If you're an NHL general manager in need of a goaltender, Devan Dubnyk is the type of player you should be willing to take a chance on. The risk is relatively low, the potential is there for a reasonably big reward and based on Wednesday's series of trades involving the Edmonton Oilers, the cost to acquire him was a declining 32-year-old fourth-liner who is still signed for three more years.
And you only had to pick up half of Dubnyk's remaining salary.
In other words, that's not much of a cost.
That's why the Predators -- or whichever team ends up taking a chance on Dubnyk this summer in free agency -- could be the real winners in Edmonton's recent revolving door of goaltenders. It's not necessarily about finding a guy who is shutting down the league at this moment (because Dubnyk certainly isn't doing that), but about taking advantage of a team that's selling a valuable asset its lowest possible value and hoping for a bounce back performance in the second half of this season (or next season) behind a better defense on a better team.
And that's pretty much what Dubnyk is at this point.
If there is a position where those types of rebounds happen -- and happen frequently -- it's goalie. It's an unpredictable position from one year to the next, and there seems to be a great deal of randomness as to which players, regardless of their track record, will perform at a high level in a given season. Recent NHL history is full of players at the position who snuck under the radar in free agency and signed for dirt cheap -- or were acquired for next to nothing in trades -- due to recent short-term struggles, and went on to be quality net minders for their new clubs.
Dubnyk seems like the type of player who could do just that.
His numbers this season don't really jump off the page in a positive way. His .894 save percentage is 46th out of 47 goalies that qualify for the league lead, and he had a terrible start to the season that not only saw him give up a lot of goals, but a lot ugly goals, as well. That's a good way to make your current team sour on you.
The thing is, Dubnyk has played reasonably well in the NHL before this season. He is only half of a season removed from being a league-average to maybe slightly above-league-average goalie. You can certainly do worse than that in the NHL, and in the right situation it is more than possible to win a lot of games with that type of performance. Just because it wasn't happening in Edmonton doesn't mean it can't happen somewhere else.
In the three seasons prior to this one, he never had a save percentage lower than .914. Over that three-year stretch, there were 67 goalies who appeared in at least 30 games, and Dubnyk's .917 save percentage was 15th out of that group while playing on a team that was giving up more than 32 shots per game.
He didn't suddenly forgot how to stop shots, and he's certainly capable of returning to that level. It's not a given that he will, but the price was certainly right for Nashville to find out.