As one of the most important positions in any hockey team, the goalkeeper plays a massive role in keeping a team in matches. They can be the difference between reaching the Stanley Cup Final or crashing out entirely. A good keeper, then, is seen as worth their value to any team that has genuine aspirations of success. So, the decision by the Carolina Hurricanes to move on from the hugely talented Alex Nedeljkovic was seen as a massive shock.
The Detroit Red Wings are major winners in this trade, picking up the keeper for a trade that involved Jonathan Bernier and the 94th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. The Canes decided to not give the keeper a new contract, with Steve Yzerman handing a $3m/year contract to the keeper to keep him in Detroit for the next two seasons.
The extra pick is some kind of compensation, sure, but it cannot be denied that the North Carolina team has just lost a genuine star from their ranks. Trading away a keeper with a goals-against average under 2 for a pending free agent who has a goals-against average closer to 3 is quite a shock. The age difference matters, too, with Nedeljkovic being seven years the junior of the more veteran Bernier.
With a save percentage of .923 across 23 games last year, Nedeljkovic is comfortably the more in-form of the two keepers. He offers a tremendous level of value for the Red Wings, who need to bring in a new keeper if they wish to get back close to a contention process in the near future.
Why was the trade made?
It is hard to give a distinct reason, but Red Wings fans are unlikely to really care too much to be honest. They have just picked up a tremendous player who offers them a chance for a huge improvement on a key playing position within the NHL. This is a tremendous piece of business for one team, but it is safe to say that Canes fans are not as impressed.
Giving up an asset like Nedeljkovic is a huge risk, and his replacement shows no signs of being as good. The extra pick is nice, sure, but it is highly unlikely that it will turn into a player with anything like the consistent upside that comes with the keeper they just traded away.
Many are saying it might be the worst trade to happen this summer, with the clear one-sidedness of the deal making fans wonder just what went wrong. This is a tremendous pick-up for one team, and leaves the other side with the need to fill a hole in their team with an unrestricted free agent who would likely not be worth the contract they could offer him.
The contract situation with Nedeljkovic in Carolina was seen as one that a team could potentially benefit from if they played their cards right. Well, that has happened now, and it looks like Detroit might be more likely to challenge next season purely on the basis of the strength of this move.
For Carolina, the hard work in replacing a star like Nedeljkovic now begins.