Welcome to a new series at The Hockey Writers, where we’ll be showcasing some trade candidates from around the league. We will cover each of the four divisions along with a breakdown of forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders. Trades are one of the most entertaining aspects of the NHL and after a wild and wacky summer, let’s hope the 2022-23 season brings us much of the same.
We’ve made our way through several of the divisions including Atlantic Division goaltenders, Central Division forwards and Pacific Division forwards, this time around let’s turn our attention to the crease of the Metropolitan Division. Here are three goaltenders who are prime trade candidates in 2022-23:
Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets have made one thing clear, Elvis Merzlikins is their number one netminder and Joonas Korpisalo will play second fiddle. This became quite evident when they signed Merzlikins to a five-year contract worth $27 million, meanwhile, Korpisalo was retained on a one-year deal at $1.3 million. One goaltender a core piece, the other essentially told to prove his worth.
As a pending free agent on a reasonable contract, Korpisalo finds himself as a prime trade candidate. He hasn’t had a winning record for a couple of seasons now and is coming off a tough campaign, recording a 7-11-0 record with a 4.15 goals against average (GAA) and a .877 save percentage (SV%). He’s shown in the past that he can be much better than this performance, so look for him to try and bounce back in a big way this season.
The Blue Jackets are expecting to improve as a team after a disappointing 2021-22 season. Management made several moves including signing Johnny Gaudreau, which has turned some heads. They’ll need great goaltending to contend in the Metropolitan Division, and if Korpisalo can get back to his solid play, he’ll push Merzlikins for minutes and the Blue Jackets will likely hover around the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference as a result.
We’ve seen the goalie movement throughout the summer and it’s expected to continue this season. Come the trade deadline, many teams will willing to pay the price to add some depth for their Stanley Cup Playoff push, and Korpisalo is likely a goalie we’ll see moved.
Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders
One goalie who has been among the trade rumors for a couple of seasons now is Semyon Varlamov of the New York Islanders. Will this finally be the season we see the Russian netminder dealt to another team? I certainly think that’s going to be the case in 2022-23.
The 34-year-old Varlamov is entering the final season of his contract, carrying a $5 million cap hit and holding a modified no-trade clause which protects him from 16 teams of his choice. While that’s certainly a bit of a hurdle when it comes to moving him, it’s not an impossible barrier.
The Islanders have their goalie of the future in Ilya Sorokin, the 26-year-old who saw the bulk of the work last season on Long Island, appearing in 52 games compared to Varlamov’s 31 appearances. Considering age, production, cost, and the fact the Islanders are desperate for some more offense, there’s no denying Varlamov is a prime trade candidate who could be packaged to improve the forward group.
When it comes to destinations for Varlamov in 2022-23, I would keep an eye on some playoff-bound teams who may not be thrilled with their current goaltending setup. Perhaps a team like the Ottawa Senators feel they need some more depth for a postseason run and pair Varlamov with Cam Talbot for the remainder of the season. The Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t keep a goaltender healthy when it mattered most last season, perhaps they inquire to provide some more protection for Tristan Jarry than Casey DeSmith? Regardless, it will be fun to watch what transpires with the Islanders this season, but if they make a move, expect to see Varlamov included.
Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils
Perhaps a surprise candidate to some, Mackenzie Blackwood of the New Jersey Devils, for me, is a prime trade candidate this upcoming season. The Devils have been patient with their once top prospect, and unfortunately to this point, it’s yet to pay off.
Blackwood turns 26 before the calendar flips and is coming off a season where he battled injuries and only appeared in 25 games, recording a 9-10-4 record with a 3.39 GAA and .892 SV%. The Devils are expecting to see better results this season and have brought in Vitek Vanecek to push Blackwood for minutes. They hope this internal competition can spark some production and get Blackwood back on track.
The 6-foot-4 netminder is entering his fifth season with the franchise and has only posted one winning campaign. Albeit the Devils weren’t necessarily blowing the doors off teams and have been rebuilding these past few seasons. Regardless, the team needs more from Blackwood if they want any chance to become a threat in the Eastern Conference. The only issue now is the fact the team has the best ‘backup’ they’ve ever had behind him in Vanecek, so that’s where things are going to get interesting.
The way I see it playing out is the Devils surprise some teams and compete for one of the last Stanley Cup Playoff spots in the East. Vanecek becomes the number one netminder, and Blackwood becomes a prime trade candidate for some rebuilding teams who have the minutes available to take a flyer on a one-time top prospect who is looking to rediscover his stride in the league.
There we have it folks, Blackwood, Varlamov and Korpisalo, three Metropolitan Division goaltenders who I feel are very likely to be moved this season. The goalie carousel has been spinning for the last couple of months, and I’m fully expecting much of the same throughout the entire 2022-23 season.
Shane covers any and everything to do with the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor to the THW family, his passion and unique perspective on the game results in some diverse content. Certainly versatile, you can also find him contributing at NHLTradeRumors.me, BaseballRumors.me & BBallRumors.com. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween