The Buffalo Sabres have traded goaltender Jonas Johansson to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a 2021 6th-round pick.
At first glance, most of the Buffalo Sabres fans would be surprised that the team was able to recoup assets for Johansson, as he has had a horrific season. He currently has a .884 save percentage (SV%) across seven starts for the team, and when looking at the advanced statistics, it doesn’t make him look better. He currently ranks 53rd out of 71 goaltenders that have played at least two games this season. So, the question has to be, why did the Avalanche made a deal on Friday to acquire this goaltender?
There are two sides to this. The Sabres just signed goaltender Micheal Houser to a one-year, $700,000 contract and will be battling with Dustin Tokarski and Ukka-Pekka Luukkonen to play games in Rochester. This made Johansson expendable. For the Avalanche, there was a concern over the play of their third-string goaltender Hunter Miska, and I believe they have upgraded in that position.
To get a better understanding, let’s take a deeper dive into what Colorado is getting in Johansson and what the Sabres are getting in Houser.
Colorado Gets an Average Third-String Goaltender
Based on his play this season, the Avalanche are not getting an NHL-caliber goaltender, but he can play for their American Hockey League (AHL) team with the Eagles. In 41 career AHL games with the Rochester Americans, he has a record of 25-11-7, along with a .908 SV%. There is enough sample size to indicate that this player is an average starter in the minors and can play a couple of NHL games if someone is injured.
The biggest factor here is that goaltenders are completely random, and their career trajectory can change instantly on a new team. Devan Dubnyk looked like a goaltender that would be out of the league when the Minnesota Wild acquired him, but he ended up becoming a solid starter for them. Michael Hutchinson was traded to the Avalanche last season and actually ended up playing games for them in the second round when Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz both were injured. He was able to help the team force Game 7 against the Dallas Stars, with his best performance coming in game six, where he stopped 27 of 28 shots.
Never write off a goaltender as they can be a wildcard. For Johansson, the opportunity to play in Colorado is greater than in Buffalo, as Francouz is on long-term injured reserve, and he can battle for a roster spot with Miska. Let’s see how he does with a contending team in front of him.
What the Sabres Are Getting in Houser
Before today, there is a good chance that you had never heard of this player. Houser is a 26-year-old, undrafted goaltender with an AHL/ECHL journeyman so far in his career. On the Sabres, he will likely be the fifth-string goaltender behind Tokarski and Luukkonen, and that is basically it.
Looking at his statistics, the former London Knights goaltender has a .915 SV% across 210 games in the ECHL and a .901 SV% across 73 games in the AHL. At this point in his career, he can be a mentor to a younger goaltender within the organization, and that is Erik Portillo, who was their 67th-overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. When he eventually signs a contract with the team, he will likely start in the Cincinnati Coyotes, potentially playing with Houser.
There was no reason to not sign this player, as this organization needed to add depth for all positions.
Overall, by just watching him play in games and practices, as John Vogl put it, Johansson doesn’t stop pucks and is quite often out of position. A change in environment will likely help him clear his mind and hopefully get into some games with Colorado. For the Sabres, the trades are likely just beginning as we await the trade deadline on April 12.