The Buffalo Sabres have sent a 5th round draft pick in the 2017 NHL draft to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for goaltender Anders Nilsson, who they have signed to a one-year contract worth $1 million.
After leaving the New York Islanders to spend a successful season playing for Ak Bars Kazan in the KHL, Nilsson has been given opportunities, but has also been a frequent trade chip. Prior to the start of the 2014-15 season, the Chicago Blackhawks acquired him as a part of the deal that sent Nick Leddy to Long Island. He was then acquired by a goaltender-desperate Edmonton Oilers in the summer of 2015, in exchange for forward Liam Coughlin.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) July 2, 2016
Just before the 2016 trade deadline, the Oilers shipped him to the St. Louis Blues, who needed security in net as they approached the playoffs juggling injuries to both Brian Elliott and Jake Allen.
Now, the 6-foot-5 goaltender has a chance to back-up starting netminder Robin Lehner. Though it may be a tricky situation for Nilsson, as the team clearly believes that Linus Ullmark will make his mark on the league soon. Ullmark had some success in the NHL while Lehner was injured last season and, at 22, is a developing commodity still. Through 20 NHL games last season he posted a .913 all-situation save percentage.
Acquiring Nilsson allows the Sabres to keep Ullmark developing and getting starts in the AHL during the season, while providing a reasonably priced, replacement-level goaltender for the NHL club. Nilsson got into 26 games for the Oilers and three for the Blues last year, and had some quality moments, particularly early in the season. But by the end of the year he hadn’t exceeded expectations. He put up a .901 save percentage for the Oilers in those 26 games, barely above his career average of .900.
Nonetheless, a 5th round draft pick is a small price to pay for a goaltender, particularly if the team believes that Ullmark can take the reins if injury strikes the oft-injured Lehner again next season.