The NHL Goaltending Carousel

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 3:04 am by Jonathan Willis

Antti Niemi2

We’re approaching what could be a pretty slow summer for goalie moves. There really aren’t that many No. 1 candidates approaching free agency or plausibly available via trade; at the same time 80 percent of the league – 24 teams – has a legitimate starter under contract and two more clubs have one entering restricted free agency.

The List

The following chart is colour-coded in the same manner as the NHL Numbers team pages, with pending unrestricted free agents in red and restricted free agents in green.

Goalie carousel 3.28.15

We can also add college and European goalies to the list; doubtless one or two of them will compete for a backup job in the NHL next year.

By my count, there are four teams that potentially need a new starting goaltender: Buffalo, Edmonton, Minnesota and San Jose. We can probably add Arizona as being interested in the right situation, but Mike Smith’s contract makes adding nay expensive option difficult; the team is probably more likely to try something similar to what it did last summer with Devan Dubnyk, particularly since another year at the bottom of the standings probably won’t hurt the Coyotes any.

There are at least that many candidates. Free agents Dubnyk and Antti Niemi are likely to claim two of the four jobs, with a good guess being that Dubnyk stays in Minnesota and Niemi lands one of the other open jobs. There are also several current backups slotted for free agency who might be of interest as starters – Karri Ramo, Jonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth and perhaps even Thomas Greiss (87 career games, 0.914 save percentage).

There are also several younger players under contract who might get a shot. If Toronto opts to trade Jonathan Bernier, they might simply promote James Reimer. Eddie Lack in Vancouver has another year on his deal but will then be a UFA; a trade this summer would not be surprising. Ottawa has three good goalies and one of them is virtually certain to be moved. Petr Mrazek, Martin Jones and Andrei Vasilevskiy are all highly-regarded young goalies behind established starters and could plausibly be in play as a result; Cam Talbot is a little older but has been outstanding in relief of Henrik Lundqvist in New York.

As usual, it appears this summer will be a buyer’s market for goalies.