Goaltending depth is an issue that has plagued Carolina for years. Ever since Cam Ward led this team to a Stanley Cup in 2006, the Hurricanes have struggled to find him a decent back-up and he often finds himself playing around 60-70 games a year. While not an elite goaltender, Ward has been a workhorse for years and has posted above-average save percentages behind terrible defenses for most of his career. With how much the Hurricanes lean on him, they have had to search for bargains when finding a back-up goaltender and for many years, they have struggled to fill that void. This year, however, the Canes find themselves in a completely different situation.
After how much goaltending played a role in Carolina's collapse last season, Jim Rutherford tried to solve this by bringing in Anton Khudobin to give Ward a solid back-up. Khudobin was far from the most proven option on the market this off-season, but he had posted great numbers in limited NHL games and was at least an upgrade over Justin Peters, who failed to establish himself as an NHL goaltender last year. With that in mind, the Hurricanes goaltending situation appeared to be set in stone as long as Ward could stay reasonably healthy. Unfortunately, disaster struck in October as both Ward & Khudobin got hurt and Justin Peters was forced to carry the load for a few weeks.
The Hurricanes came out of this stretch relatively unscathed, as Peters has given the Hurricanes very solid goaltending during his time, posting a .922 save percentage over 14 games and looking a lot more comfortable in the NHL compared to years past. This is good news because they could easily be near the bottom of the standings if he struggled, but it does create a complicated situation with what they should do with their goaltending. With Ward now healthy and Khudobin being relatively close to returning, the Canes now have three NHL goalies on their roster and it's tough to figure out what they should do with each of them.
The original plan was likely to send Peters down to the AHL once Khudobin or Ward healed, but he has been with the team too long and will have to pass through waivers if they want to send him down. He has also played like an NHL goaltender and will likely get claimed if they let him go unprotected. Then you have Khudobin, who has played only three games this year but has looked very good in limited NHL action. He might be a better goaltender compared to Peters and give the Hurricanes someone who can steal games even if he is just a back-up.
Jim Rutherford said that he plans to keep all three goalies for now but with teams like Chicago, Nashville and the Islanders possibly in the market for a back-up, that could change. He is in a good situation and one of the three goalies on the roster might be able to fetch a decent return. The question is which goalies should the Hurricanes keep and how will the Hurricanes use each of them for the rest of the year? After the jump, we'll look at what all three goalies and what the Canes can do with each of them.