact he’d like to get another high-scoring, top-6 winger. That could become a pressing need if captain Daniel Alfredsson decides to hang up his skates.
The Senators' plan is to bring Bishop and Lehner to camp in September and let them battle it out for the backup job behind Anderson. The best man wins, the loser gets sent to Binghamton until there’s an injury or issues.
Moving a goalie would be risky. The Senators acquired Bishop after they lost Anderson for an extended period due to a kitchen mishap. If it hadn’t been for Bishop’s stellar play, Ottawa wouldn’t have made the playoffs.
But you can bet Murray will get some interest in his goalies in the weeks leading up to the draft. This is the time where teams start to focus on making changes and there isn’t a lot available on the market.
Few teams will take a chance on Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo; the Bolts have already ruled him out. Expect Washington’s Tomas Vokoun to test the free-agent market and get interest from the Leafs.
You can put Bishop and Lehner in a group of backup goalies that could be starters with the likes of Vancouver’s Cory Schneider, Nashville’s Anders Lindback and Jonathan Bernier of the Kings.
Whether Murray would actually pull the trigger on a deal involving a goalie is doubtful. But the subject should give him some pause for thought. You’re always best to deal from a position of strength and Ottawa has some in net.
GETTING READY: Pierre Dorion, the Senators director of player personnel, told the Team 1200 Monday the scouting staff will be ready in case Murray swings a deal to move up in the draft from the 15th overall pick. “We’re ready in case there’s any movement,” said Dorion from Toronto, where he’s taking part in the NHL scouting combine.