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By Rob Finney
Boston Bruins Writer
The former first-round pick Malcolm Subban is entering his final year in his entry-level contract, making him a restricted free agent come 2017-2018. With the expansion draft coming in 2017, the Bruins can only keep one goaltender, which will undoubtedly be Tuukka Rask. Due to Subban being a restricted free agent in 2017, it makes him eligible to be selected by the Las Vegas franchise. Just so everyone is clear, Las Vegas has 30 selections, and they have to choose one player from each team. One would have to think Vegas takes Subban over a defenseman like Adam McQuaid, especially when the goaltender is young, and has high potential, whereas McQuaid is a bottom pairing defenseman on a lousy contract. So what should the Bruins do? What are their options to make the most of Malcolm Subban, and not lose a decent prospect for nothing? Well, there are only three options:
One: Let him go. Just let him go, and see what happens. For all we know, Subban is nothing more than an AHL starter, and Vegas just made a bad selection (which would mean the Bruins did too in 2012).
Two: Don’t protect him, and hope for the best. Just pray. Just pray that Las Vegas likes Adam McQuaid on a bad contract more than a young goalie with a lot of potential.
Three: Trade him. This is the most viable way of making the most of him and his value, as well as getting something back in return, instead of letting him go for nothing in the draft. Let’s pretend Sweeney knows this is the best way to go with Subban, and let’s look at what he’ll be looking at.
Determining His Value: What’s Malcolm’s value? Well, let’s take a look. His GAA in Providence has gone up in every season (2.31, 2.44, 2.46). Ouch. His SV% in 3 seasons in the AHL went from .920, to .921, to .911. Not great, but, to be fair, the stats are about the same as goalies in the top 10 for both SV% and GAA. Also, most goalies in the AHL are over 25, while Subban is still only 22. So while his numbers aren’t the best, he’s still hovering in the area with the best goalies in the AHL, while also being one of the youngest in the league. So his trade value? Considering he’s in the top-15 goalies in the AHL, and also being 22, it’s fairly high. Not top-10 draft pick high, but late first to early second.
Finding a Trade Partner: Great. Now we’ve determined what Malcolm Subban could get the Bruins. But what team(s) would be willing to deal for a young, potential starting goalie? Let’s brainstorm. There has to be a few filters. For one, the team can’t have a goalie they’ll definitely protect. Teams like Chicago and Boston can’t protect Subban because of Crawford and Rask. What would be the point of trading for Subban if he’ll be unprotected, right? Secondly, the team can’t have a goalie that is already locked in to be the goalie of the future. Teams like Winnipeg have Connor Hellebuyck to be their starting goalie in less than a few years (he looked very promising this season). So after applying that filter, what teams remain? Well, here are a few: Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, Dallas, Islanders, Ottawa, and Philadelphia. Since there are a few matches in the Western Conference, I’d doubt the Bruins would trade him to an Eastern Conference team. That being said, it leaves us with three teams. Calgary, Colorado, and Dallas.
The Best Fit: The team I believe best fits, is the Colorado Avalanche. Currently in arbitration with a right-shot, puck-moving defenseman, the Avs don’t have a future in net beyond Semyon Varlamov. Also, seeing as their second-line center is former Bruin Carl Soderberg, they could use an upgrade at center as well. With signing David Backes, the Bruins have made Ryan Spooner somewhat expendable if the right deal came along. Well, maybe the Bruins could work some trade in where they receive Tyson Barrie (currently in arbitration), in exchange for Malcolm Subban and Ryan Spooner. Maybe the Bruins would have to throw in a bit more, but I’d think the Avs would have to at least listen to what the Bruins are saying if they started out with those two players.
When it’s all said and done, it’s up to Don Sweeney and his staff to determine what to do with Malcolm Subban, but it’s obvious they can’t let a valuable, young goaltender walk away for nothing.