3 backup goalies worth trading for

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Goaltending has been a hot topic in the NHL this season, with the 2016-17 campaign throwing wrenches into a fair few clubs' expectations.

Between Devan Dubnyk outshining Carey Price, Peter Budaj reigning as the league's shutout king, and a number of former mainstay starters beginning to slip, it's fair to assume a couple general managers will be talking netminders heading up to the trade deadline.

The Calgary Flames remain desperate for a more solid contributor in net, while the Edmonton Oilers need a reliable backup behind Cam Talbot. And teams like St. Louis and Dallas continue to fall short of expectations due to issues in net.

That being the case, here are three backup goalies who could wind up in new homes before deadline day:

Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets have taken a huge step forward offensively this season. But heading into the home stretch, they still find themselves on the outside looking in, sitting three points out of a playoff spot.

Winnipeg has one obvious option to help turn things around - dealing one of their three netminders for a piece that can benefit them down the line.

Connor Hellebuyck has started the most games for the Jets so far (35), and boasts the best numbers of the team's three goalies. Michael Hutchinson is next up in terms of starts (20), and has at different points in his career seemed to be the future of the Jets' net.

That leaves Ondrej Pavelec as the odd man out.

The veteran isn't a home run, but he has a solid enough track record to warrant a look from teams looking for an upgrade. Just two seasons ago he posted a career-best .920 save percentage alongside five shutouts. If nothing else, he's very familiar with carrying the load in the cage, and may be a nice veteran option for a team with a young starter.

Anders Nilsson, Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo Sabres backup Anders Nilsson has been one of the league's strongest secondary options this season. Through 19 games, the 26-year-old has posted a stellar save percentage of .923 - a top-10 mark among this year's crop of backups.

The Sabres are definitely in need of some help heading into the season's final third, sitting second-last in the East after an injury-plagued 2016-17. They're not completely out of the running yet though. Buffalo sits just seven points out of a wild card spot, a small enough sum for a miracle run.

Robin Lehner is hitting his stride and reclaiming the starter job - he posted his first shutout of the season in Buffalo's recent win over Ottawa - making Nilsson expendable. The team also has a decent backup option, Linus Ullmark, waiting in the AHL. Ullmark appeared in 20 games for the big club last season, and is fresh off an impressive performance at the AHL All-Star skills competition.

Sounds like it's time to shuffle the deck and see what Nilsson will fetch on the market.

Peter Budaj, Los Angeles Kings

We know. The shutouts. But hey, "if Wayne Gretzky can be traded ..."

Budaj has found new life in Los Angeles Kings colors, putting up a career year that has him leading the NHL with seven shutouts.

But is the 34-year-old really a reliable enough option to take into the playoffs? The Kings aren't exactly rolling through teams anymore, and as of right now they're only barely in the playoff picture. Budaj might have single-handedly saved their season, but with Jonathan Quick back practicing with the team - and scheduled to return in early March - the club might be better served by selling high on their now-elite backup to fill other needs.

It's fair to assume Quick will reclaim the starting role once he's settled back in, and the team still has a fairly serviceable option in Jeff Zatkoff as well. Trading Budaj would be risky - the club could also opt for the safer option of flipping Zatkoff - but considering what he might bring in given his current level of play, it could be a game-changing gamble for the Kings' postseason run.

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3 backup goalies worth trading for
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