The Philadelphia Flyers have placed goaltender Calvin Pickard on waivers today. With Andrei Vasilevskiy still out with injury, and Eddie Pasquale serving as the back-up to Louis Domingue, could the Tampa Bay Lightning claim Pickard?
Vasilevskiy was injured and placed on injured reserve by the lightning on November 15th. Soon after, the team announced that he would be out for four to six weeks. At the earliest, Vasilevskiy would return to the line up in another two weeks on December 13th against the Toronto Maple Leafs. On the outside of his timetable is a return December 27th against the Philadelphia Flyers.
In the meantime, the Lightning have been playing Louis Domingue as the number one goaltender. AHL veteran Eddie Pasquale has been serving as his backup. Domingue has played eight games in a row, including one start the day before Vasilevskiy was injured. In that time, he has gone 5-3-0 with a .912 SV%. He has been good enough to win games, but not spectacular. After the first four games, he did have three very solid games with a .930 or better save percentage. That was cratered a bit by last night’s .864 SV% in a 3-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
Pasquale has yet to appear in a game for the Lightning, or even play a single minute in the NHL. In his time in the AHL, he has mostly been around a .915 SV% goaltender. He’s rarely had spectacular seasons in the AHL, but has been solid as a career minor leaguer.
The Pros of Claiming Pickard
With Pasquale’s lack of NHL experience, the team can look to Pickard as a player that has NHL experience and could take some of the load off of Domingue until Vasilevskiy returns. Pickard has played in 98 NHL games with 83 starts. His career high in starts came in 2016-17 with the Colorado Avalanche when he started 48 games and played in 50.
The Lightning currently have 49 NHL contracts in the organization meaning that they have room for one more at the moment. In addition, by claiming him, he costs nothing but the minuscule fee for claiming another player and his salary while he is in Tampa. Pasquale is currently making the pro-rated portion of $650,000 while Pickard is making $800,000. The difference in salary is only about $800 a day.
In addition, the Lightning could then waive Pickard once Vasilevskiy returns where another team could claim him. If he goes unclaimed, then the Toronto Maple Leafs would have the option to take him back and assign him directly to the AHL. This is because the Maple Leafs originally waived Pickard at the beginning of the season. Until the end of the season, if Pickard ever goes unclaimed on waivers, the Maple Leafs will have that option to take him back and likely would. The Toronto Marlies, the Maple Leafs AHL affiliate, are thin in goal and could use him.
The other benefit is that it would allow the Lightning to send Pasquale back to the Syracuse Crunch. Connor Ingram has been playing excellently and was even named AHL Player of the Week. However, he is in a similar situation as Domingue in that he needs to play the bulk of games since his back-up is not as good. Getting Pasquale back there would ease the workload back to normal levels for Ingram and slot everyone into their proper positions while also giving the ECHL Orlando Solar Bears back their starting goaltender.
Cons of Claiming Pickard
It’s debatable if Pickard is even better than Pasquale. While we don’t have any NHL data to draw on for Pasquale, Pickard’s NHL numbers are not very pretty. He has a career .909 SV% and a 2.77 GAA, but is 28-44-6 in his career. He posted a .932 SV% and .922 SV% over 36 games total in 2014-15 and 2015-16. When he was the starter in 2016-17, he had a .904 SV% which isn’t pretty. He only played in one game for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and made 24 saves on 28 shots, but one game isn’t much to draw on.
This season for the Philadelphia Flyers though, he has gone 4-2-2 in eight starts and 11 games. But he’s posted a very ugly .863 SV% and 4.01 GAA. That’s not good even for a backup. Maybe Lightning goaltender coach Frantz Jean could straighten him out before he gets into the net, but that seems unlikely with such little time to work with him.
Even if we go to look and compare their AHL stats, Pickard looks to be pretty similar to Pasquale over his career there. Nothing in the AHL really stands out with his seasons falling in the .906 to .918 SV% range. There’s nothing here to suggest that he is demonstrably better than Pasquale, especially if either one of them are likely to only play one or maybe two games before Vasilevskiy returns.
There is also the risk that the Lightning get a bit hamstrung if they waive him and then Toronto decides they don’t want him back and the Lightning have to put him in the AHL. Then when Vasilevskiy returns and Pasquale goes back to the AHL, the team either has three goaltenders in Syracuse or has to find a place for one of the two veterans to go. They also would be unable to make another trade without moving AHL players back in the deal to the other team instead of being able to just use picks or juniors/NCAA prospects.
In my opinion, it’s not really worth it. There are some pros and cons to doing it, but I don’t feel the pros outweigh the cons. I think it’s better to keep Pasquale in as the back-up. It’s also my opinion that it’s the way the team will go. They re-signed Pasquale over the summer after acquiring him last year to help the Syracuse Crunch. They obviously felt comfortable at the time with the thought that we could end up in this position where he was the backup to either Vasilevskiy or Domingue in the event of an injury.