Goalies are a hot commodity leading up to free agency as 14 teams are currently looking for one, whether it is a starter or a back-up. After four pending free agent goalies re-signed with their respective clubs so far this weekend, the market deteriorated for those teams, which include the Washington Capitals as Braden Holtby will test free agency on October 9 and sophomore Ilya Samsonov will enter the 2020-21 season as the No. 1 goalie. After Samsonov tweaked his nerve and missed the whole Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals will obviously need a veteran to take up around 35 starts next season.
The Vegas Golden Knights re-signed Robin Lehner to a five-year contract that carries a cap hit of $5 million, the Philadelphia Flyers extended Brian Elliott’s contract (which will pay him $1.5 million) by a year, the Pittsburgh Penguins signed pending restricted free agent Tristan Jarry to a three-year contract that will come with a $3.5 million cap hit, and the Winnipeg Jets signed back-up Laurent Brossoit to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. That takes three pending unrestricted free agent goaltenders off of the unrestricted free agent market.
Also, the Dallas Stars are trying to re-sign pending unrestricted free agent Anton Khudobin after he led them to the Stanley Cup Final as he went 14-10 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.69 goals-against average in the NHL return-to-play format. He led the NHL with a .930 save percentage during the regular season.
Even after a lot of high-profile goalies were taken off of the market, it appears to be one of the best in years as the top pending UFA goaltenders include: Khudobin, Holtby, Corey Crawford, Henrik Lundqvist, Jacob Markstrom, Cam Talbot, and Thomas Greiss.
In addition, plenty of teams could trade a netminder as the Columbus Blue Jackets (could move either Joonas Korpisalo or Elvis Merzlikins) are trying to upgrade their forward group, the Arizona Coyotes (could trade Darcy Kuemper) want to acquire a first-round pick after being penalized by the NHL, the Carolina Hurricanes (could deal Petr Mrazek) have a desire to upgrade the position, the Golden Knights and Penguins may find new homes for their 1B goalies in Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray, respectively, after signing Lehner and Jarry, and rumors sparked on Friday night about the Minnesota Wild talking to the San Jose Sharks about Devan Dubnyk.
Sharks GM Doug Wilson expressed a desire to get a goaltender who can work in a tandem with Martin Jones as backup Aaron Dell is set to become an unrestricted free agent on Friday and his team’s .9012 save percentage was the worst in the NHL during the regular season. However, he may not be willing to give up the 31st overall pick in the NHL Draft on Tuesday after losing the third in the trade that landed them defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators.
It was also released earlier this week that the Detroit Red Wings will not re-sign pending UFA goaltender Jimmy Howard.
As you could see, a solid No. 2 goalie will be needed for next season due to a more compressed schedule (that will feature more back-to-backs) and injuries.
Out of the goalies available on the UFA market, here are the top fits for the Capitals:
- Mike Smith
While the past couple days have left the Capitals and 13 other teams with less appealing options heading into free agency on Friday, there are still a few good ones left and it doesn’t stop there as plenty of big names are on the trade block. How it shakes out will be fascinating to watch. As the NHL Draft and free agency approach in the coming week, there is plenty to keep an eye on with the goalie market being one of them.
By Harrison Brown