As the Philadelphia Flyers continue to lose, they now find themselves near the bottom of the standings and out of the playoff race, which all but confirms they will be sellers at the trade deadline. The team has several pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs) who could be moved, but contenders will be looking for a solid backup goaltender to add depth and give the starter more rest down the stretch. That puts Martin Jones at the top of the Flyers’ list of trade assets before the 2022 deadline.
There should be more than enough suitors interested in acquiring Jones for less than other goaltenders who will be available. As a UFA, Jones would be a rental and will likely cost a third-round or a fourth-round pick, and he is only on the books for $2 million.
There is no reason for the Flyers to keep Jones. They could replace him with another goaltender in a trade for future assets or make room for Felix Sandstrom to get some games later this season to see what they have in him. Here are the most likely landing spots for Jones to finish the 2021-22 season.
No team needs a goaltender more than the Edmonton Oilers. After general manager Ken Holland decided to run with the same tandem of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen as last season, the Oilers’ campaign has gone sideways in a hurry, and they have not been able to keep up the offensive production from early on that made up for poor goaltending.
Though Smith was very good last season after he returned from injury, he has only played six games in 2021-22, with a 3.76 goals-against average (GAA) and .898 save percentage (SV%), and he has not been able to stay healthy. Koskinen, on the other hand, posted a good record early when the Oilers’ offense was exploding. The team’s offensive struggles have highlighted what isn’t acceptable from a starting goaltender, and Koskinen has a 3.31 GAA and .898 SV%.
The saving grace has been Stuart Skinner, who stepped in when Smith was injured and should be next in line for a full-time job in the Oilers’ crease. Some say he’s ready, some don’t, but he has better numbers than Smith or Koskinen. The problem is he is waiver exempt and will continue to be sent down to the American Hockey League when both Smith and Koskinen are healthy.
Jones’ name has come up recently in trade rumors from trusted sources, including Frank Seravalli, Elliotte Friedman, and Jeff Marek. The Oilers have considered Jones, but Holland made it clear in a recent press conference that he’s not giving up assets for rentals. A third or a fourth-round pick isn’t such a valuable asset, so it’s possible this move happens if nothing else comes up, so keep an eye on how the Oilers address their goaltending woes to see if Jones may be headed west.
The Colorado Avalanche’s hopes of a Stanley Cup in recent seasons have been hindered by the health of their goaltenders. Although Pavel Francouz has now returned and played seven games this season while posting great numbers, it’s the first action he’s seen since the 2020 Playoffs.
Not only is the health of their backup goaltender a concern, but the Avs’ starter Darcy Kuemper has also had injury Not only is the health of their backup goaltender a concern, but the Avs’ starter Darcy Kuemper has also had injury troubles in his career (from ‘Pavel Francouz shootout wizardry continues, but Darcy Kuemper injury mars Avalanche win,’ The Athletic, Jan. 17, 2022). They haven’t been as severe as Francouz’s, but he has failed to play 30 games in each of the past two seasons. Though those were shortened campaigns, a starter of Kuemper’s caliber should be able to easily start 50 to 60 games in a full season. In 2020-21, he was on pace for 39 starts.
The regular season isn’t much of a concern for the Avalanche, considering they are averaging 4.10 goals per game, the most in the NHL. Even the worst goaltender in the league would get wins behind that. But in the playoffs, goaltending injuries can kill a team’s chances as it did for Colorado in 2020 when three different goaltenders played at least four postseason games: Philipp Grubauer (seven), Francouz (six), and Michael Hutchinson (four).
As a cheap, depth option, the Avalanche should look to add a veteran third goaltender. That would be Jones, as either the team would get cap relief if one of their goaltenders is injured long-term, or the Flyers could retain salary if it means a little bit more in return. If anything, they will likely wait until closer to the trade deadline and make a move if one of their goalies gets injured. But if Colorado doesn’t add goaltending depth, it could cost them another real shot at the Cup, especially since the goalies in their system – Justus Annunen and Hunter Miska – aren’t NHL ready or up to par.
The Nashville Predators are for real, and so is Juuse Saros. But he will need some rest down the stretch, and the Predators will need to be confident in the goalie they start when Saros gets the night off because they don’t want to fall in a tough division. David Rittich isn’t going to cut it, and he hasn’t been good for them.
Nashville is a top-10 team in goals-against per game with 2.70, but Rittich has a 3.05 GAA and a .882 SV%, unacceptable for backup on a defensively reliable team. On a struggling team, Jones still has a .901 SV% with the Flyers. He made a name for himself with the San Jose Sharks when he first arrived there in 2015-16, winning 30-plus games four seasons in a row and posting a .912-plus SV% three seasons in a row. He also took his team to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year with the team back in 2015-16.
The Predators have a shot at a deep playoff run. To get better positioning and support behind Saros, they need to upgrade their backup. They have more than enough cap space but don’t need to waste assets on a really good goaltender if Saros continues to play this well.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are in the same boat as the Predators: a competitive team that should make the playoffs. But both are in a tough division and have a very good starting goaltender. Tristan Jarry has been excellent, while backup Casey DeSmith has not, with a GAA of 3.58 and SV% of .886 in nine starts.
DeSmith was pulled in consecutive games against the St. Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets and has posted a .815 SV% or below in his last three games (from ‘Penguins win but backup goalie situation dire as Casey DeSmith is pulled again,’ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 21, 2022). On nights when their starter is supposed to rest, Jarryshouldn’t have to come in and play over half a game in relief, essentially getting no nights off.
Again, Jones’ numbers on a bad team are a lot better than a backup on a good team. The hope is that Jarry doesn’t fall apart in the postseason again, but if he does, Jones could stabilize the position enough to give the Penguins a chance. He is used to getting peppered with shots, and many high-quality. So, facing significantly fewer of both in each game should automatically elevate his numbers.
The Flyers will move Jones by the deadline, and it looks like their asking price is higher than a late-round pick, or he would have already been traded. Closer to the deadline, the demand should increase, and so should the return as teams enter the conversation in a last-ditch attempt to solidify their goaltending.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
You can find more of his work here.