Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller are the top free agent goalies available this summer. But with a limited number of crease openings, there won’t be a lot of demand for their services.
It’s going to be a buyer’s market for NHL goaltenders this summer.
With a glut of them available as free agents, watch for the increased supply to cause a drag on how much they’re signed for. Moreover, goalies who are used to being No. 1 stoppers may have to settle for shared duties. And goalies who have shared No. 1 duties in the past may be relegated to backup status.
Not many teams are looking for No. 1 goalies this summer. Boston, Chicago, Colorado, Florida, Los Angeles, Montreal, Nashville, New York Rangers, New York Islanders (just signed Jaroslav Halak), Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Pittsburgh, San Jose and Winnipeg are 20 teams set with a No. 1 man.
Buffalo, Carolina, Edmonton, Anaheim, Ottawa, St. Louis and Vancouver are seven teams without a locked-down No. 1, but are set with a tandem under contract or soon-to-be signed RFA – Robin Lehner in Ottawa. In case you missed it, word is Anaheim looks to be content with the inexperienced, but impressive duo of John Gibson and Frederik Andersen next season, while St. Louis is making room for AHL star Jake Allen to compete with Brian Elliott for playing time.
That leaves three teams with uncertainty between the pipes and a lot of goalies to go around.
Karri Ramo looks to have secured the No. 1 job in Calgary, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Flames sign an experienced UFA who can play 25-40 games depending upon Ramo’s progress.
Washington has Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer, but a new GM will surely do as Calgary might – sign some experience capable of playing 25-40 games.
The Minnesota Wild have Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding under contract and prospect Darcy Kuemper almost ready, but they might want an upgrade.
Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller are the best No. 1 UFA goalies looking for work. The next tier down are goalies who have either held No. 1 jobs in the past or shared that role. The list includes Martin Brodeur, Tim Thomas, Ilya Bryzgalov, Evgeny Nabokov, Ray Emery, Tomas Vokoun and James Reimer, the latter being an RFA.
That’s a lot of goalies for not many openings. It’s not like any of these goalies are going to be satisfied playing 15-20 games a season backing up bona fide No. 1s – and earning $1.5 million or so.
Then there’s the group of goalies who are serviceable backups. They’re looking for contracts as well. Some will stick with their current team. They include Chad Johnson, Joey MacDonald, Justin Peters, J-S Giguere, Curtis McElhinney, Jonas Gustavsson, Thomas Greiss, Alex Stalock, Al Montoya, Devan Dubnyk. RFA backups looking for deals are Antti Raanta, Anders Lindback, Anders Nilsson and Kuemper.
Of course, there might be some musical chairs among UFA goalies and current No. 1 stoppers. If Pittsburgh, San Jose or Winnipeg look to improve upon Marc-Andre Fleury, Antti Niemi or Ondrej Pavelec, then those goalies will be displaced and are sure to wind up elsewhere. It’s not like Fleury is going to the AHL.
So don’t expect to see teams overpaying for RFA or UFA goalies anytime soon. With so many stoppers out there and a limited number of jobs and demand, it’ll be the GMs, not the agents, who dictate the price.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN