After the Washington Capitals signed goaltender Ilya Samsonov to a one-year, $2 million contract on Monday, they have just $2.72 million committed to goaltending for this season. This brings the question of whether that price tag is a bargain or a sign of weakness. NoVa Caps looks at where the Capitals goalie tandem among NHL teams and how much having one of the best costs.
1. Montreal Canadiens – $13.38 million
With Carey Price (who carries a $10 million cap hit, the highest among goalies) on the team, it makes sense that the Canadiens are No. 1 on this list. Add that to one of the best back-ups/1B goalies in Jake Allen and it should be no surprise that this is the league’s most expensive tandem. Price and Allen combined for a .8956 save percentage last season (27th in NHL), including .9137 at five-on-five (21st) and .8614 on the penalty kill (19th). Considering Price led them to the Stanley Cup Final this past season, there is reason to believe that the Canadiens are fine with this for right now. Price and Allen combined for a 23-19-10 record last season.
2. Florida Panthers – $10.93 million
The Panthers are second because they have the most expensive back-up in Sergei Bobrovsky, who finished last season with a .906 save percentage (including .914 at five-on-five and .863 on the penalty kill) while Spencer Knight is on his entry-level contract, who post a .920 save percentage (including .938 at five-on-five and .778 while shorthanded). Bobrovsky would be expensive to buy out or move, so Florida will have to hope he returns to his peak performance. Bobrovsky and Knight combined to go 23-8-2 (with Knight going 4-0-0) last season.
3. Tampa Bay Lightning – $10.4 million
$9.5 million of this is taken up by reigning Conn Smythe winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, who recorded a .925 save percentage during the regular season (including a .880 on the penalty kill and .933 at five-on-five). Brian Elliott, who signed a one-year contract with the Lightning last month, posted an .889 save percentage last season (.895 at five-on-five and .853 while shorthanded). After Vasilevskiy led the Lightning to back-to-back Stanley Cups and has been among the NHL’s leaders in wins, save percentage, and goals-against average over the past three seasons, the Lightning are getting him at a relative bargain price. The two netminders combined to go 46-19-3 last season.
4. Dallas Stars – $10.25 million
After signing Braden Holtby, who recorded an .889 save percentage (including .878 on the penalty kill and .892 at 5-on-5), to a one-year, $2 million contract, the Stars have four goalies under contract. Sophomore Jake Oettinger will likely be with the AHL’s Texas Stars, with Anton Khudobin (.905; .920 at five-on-five and .853 on the penalty kill) likely to continue as the Dallas starter. They also have Ben Bishop, who missed last season due to a knee injury and recorded a save percentage of at least .920 in each of his previous two seasons. If Bishop is healthy enough to return, Khudobin or Bishop could be dealt ahead of the start of the regular season, which would clear either $3.33 million (Khudobin’s cap hit) or $4.9 million (Bishop’s) in cap space. Holtby and Khudobin went a combined 19-22-10 last season and Oettinger went 11-8-7 with a .911 save percentage.
5. Seattle Kraken – $9.4 million
After signing Philipp Grubauer (.922 save percentage with the Colorado Avalanche last season, including .921 at five-on-five and .909 on the penalty kill) and Chris Driedger (.927 with Florida Panthers, including .942 at five-on-five and .880 while shorthanded), the Kraken have perhaps the best goalie tandem in the NHL for their inaugural season — and one of the most expensive. Grubauer and Driedger went a combined 44-15-3
6. New York Rangers – $8.1 million
After signing Igor Shesterkin (.916 save percentage, .848 on the penalty kill, .927 at five-on-five) to a four-year contract on Monday, the Rangers come in at No. 6. Alexander Georgiev posted a .905 save percentage (including .916 at five-on-five and .891 while shorthanded) a season ago. The two worked together to go 24-21-5 in 2020-21.
7. Chicago Blackhawks -$7.8 million
After trading for Marc-Andre Fleury, who recorded a .928 save percentage (including .929 at five-on-five and .900 on the penalty kill) with the Vegas Golden Knights last season, the Blackhawks have gone from the outhouse to penthouse in terms of spending on goaltenders. Rookie Kevin Lankinen posted a .909 save percentage, including .924 at five-on-five and .833 while shorthanded). Fleury and Lankinen combined to post a 43-24-5 record last season. The Blackhawks also have Malcolm Subban as a netminding option.
8. New Jersey Devils – $7.75 million
The Devils brought in Jonathan Bernier (.914 save percentage with the Detroit Red Wings last season, including .923 at five-on-five, .868 on the penalty kill) to back up MacKenzie Blackwood (.902, including .914 at five-on-five, .825 while shorthanded) this offseason. Blackwood and Bernier combined to go 23-28-5 last season.
9. Edmonton Oilers – $7.49 million
How much the Oilers spend on their goaltending does not necessarily reflect their tendies’ prowess as Mikko Koskinen posted an .899 save percentage (including .903 at five-on-five and .880 on the penalty kill). Fortunately for Edmonton, Mike Smith turned in an admirable season (.923 save percentage, including .927 at five-on-five and .906 on the penalty kill). They also have Alex Stalock (who posted a .910 save percentage in 38 games with the Minnesota Wild in 2019-20) and Stuart Skinner as options. Smith and Koskinen combined to go 34-19-2 last season.
10. Anaheim Ducks – $7.35 million
John Gibson (.903 save percentage, including .918 at five-on-five and .855 on the penalty kill) takes up a large chunk of this. Anthony Stolarz recorded a .926 save percentage last season, including .925 at 5-on-5 and .939 on the penalty kill. The two worked together to record a 13-22-7 record last season.
11. Vegas Golden Knights – $7.3 million
After trading Fleury, the Golden Knights signed Laurent Brossoit, who pitched a .918 save percentage (including .921 at five-on-five and .912 on the penalty kill) in 14 games with the Winnipeg Jets last season, to back-up Robin Lehner, who recorded a .913 save percentage in 19 (.908 at five-on-five, .918 with a man down). Lehner and Brossoit combined to go 19-10-2 last season.
12. Ottawa Senators – $7.15 million
The Senators gave Matt Murray, who recorded an .893 save percentage (including .902 at five-on-five/.864 while shorthanded) in his first season in Ottawa, a huge extension after acquiring him from the Pittsburgh Penguins in October 2020. However, it was Filip Gustavsson (.933, including .946 at five-on-five and .897 on the penalty kill), who was also acquired in a trade with the Penguins, that took over the Ottawa net down the stretch. Gustavsson and Murray went a combined 15-14-3 a season ago.
13. Winnipeg Jets – $6.92 million
Connor Hellebuyck posted a .916 save percentage last season, including .925 at five-on-five and .880 with a man down, while Eric Comrie appeared in just one game with the Devils. Hellebuyck also went 24-17-3.
14. Columbus Blue Jackets – $6.8 million
Joonas Korpisalo, who posted an .894 save percentage (including .905 at five-on-five/.825 on the penalty kill), could be traded prior to the start of the season to help the Blue Jackets get a much-needed forward. Elvis Merzlikins posted a .916 save percentage, including .920 at five-on-five and .893 while shorthanded. Korpisalo and Merzlikins went a combined 17-25-12 a year ago.
15. St. Louis Blues/Calgary Flames – $6.75 million
For the Blues, Jordan Binnington earned a .910 save percentage last season, including .921 at 5-on-5 and .893 on the penalty kill, while Villie Husso posted an .893 save percentage (.904 at five-on-five and .842 while shorthanded). The two would go 27-20-9 last season.
For the Flames, Jacob Markstrom turned in a .904 save percentage (including .917 at five-on-five and .844 on the penalty kill) while Dan Vladar tallied one of .886 (.896 at five-on-five and .828 while shorthanded) in just five games with the Boston Bruins. Markstrom and Vladar went a combined 24-21-3 last season.
17. Los Angeles Kings – $6.66 million
Cal Petersen posted a .911 save percentage last season, including .920 at five-on-five and .890 on the penalty kill, while Jonathan Quick finished with an .898 save percentage (.890 at five-on-five, .910 on the penalty kill). The two combined for a 20-27-7 record in 2020-21.
18. Detroit Red Wings – $6.6 million
After getting acquired in a trade from the Carolina Hurricanes, Alex Nedeljkovic, who earned a league-leading .932 save percentage last season (including .945 at five-on-five and .895 on the penalty kill), signed a two-year contract as a restricted free agent. Thomas Greiss posted a .912 save percentage in his first season with the Red Wings, including .928 at five-on-five and .841 on the PK. Nedeljkovic and Greiss put up a combined 23-20-11 record last season.
19. Vancouver Canucks/Carolina Hurricanes – $6.5 million
For the Canucks, Thatcher Demko posted a .915 save percentage last season, including .923 at five-on-five and .865 on the penalty kill. Newly signed Jaroslav Halak earned one of .905 (.924 at five-on-five and .865 on the penalty kill) with the Boston Bruins last season. Halak and Demko combined to go 25-24-5 with their respective teams last season.
The Hurricanes made their goal crease over this offseason as they traded Nedeljkovic and signed Antti Raanta (.905; .920 at five-on-five, .884 on the penalty kill with the Arizona Coyotes) and Frederik Andersen (.895; .920 at five-on-five, .793 on the penalty kill with the Toronto Maple Leafs) in free agency. Raanta and Andersen combined to go 18-13-5 last season.
21. Philadelphia Flyers – $5.98 million
Carter Hart, who re-signed with the team on a three-year contract on Monday, had a disaster of a 2020-21 season, where he tallied an .877 save percentage (including .887 at five-on-five, .781 on the penalty kill). Last season with the San Jose Sharks, Martin Jones finished it with an .896 save percentage (.907 at five-on-five, .837 on the penalty kill) for the third year in a row. Hart and Jones went a combined 23-24-9 last campaign.
22. Boston Bruins – $5.93 million
The Bruins are another team that had a makeover in net this offseason as they brought in Linus Ullmark, who posted a .917 save percentage (including .937 at five-on-five and .860 while shorthanded), to work with rookie Jeremy Swayman, who earned a .945 save percentage (.951 at five-on-five and .900 with a man down) in 10 NHL games last season. Swayman and Ullmark combined to go 16-9-3 a year ago.
23. Colorado Avalanche – $5.5 million
After losing Grubauer in free agency, the Avalanche replaced him with Darcy Kuemper (.907, including .911 at five-on-five and .879 on the penalty kill). Pavel Francouz did not play last season and earned a .943 save percentage in 34 games in 2019-20. Kuemper went 10-11-3 in 2020-21.
24. Toronto Maple Leafs – $5.45M million
The Maple Leafs are another team that made changes in net as they lost Andersen and David Rittich in free agency and brought in Petr Mrazek, who finished last season with a .923 save percentage (.944 at five-on-five and .913 on the penalty kill) in 12 games with the Hurricanes. Starter Jack Campbell turned in a .921 save percentage, including .928 at five-on-five and .913 with a man down, in a breakout season last year where he grabbed the No. 1 job in Toronto. Campbell and Mrazek combined for a 23-5-5 record in 2020-21.
25. New York Islanders – $5 million
Their current spending on goaltending will not be where they end up going into this season with as Ilya Sorokin, who turned in a .918 save percentage (.920 at five-on-five and .895 on the penalty kill) in his rookie campaign, needs a new contract. Semyon Varlamov finished last season with a .929 save percentage (.937 at five-on-five, .881 while shorthanded). The two combined for a 32-17-6 record last season.
26. Pittsburgh Penguins – $4.75 million
Tristan Jarry finished his first season as the starter in Pittsburgh with a .909 save percentage (.923 at five-on-five, .835 while shorthanded) while Casey DeSmith posted a .912 (.924 at five-on-five, .838 on the penalty kill). The two went 36-16-3 last season.
27. San Jose Sharks – $4.43 million
The Sharks made major changes in the net as they bought Jones’ contract out and acquired Adin Hill, who earned a .913 save percentage (including .913 at five-on-five, .915 on the penalty kill) in 19 games last season, from the Coyotes and James Reimer (.906; .921 at five-on-five and .856 while shorthanded), who spent last season with the Carolina Hurricanes. Hill and Reimer combined for a 24-14-2 record a year ago.
28. Minnesota Wild – $4.39 million
Cam Talbot earned a .915 save percentage (.926 at five-on-five, .888 while shorthanded) in his first season in Minnesota while Kaapo Kahkonen posted a .902 save percentage (.908 at five-on-five, .854 while shorthanded) in his rookie NHL season. Kahkonen and Talbot posted a combined 35-16-5 last season.
29. Washington Capitals – $2.72 million
Samsonov finished a season plagued by time on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list as he finished the year with a .902 save percentage, including .911 at five-on-five and .871 while shorthanded. Vitek Vanecek earned a a .908 save percentage in his rookie season (.918 save percentage at five-on-five, .867 on the penalty kill). Samsonov and Vanecek earned a 34-14-5 record between the two.
30. Buffalo Sabres/Arizona Coyotes – $1.5 million
The Sabres were another team that overhauled their goal crease, but not for the better. In just four regular-season games with the Capitals last season, Craig Anderson posted a .915 save percentage, including .926 at five-on-five and .857 on the penalty kill. Aaron Dell posted an .857 save percentage, including .880 at five-on-five and .720 while shorthanded, in seven games with the New Jersey Devils. They also have Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who earned save percentages of .906 in four NHL games, .908 in 13 Liiga games, and .888 in 14 AHL games last season. Anderson and Dell turned in just a 3-6-0 record last season.
The Coyotes got rid of all three of their goaltenders from last season and head into this year with Carter Hutton (.886 save percentage, including .886 at five-on-five and .881 while shorthanded in 13 games with the Sabres last season) and Josef Kosenar (.899 save percentage, including .907 at five-on-five and .871 on the penalty kill in 10 NHL games with the Sharks; .905 save percentage in 11 games in the Czech league; and .898 save percentage in eight AHL games). However, the Coyotes’ makeover in goal is for good reason as they got a first-round pick, a second-round pick, a third-round pick, and right-handed defenseman Connor Timmins for their rebuild by trading Kuemper and Hill. Hutton and Kosenar posted a 4-15-1 record together last season.
32. Nashville Predators – $1.25 million
This number will jump significantly before the season starts. After Pekka Rinne retired, the team signed David Rittich, who posted a .901 save percentage (including .917 at five-on-five and .808 on the penalty kill) in 19 games with the Flames and Maple Leafs last season, to back-up Jusse Saros, who earned a .927 save percentage (.945 at five-on-five, .820 on the penalty kill) last season. Saros is a restricted free agent who has an arbitration hearing set for Wednesday, August 18 and he will likely have a high cap hit after the season he just turned in, so expect the Predators to go up on this list relatively soon. Rittich and Saros combined for a 26-19-3 record in 2020-21.
Two of the top three teams in this category made the Stanley Cup Final last season while one (the Panthers) lost to the eventual Cup winner, though the Lightning have changed half of theirs. Half of the top-10 and 16, respectively, did not make the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs while seven of the bottom-10 did. The top-1o teams spend an average of $9.285 million on their goalie tandem (keep in mind for the 2021-22 season) while the bottom-10 spend an average of $3.649 million.
Right now, the Capitals are not in good company as they could potentially be ahead of only the Sabres and Coyotes, two rebuilding teams, in spending on goalies after Saros re-signs with the Predators. With that being said, their goaltending is not at the same tier as the Sabres and the Coyotes. Like the Capitals, top teams such as the Avalanche and Bruins are not spending much on goaltending entering this season and they don’t have a bad tandem, just a young one. Both Samsonov and Vanecek will become restricted free agents on July 1, so their current budget on goaltending will last just this season (barring a trade) and both netminders gained some experience last season. Will they need to improve to salvage another Cup in the Alex Ovechkin era? We’ll have to see.
By Harrison Brown