When NHL free agency opened this year, there was significant hype for big names hitting the market including Johnny Gaudreau, Nazem Kadri and Claude Giroux.
Between the NHL draft and free agency, a slew of trades involving names like Alex DeBrincat, Max Pacioretty, and Brent Burns also happened. While each transaction made headlines, perhaps the most meaningful off-season changes happened in the crease. Two teams, the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs, made wholesale changes. Others including the Edmonton Oilers and Detroit Red Wings added starters, while a third group secured new backups.
Here is a look at how the NHL goaltending carousel has landed so far.
Washington Capitals - Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren: Kuemper is coming off a Stanley Cup title where he battled off injuries to win it all. If the Washington Capitals hope to re-enter Stanley Cup contention and remain a playoff team before the Alex Ovechkin era ends, Kuemper will have far more pressure on his shoulders. Washington abandoned Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, but with Kuemper, it looks to be an upgrade. The Capitals also inked Charlie Lindgren, who was great for Springfield in the AHL last year, and went 5-0-0 for St. Louis. Washington is hoping he can replicate those results on a larger scale.
Toronto Maple Leafs - Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov: Leading into last season, confidence in the Toronto net seemed solid with Jack Campbell and Petr Mrazek entering as the team's tandem. Mrazek failed miserably, and Campbell was injured for a chunk of the season. This year, Toronto will enter with totally different duo in two-time Stanley Cup winner, but injury-prone goalie Matt Murray, who they acquired from the Ottawa Senators; and Ilya Samsonov, a former first-round pick who was the starter for Washington last season. There is no telling who will emerge as the starter, but Kyle Dubas is betting once again that one of his two netminders can provide stability between the pipes. Leafs fans and media have criticized the tandem, which is Toronto tradition, but only time will tell if Murray and Samsonov can bring elusive playoff success to Leafs Nation.
Jack Campbell - Edmonton Oilers: Campbell got the money and term he was looking for, and the Edmonton Oilers got the best goaltender they’ve rostered recently. Injuries have been an issue for Campbell, but when he’s healthy, Campbell is one of the better and more consistent goaltenders in the league. All Campbell has to do is be better than Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen, which should prove attainable. Last year’s duo were serviceable in the regular season, but derailed into an absolute trainwreck in the post-season. Edmonton will be dangerous if Campbell can keep the opposition under four goals per game in the playoffs.
Detroit Red Wings - Ville Husso: Both Alex Nedeljkovic and Ville Husso have shown flashes of skill, but who will emerge as the No. 1? Nedeljkovic played 59 games last season for Detroit, but Husso enters with a better GAA and save percentage (albeit playing with a superior defensive team that made the playoffs) in 40 games. Last season when Thomas Greiss was in net, the Red Wings fared worse; with Husso, the team will have the goaltending to give Detroit a chance to win every night.
Eric Comrie - Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres tried to acquire Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators, but Comrie proved last year in Winnipeg he could be a reliable backup and might fight for consistent starts in Buffalo. Perhaps their best hope at stable and healthy goaltending this season will be prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen who could steal the backup or starters job at any moment. Still, with Anderson playing what will undoubtedly be his final NHL season, Comrie may need to play meaningful minutes behind a very young Sabres team.
New Jersey Devils - Vitek Vanecek: Seven different goalies appeared in at least three games last season for the Devils, in what turned out to be a hellish season of goaltending. Mackenzie Blackwood is the defacto starter, although Vanecek could steal that position. Vanecek inked a $3.4 million three-year contract, making goaltending an expensive position for the Devils, who also employ Jonathan Bernier for another season at a $4.125 million cap hit. Knocking at the door is Nico Daws who played 25 games for the Devils last season. It’s a crowded crease with no clear starter. If Vanecek becomes that, his acquisition will be a windfall for the rebuilding Devils.
Seattle Kraken - Martin Jones: In one of the more perplexing moves of the off-season, the Seattle Kraken signed Martin Jones to an already crowded crease. The team already has starter Philipp Grubauer ($5.9 million) and last season’s backup Chris Driedger ($3.5 million), although Driedger's future seems unclear. Jones is the oldest of the three and is coming off a mediocre season in Philadelphia. Still, with how often goaltending depth came into play across the NHL last season, Jones provides insurance for the Kraken.
New York Rangers - Jaroslav Halak and Louis Domingue: The expectations for Jaroslav Halak won't be that high in New York. He simply needs to give Vezina Trophy winner and Hart finalist Igor Shestyorkin a rest from time to time, and at 37 years old, that's completely doable. The team also added Pittsburgh Penguins playoff (near) hero Louis Domingue, a capable third stringer who can step in and play games if needed.
St. Louis Blues - Thomas Greiss: In what turned out to be a goaltending swap, the St. Louis Blues traded Ville Husso to the Detroit Red Wings and then signed Thomas Greiss. After breaking out with the New York Islanders three seasons ago, the now 36-year-old Greiss looked lost in Detroit, letting in shots that had no business beating an NHL netminder. Perhaps with a better team in front of him such as the Blues, he’ll be a capable backup for Jordan Binnington.
Nashville Predators - Kevin Lankinen: The 27-year-old Finnish netminder is an interesting case. He’s played quite a bit of hockey the past two seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks, both as a starter and a backup to Marc-Andre Fleury. With a better team in Nashville, Lankinen could regain some of the eye-popping stats that enticed Chicago to sign him as an undrafted free agent back in 2018. He’ll play behind fellow Finn Juuse Saros, but could surprise people by pushing Saros throughout the year.
Winnipeg Jets - David Rittich: An experienced and capable backup, Rittich returns to western Canada with the Jets. If he’s lucky, he’ll regain some of his form from his days with Calgary. Backing up Connor Hellebuyck, Rittich won’t take a heavy load, but he can play anywhere between 20-30 games if needed. Rittich has a career 2.90 GAA, .905 save percentage, and 70-43-20 record, all positive numbers for a backup.