The 2023 NHL Trade Deadline is one month away, and the rumor mill is starting to heat up immensely because of it. One goaltender who is starting to garner a lot of buzz is Anaheim Ducks star, John Gibson. The 29-year-old has struggled these last few seasons, and this trend has, unfortunately, continued in 2022-23. In 34 appearances on the year, he has a 10-20-4 record, 3.96 goals-against average (GAA), and .898 save percentage (SV%). Although this is certainly not impressive play, the primary reason for his struggles has been Anaheim’s significantly weak defensive group.
At this juncture, Gibson could use a change of scenery. When noting that he was one of the league’s top goaltenders not too long, it is quite likely that teams around the league would love to get their hands on him. As a result, let’s look at three teams who could target him at the 2023 Trade Deadline.
The Buffalo Sabres currently sport the longest playoff drought in NHL history, as they have not played postseason hockey in 11 consecutive seasons. It has been a very difficult decade for the Sabres, but now it appears that they are finally heading in the right direction. At the time of this writing, they sport a 26-19-4 record and are just one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. As a result, they have a legitimate chance to be a playoff team again, and that is simply excellent to see.
A major reason for the Sabres’ success this season has been the spectacular play of players like Tage Thompson, Rasmus Dahlin, Alex Tuch, Jeff Skinner, and Dylan Cozens. It appears that they have a nice core forming, but an area that they could be looking to boost is the goaltender position. Although Craig Anderson has played quite well this season, he is 41 years old and is likely nearing the end of his career. Meanwhile, offseason acquisition Eric Comrie has struggled mightily, so perhaps they could be open to acquiring Gibson as a notable upgrade over him.
To acquire Gibson, the Sabres would likely need to part ways with their 2023 first-round pick (top-10 protected), Comrie, and a prospect like Prokhor Poltapov. If Gibson can once again play at the level that fans know he is capable of, he could form an excellent long-term tandem between him and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings are once again having a strong season, as they sport a 28-18-7 record and are tied for first with the Seattle Kraken in the Pacific Division. Yet, what’s so impressive about their strong season is that they are winning games with below-average goaltending. Cal Petersen was expected to be this year’s starter for the Kings, and he is currently in the American Hockey League (AHL) due to his disastrous start to the year. Veteran Jonathan Quick is also having a rough campaign, as he currently sports a .881 SV%. Longtime AHL netminder Pheonix Copley, on the other hand, has an impressive 15-3-1 record, but his .897 SV% will need to improve if he hopes to keep winning games.
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Due to the Kings’ struggles in the net, it could make a lot of sense for the Kings to go all-in on Gibson. If they hope to compete with the Western Conference’s top teams during the postseason, they will need to acquire a high-impact goaltender. Copley, Quick, and Petersen are not long-term answers for them, but if Gibson improves his play while playing for a far better team like the Kings, he would be just that.
For the Kings to make this work, they would need to add their 2023 first-round pick and a young player like Rasmus Kupari. To help things out financially, they could throw in Petersen and his expensive $5 million cap hit with their 2024 second-round pick. Although division rivals do not strike deals too often, this is a move that has the potential to benefit both clubs, so it should not be ruled out.
As stated above, the Penguins currently hold the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. However, their lead is certainly slim, and they have been showing signs of heading in the wrong direction as of late. Over their last ten games, they have won just four times, and that is very concerning when seeing how teams like the Sabres, Florida Panthers, and New York Islanders are right behind them. Tristan Jarry being sidelined has shown that the Penguins should be looking to add a goaltender, so why shouldn’t they consider Gibson?
Backup netminder Casey DeSmith has struggled noticeably this season, as he has a 7-10-4 record, 3.35 GAA, and .901 SV%. Having that much of a losing record while playing for a deep team like the Penguins is concerning, so Pittsburgh would be wise to consider adding a goalie like Gibson. Furthermore, if the worst-case scenario occurs and Jarry tests free agency this offseason, they would have Gibson as his replacement already. However, in the short term at least, they could form an elite 1A-1B tandem.
The Penguins have some deadline cap space ($2.125 million) to work with, so they could manage to make a deal for Gibson to work. This is especially true if the Ducks retain a portion of his salary, and that seems possible when noting that Anaheim has a plethora of cap space. If the Penguins threw in their 2023 first-round pick, Kasperi Kapanen, and DeSmith, it could be enough to bring the Pittsburgh native home.
Nevertheless, the Ducks have a big decision to make with Gibson at the deadline. It is clear that he could use a change of scenery, and if he is officially made available, do not be surprised to see these three clubs have him on their radar.