Pending unrestricted free agents goalies Devan Dubnyk, Andrew Hammond and Karri Ramo raised their stock immensely this season. They’ll be much sought after on the open market come July 1. Chances are, however, they won’t make it to the open market if their existing teams are wise about things. Here’s a quick analysis of how the goaltending carousel will look this free agent season. Most teams are set between the pipes, but by my count five teams will need to lock down a starting goalie, while another seven teams will need backups.
Of the five teams looking for starters, expect two of them to sign their pending UFAs before July 1. Minnesota will be sure to keep Vezina Trophy candidate Dubnyk, while Ottawa will retain Hammond. So that leaves three teams looking for starters – Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks. Pending UFA Antti Niemi, despite being a good to very good starting goalie in the regular season, has probably worn out his time in San Jose. Is he a fit at age 32 with young growing teams in Buffalo or Edmonton? Those are likely the only stops where he’d be the No. 1 stopper.
Ramo is the only other UFA goalie this summer with the recent pedigree to be a No. 1. The Flames leaned on Ramo in many games down the stretch and second round of the playoffs against Anaheim. And Calgary, knowing you can never have too much good goaltending, won’t let him walk for nothing. Chances are, the Flames will sign 28-year-old Ramo, then put 33-year-old Jonas Hiller on the trade market. San Jose maybe? Buffalo? Calgary has Finn Joni Ortio penciled in to be its backup next season as he’s on a one-way contract and would have to clear waivers.
If the Senators retain Hammond, they’d have three goalies with 34-year-old Craig Anderson and 23-year-old Robin Lehner already under contract. Then maybe Lehner winds up in Buffalo or Edmonton or San Jose as part of a trade? So, back of the napkin scribblings say Buffalo, Edmonton and San Jose will go with Hiller, Lehner and Niemi as their starters next season – in some order.
Now, how about the backups? With the news yesterday that Boston Bruins backup Niklas Svedberg has signed a one-year deal to play in the KHL with Salavat next season, here’s how the situation looks now. Teams projected to be looking for backups next season are Arizona (behind Mike Smith), Boston (behind Tuukka Rask), Columbus (behind Sergei Bobrovsky), Dallas (behind Kari Lehtonen), New York Islanders (behind Jaroslav Halak), Philadelphia (behind Steve Mason) and Pittsburgh (behind Marc-Andre Fleury). The most likely candidates for those jobs are goalies who filled those jobs this season. They’re pending UFAs and in some cases they’ll stay put. They are: Curtis McElhinney (Clb), Jonas Enroth (Dal), Michal Neuvirth (NYI), Ray Emery (Phi) and Thomas Greiss (Pit). Viktor Fasth is also a pending UFA who is not likely to re-sign in Edmonton.
Some top goaltending prospects who are almost ready and will push for backup jobs include, Boston’s Malcolm Subban, Colorado’s Calvin Pickard, Columbus’ Anton Forsberg, Edmonton’s Laurent Brossoit, Montreal’s Zach Fucale, Philadelphia’s Anthony Stolarz, Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, Washington’s Philipp Grubauer and Winnpeg’s Connor Hellebuyck.