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Why Not Reimer? Revisiting Last Summer’s Hill Trade

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Credit: AP Photo/Gareth Patterson

The price was right for Adin Hill.

Last August, the Vegas Golden Knights sent just a 2024 fourth-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for third-stringer Hill. Now, the goaltender is in the conversation for the Conn Smythe Trophy, two wins away from leading the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup.

So how did Hill end up in gold?

Let’s rewind: On Aug. 11, Vegas announced that starter Robin Lehner would miss the 2022-23 campaign because of hip surgery. Impressive rookie Logan Thompson was the obvious next in line, followed by back-up Laurent Brossoit. But Brossoit had hip surgery himself in May, and when the Lehner bombshell broke, there was no guarantee that he would be ready for training camp.

The Golden Knights could’ve opted to start the season with Thompson and journeyman Michael Hutchinson, but ever prepared – the purported Cup contender, that had just missed the playoffs by three points in the previous year – tried to leave nothing to chance.

At the time, the San Jose Sharks had one NHL goalie too many with Hill ($2.175 million AAV), James Reimer ($2.25 million), and Kaapo Kahkonen ($2.75 million) in the crease. They had just re-signed Kahkonen to a two-year contract, so Hill and Reimer, both with one season remaining on their deals, appeared most expendable.

Other goalies who also might have been available at the time?

Semyon Varlamov ($5.0 million) was a much-mentioned name back then.

But per a league source, two things appeared to set Hill apart for the Golden Knights.

First was the asking price. The New York Islanders were purportedly asking for a first-round pick for Varlamov. San Jose Hockey Now was told that the San Jose Sharks had asked another team earlier that summer for a second-round pick for Reimer. That team declined and went in another direction.

SOURCE: Sharks Want 2nd-Round Pick for Reimer (+)

Reimer’s experience was a selling point, but not at the cost of a second-rounder.

But Hill? While both veterans Varlamov and Reimer enjoyed strong 2021-22 campaigns, egging their values, Hill had suffered an injury-plagued season, which made his cost more attractive.

Meanwhile, the Sharks had to clear their crease, and they got fair value back for a depressed asset.

Second, for Vegas, was potential. Hill was just 26 and had just been traded for a second-round pick in the previous summer, from the Arizona Coyotes to the San Jose Sharks. You can argue whether Hill was worth that in the first place, but he was a young goalie with clear NHL upside. Meanwhile, Varlamov and Reimer were both 34, and not necessarily getting any better.

So GM Kelly McCrimmon, in concert with director of goaltending Sean Burke, rolled the dice on Hill.

“Adin’s just a good, hard-working kid,” Burke told Steve Peters of PHNX Sports during the Western Conference Finals.

Burke would know. Hill was his son Brendan’s goaltending partner with the Portland Winterhawks from 2013 to 2015. Burke was also Arizona’s assistant GM and goaltending coach when the Coyotes selected Hill in the third round of the 2015 Draft.

“We felt there was upside there,” McCrimmon said last month.

“Sean Burke deserves credit for molding Hill into a patient goaltender that lets the play come to him,” Mike McKenna of Daily Faceoff wrote before the Stanley Cup Final. “Using an inside-out approach, the Golden Knights netminder is now scrambling only when absolutely necessary.”

Last summer, it seemed like only the Golden Knights were seeing Hill’s upside. But now, the entire hockey world is seeing it.

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