Yesterday, about two hours before the Lightning's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets began, the news came that the official ECHL website showed that goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis had been recalled to the Syracuse Crunch. No confirmation was forthcoming from any other source, and all four Lightning and Crunch goaltenders had been accounted for. Was it a clerical error? Was a trade imminent? We were all left to speculate on what this could mean.
"Kristers has been playing great hockey at the East Coast level, probably been the best goalie in the league at that level,'' BriseBois said. "We feel he's ready for AHL action on a full-time basis. We want Kristers working with our coaches and players. We feel he's ready to compete at this level.''
Well, this we've known since training camp, frankly. There's just no room for him there what with the franchise having two goaltenders under contract for the AHL club.
It's unusual for a team to carry three healthy goalies for any length of time. And the Crunch are in desperate need of skating talent, as their roster has been decimated by injuries and call-ups. They need productive AHL veterans and fast. The Lightning's injury situation doesn't appear to be getting any better, as both Tom Pyatt and now Brian Lee are not healing as expected, Ryan Malone will be out for some time, and Eric Brewer's injury status is suddenly in question.
So while it is absolutely true that Kristers Gudlevskis needs and deserves time in the AHL, it's reasonable to think that the Crunch and Lightning brass are working the phones to see if there is some kind of deal to be made somewhere that turns unusable assets (extra goaltenders) into usable ones (a veteran forward or defenseman.) They wouldn't be doing their job if they weren't at least looking.
The problem, however, is that there isn't an obvious market for AHL goaltenders right now. While there are one or two teams with need, the Crunch aren't exactly offering diamonds here. It's hard to see a goaltender who's putting up an .875/3.43 on a one-way contract garnering much of a return. If a team takes a flyer on someone under these circumstances, it's not based on their numbers but on a belief that there's some kind of untapped potential.
Of course the Lightning do have other goaltenders they could move, although Riku Helenius does seem the odd man out in this case. Still, someone might be more inclined to take Cedrick Desjardins (.919/2.24) or even Gudlevskis himself. Or perhaps Helenius might return to Europe.
At the moment, there's nothing but speculation to be had. We'll just have to resign ourselves to waiting for further developments. It should be noted that those developments might include Gudlevskis returning to the ECHL after a few days work with the Crunch, although the BriseBois quote seems to indicate that this isn't the true plan. Whatever happens, this logjam at net simply can't continue indefinitely. Something will give, and probably sooner rather than later.