Graphic by Doug Lorman
As teams are eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, many players are preparing for trips, but some of them will be heading to Las Vegas after the expansion draft. We’re going to begin our look into the crystal ball with goaltenders. Las Vegas, bound by the salary cap, must select three goaltenders for their team. They also must pick one player from each team. Players with No Movement Clauses (NMC) must be protected. Here’s our look at the Top 10 available goaltenders.
- Matt Murray – Pittsburgh – With Marc-Andre Fleury on the protected list, Murray would be at the top of anyone’s list even with the current injury. All he’s done this season is go 32-10-0-4 with 1074 saves on 1181 shots.
- Peter Budaj (or Andrei Vasilevskiy) – Honestly, Tampa Bay will more than likely keep Vasilevskiy, the 22-year-old even though they could roll the dice (pun intended) and protect the low-value contract of Budaj. But why would you keep a 34-year-old over a guy 12 years younger who is just as good? Budaj was 30-21-0-3 this season with a .915 save percentage while Vasilevskiy was 23-17-0-7 and .917.
- Jonathan Bernier – John Gibson should be the protected goaltender in Anaheim, exposing Bernier who was 21-7-0-4 this season with a .915 save percentage.
- Mike Condon – Condon spent time in both Pittsburgh and Ottawa this season and posted a record of 19-14-0-6 with a .914 save percentage. Ottawa should protect Craig Anderson.
- In Vancouver, they should also roll the dice and protect Jacob Markstrom leaving Ryan Miller exposed. Miller, at 36, probably wouldn’t be taken by Las Vegas with a $6,000,000 cap hit. It just may be a gamble worth taking for the Canucks. Miller was 18-29-0-6 this season with a .914 save percentage while Markstrom was 10-11-0-3 and .910 percent.
- Scott Darling in Chicago will be left unprotected since Corey Crawford has a NMC. Darling went 18-5-0-5 with a .924 save percentage. He’s worthy of perhaps a higher spot on this list, too, due to his contract, which is $587,500. Las Vegas can definitely afford a higher value goaltender (or skater) if they select Darling.
- Chad Johnson in Calgary will more than likely be left unprotected since the Flames also have Brian Elliott. Elliott fared better than Johnson this season, but Johnson’s numbers are pretty respectable too. He was 18-15-0-1 with a .910 save percentage.
- Ben Bishop also makes the list of best available goaltenders IF the Kings protect Jonathan Quick. Both guys are in their 30s, and have proven themselves in the league, but how old is too old for Las Vegas? Bishop, who came over from Tampa Bay, was 18-15-0-5 this season with a .910 save percentage. But the Kings could expose the oft-injured Quick thinking that Las Vegas won’t want to take that risk.
- Roberto Luongo – Florida could protect Luongo, but his age and the ability of James Reimer make that scenario a bit unlikely. Both have high dollar contracts, but Luongo’s is higher. His 17-15-0-6 record this season was just below Reimer’s. Luongo’s save percentage was .915 while Reimer’s was .920.
- Antti Raanta – The Rangers have to protect the King, Henrik Lundqvist, so Raanta is a really good option for Las Vegas. He was 18-16-0-5 on the season with a .920 save percentage. His contract is also a positive, at $1,000,000.
- Had to throw him on the list because all Caps fans are terrified he will be one of the three picked, but we’re all hoping he’s not. Philipp Grubauer DESERVES to be a #1 goaltender somewhere, but Caps fans’ hearts will break if he goes. He was 13-6-0-2 this season with a .926 save percentage. As a restricted free agent, he will need to get his qualifying offer prior to being placed on the unprotected list, so if Washington can find the $ (and we all know how much of an IF that is), he could stay right where he is.
Those are 11 pretty solid names to be the backstop of any team. Below is the chart of each team’s goaltending with our projected keeper first. Of course, since Las Vegas can only take one player from each team, the keepers they select will be contingent also upon which skaters they select. Stay tuned – it should be a very stressful time ahead.
For more information on contracts and to play around with the endless possibilities, head over to Cap Friendly and for information on the draft itself, please see our article on Expansion Draft Rules.
By Julie Beidler
— Beids (@juliebeidler) April 16, 2017