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Money Men: An early-season look at the seven best pending RFA goalies

The Penguins' crease situation is becoming more complicated than most expected, and that Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry are both pending RFAs only raises more questions. Pittsburgh isn't the only team that has to make a decision about an RFA netminder, however.

The Pittsburgh Penguins likely didn't envision themselves having a crease conundrum this season, but as we inch closer to the holiday break, second stringer Tristan Jarry is pushing Matt Murray for the starting role role and, in turn, throwing a wrench into the two-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender's next contract negotiations.

Murray's feeble hold on the No. 1 gig comes as the result of his own inconsistent play and Jarry's standout performances when he's gotten the nod. Waking up Sunday morning, Murray has a goals-saved above average at 5-on-5 of minus-8.90, which ranks 50th out of the 53 goaltenders who have appeared in at least 10 games, and a .899 save percentage which ranks better than all but four of those 53 keepers. Statistically, he's been one of the worst goaltenders in the NHL this season, and Jarry's .951 SP and 9.77 GSAA hasn't done Murray's performance any favors, especially not with the Penguins' supposed backup finding himself in the same company as early Vezina Trophy favorites Connor Hellebuyck and Darcy Kuemper. Add to it that Jarry, who boasts a 9-5-0 record, was recently named one of the NHL's three stars of the week after establishing a franchise shutout record of 177:15 and it's safe to say he's set to have himself the best year of his career.

Jarry's play poses some problems for Murray, too, particularly as far as his next contract is concerned. Signed to a three-year deal with a $3.75-million cap hit – a pact that signified Pittsburgh's desire to see if Murray could handle a heavy workload on a consistent basis – he's had an up-and-down few seasons. So, Jarry coming in and stealing the thunder in an RFA season for both complicates the situation moving forward. Will Jarry's play for a battered Penguins squad take a bite out of Murray's next deal? Jarry doesn't have a resume that competes with Murray's, but is this recent play something to look deeper into if you're the Penguins? Is Murray just having a dry spell and falling at an inopportune time, or is there something more to be concerned about?

Nonetheless, the Penguins' goaltending situation will be interesting as the seasons rolls on, and they're not the only team that will need to make a decision about their RFA netminders. Here's a look at five other pending RFA goalies to keep an eye on this season:

Linus Ullmark, Buffalo Sabres – $925,000
Carter Hutton started the year red hot, but Ullmark has been the man in Buffalo in recent weeks. Ullmark has a with a 10-6-3 record, but his .929 SP at 5-on-5 ranks 14th among goalies with 10 appearances and his 4.77 GSAA ranks 11th among the same cohort. At 26, he's playing some of the best hockey of his career on a pact worth $925,000. That's tremendous value for a playoff contender. His next contract will see him earn a nice pay raise as he's likely to fill the starting role until Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is ready for NHL duty. A long-term deal for Ullmark could even be in the cards if it means having a solid 1-2 duo when Luukkonen makes the jump. For now, Ullmark is keeping things steady in the Sabres' crease.

Alexandar Georgiev, New York Rangers – $792,500
The heir to 'King' Henrik Lundqvist's throne appears to be Igor Shesterkin, but Georgiev is doing everything in his power to enter the conversation. The 23-year-old from Bulgaria entered this weekend with five wins in his past six games (including shutouts against New Jersey and Vegas) and a 9-5-1 record. At 5-on-5, Georgiev's 2.17 GSAA is only narrowly behind Lundqvist's 2.82 mark. Could Georgiev be starting material? That's to be seen, but he won't cost too much on his next deal and he can create a good, young tandem with Shesterkin in the future.

Joonas Korpisalo, Columbus Blue Jackets – $1.15 million
This season was all about transitioning for Columbus after the departure of two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Korpisalo's stats aren't anything special: he has a 12-10-3 record, but his .927 SP at 5-on-5 ranks 16th among goalies with at least 10 games played this season. He also boasts a 5.47 GSAA, which is a mark bested by only 11 netminders. He projects as a solid backup goaltender, and if the Blue Jackets can sign him for less than $3 million, he's a good value option while the team seeks out a long-term starter.

Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils – $697,500
This season has been rough for the Devils and goaltending hasn't done much to bail the team out. Blackwood has done his best in the No. 1 job, however, especially now with the pressure on after Cory Schneider was demoted to the AHL. Blackwood's .921 SP and 1.11 GSAA puts him 28th in each category among the 53 goaltenders with at least 10 appearances. He's still a rookie, too, and he has proven he can have stretches of brilliance. How much will that help him on his next deal? Maybe not all that much. It'll be interesting to see if the Devils reward him for his potential. The club hasn't given much with which to work, so we'll see.

Malcolm Subban, Vegas Golden Knights – $850,000
Sitting behind one of the winningest active goaltenders, Marc-Andre Fleury, has resulted in Subban seeing little playing time early on, and his 5-5-0 record isn't exactly dazzling. Despite that, Subban's .916 SP and minus-0.88 GSAA at fives put him on par with Fleury, who boasts a similar .916 SP but a slightly worse minus-1.36 GSAA. If the Golden Knights don't explore other options, it seems likely Subban will be brought back for less than $1 million and continue doing what he does best: spell Fleury when the veteran is in need of a rest.

(All advanced statistics via NaturalStatTrick)

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