Tampa Bay Lightning backup goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, 21, underwent a successful vascular surgery on Thursday, September 3, General Manager Steve Yzerman announced this morning. The surgery where performed to remove a blood clot from near his left collarbone and was successfully handled at the Tampa General Hospital, but will keep Vasylevskiy sidelined for 2-3 months.
A lot of Boltsfans have big expectations for “Vasy” this season and counted on that he would exceed the 13 starts (7-5-1) he got during the 2014/2015 season and probably he still will, but after being called up on February 1st last season, a full pre- and regular season would have done him good. Since being drafted #19 overall in the 2012 draft, Vasy has grown in to a fan favorite and is by many considered one of the best goalie prospects in the world.
Many people expected Andrei to push and maby even challenge Ben Bishop, who’s entering his first season of his 2-year $11.9 million contract extension, for the starter job this season. Now instead the question becomes, who will start the season as the backup?
If Vasy is out for 3 months, he won’t be back until December, which is 25 games into the season. That’s a pretty long stretch for not having a reliable back up on the rooster, especially given the fact that Bishop undervent a groin surgery during the offseason. Bish has been dealing with his fair share of injuries during his career and theres a chance he could pull his groin once more. So is there a need to look into the free agent market or is there a replacement in the system?
Let's first take a look what internal options there are. In the minors we have Kristers Gudlevskis, the 23-year old Latvian who shocked the world when he almost singlehanded shut out Canada in the 2014 Olympics. Gudlevskis has spent the last two seasons in the AHL posting a .90 SV% over 80 games. Not exactly numbers that make you confident in having him behind the pipes for 3-5 games in the NHL, or even worse, being a starter if Big Ben goes down with an injury. As we have seen the last couple of seasons, a good start is a huge advantage to get into the playoffs.
Other goalies in the system includes Tom Wilcox and Allen York. Not much better.
If Yzerman looks to free agency, he has more than enough cap space to sign a backup goaltender with about $2.7 million, but not a lot of goalies sign a contract just to be waived 25 games in to the season. A Nabokov kind of signing would work, with a veteran goalie that knows and accepts his role as a temporary piece for the club. But who’s still out there and looking for a job?
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section, and thanks for taking the time.<br />