I came in here loaded for Bear to trash this thread.
Unfortunately your post was well thought out and no bashing from me will happen!
While I do agree I would rather have a top 10 D-man than top 10 goalie, Howard was the reason this team went any where last season. (Well Hank turning it on at the end helped a lot too)
He was rock solid in the post season giving up a few bad goals, but saving the team's collective bacon more often than giving up a softie.
For me it would have to be a legitimate top 10 D-man, but none of them are really available, Weber, Doughty, Suter, Pietrangelo (I was hoping his issues in STL this year and the Wings being in the East would have facilitated the wings poaching him), even if you wanted to go for a more offensive d-man like Subban or Karlsson, it will take Howard and a lot more.
I think the offseason is really the only time you can get a fair deal for a D-man, catch them in contract dispute or wanting to play for a contender. Mid season everyone remembers how important a Defensive Stud is, and no one wants to part with them.
In the Offseason everyone is talking about forwards.
I really hoped the Wings would have swung something like Mule for Pietrangelo. It would have been a complete fleecing by the Wings, because to me he is one of the top D-men in the league.
I guess my point to all of this, if your netminder is not in the top 5, he just isn't going to get you a lot. Look at the Schneider to NJ deal, 9th overall pick, no roster player, no elite prospect.
Just a rubber bullet and a shot in the dark. Don't get me wrong a top 10 pick is better than 25th, but still that is not an elite player they got back.