Monday's Detroit Red Wings-Philadelphia Flyers trade made it abundantly clear the Sharks are better off hanging on to backup goaltender (and pending unrestricted free agent) Aaron Dell ahead of next week's trade deadline.
In exchange for goaltender Petr Mrazek and Detroit retaining half of his salary, the Flyers sent the Red Wings a conditional fourth round pick in 2018, which can become as high as a second round pick depending on two increasingly convoluted conditions, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie.
The winged wheel can also get a third round pick in 2019 if Mrazek re-signs on Broad Street, but the pending restricted free agent requires a $4.1 million qualifying offer, according to Cap Friendly. The Flyers only acquired Mrazek because their top two goalies are injured in the middle of a playoff hunt, so you're more likely to see civil obedience at the next Philadelphia championship parade than Mrazek playing in the city's net next season.
Dell's been floated as a potential trade piece at times, considering his cheap, expiring contract and his success when called upon. But he's got 109 fewer starts to his name than Mrazek, and there wasn't much of a market for him to begin with.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland intimated as much Tuesday morning, telling reporters there wasn't much of a market for goaltenders. The biggest buyer is now off of the market, and barring a move from one of Philadelphia's goaltending-needy rivals in the Metropolitan Division (namely, the Devils, Hurricanes, and Islanders), there are far more goalies available than there are interested teams.
Trading Dell would not only mean receiving limited value in return, but having no meaningful insurance for starter Martin Jones down the stretch. Jones has been much better lately, and played like he has in each of the last two postseasons.
Before those postseasons, though, Jones was able to get a good amount of rest. Backups James Reimer and Dell starting eight and seven games, respectively, in San Jose's last 20 games following the deadline over the last two seasons. The Sharks would not be able to do that if Troy Grosenick or Antoine Bibeau took Dell's place.
The case for keeping Dell is arguably best made by the St. Louis Blues, San Jose's opponent on Tuesday. Carter Hutton, a former Sharks prospect who will start in net against his old organization, leads the league in five-on-five save percentage (.949) among goalies that have played 1000 even strength minutes, according to Corsica Hockey, as well as qualifying goaltenders in total save percentage (.940)
Hutton's largely outplayed starter Jake Allen, who's faltered at times. He's provided St. Louis enough depth in net to hold on to one of the West's Wild Card spots, and in the gauntlet that is the Central Division, it's easy to imagine the Blues out of the postseason entirely with even league-average backup goaltending.
Dell (.917 five-on-five save percentage) hasn't been nearly as good as Hutton this season, but it's unlikely the Sharks could receive similar production from any of their goaltenders in the system. If they're not going to get much better behind Jones, and they're not also going to get all that much in return for Dell, the choice to keep him is rather easy.