One of the more interesting things to follow in free agency will be seeing how the goaltending carousal plays out.
If you’re a GM looking for some help between the pipes, there are plenty of options. For a goaltender’s perspective, though, this class is worrisome in that there are quite a few quality goaltenders available and lots of good backups, but there are only 9-10 jobs available.
If a goaltender like Miller starts pricing himself out of consideration for some teams, he may be forced to sign for much less than you’d expect just to land a job.
In this post we’ll be looking at the top-10 goaltenders that could be available. Standard stats such as save percentage will be used along with personal opinion.
Honorable mentions: Ray Emery, Evgeni Nabokov
10. Tim Thomas – Dallas Stars – 40-years old
Prior contract: one year, $3.75 million ($2.5M cap hit)
Thomas had some great seasons in Boston, but at 40 his best days are certainly behind him.
His .908 save percentage last season wasn’t inspiring, but because of his past successes he may be able to land as a backup somewhere.
9. Justin Peters – Carolina Hurricanes – 27
Prior contract: two years, $1.075 million ($537K cap hit)
Peters is coming off a real nice bounce back season with Carolina where he posted a .919SV% in 21 games. Due to a numbers game – the Hurricanes have Anton Khudobin and Cam Ward – Peters will not be brought back but he could be a nice backup option for a team looking for a cheap goaltender.
8. Ilya Bryzgalov – Minnesota Wild – 34-years old
Prior contract: one year, $2 million ($2M cap hit)
Bryzgalov is no longer a starting caliber goaltender, but he would still make for a good backup at this point in his career. He posted a respectable .910 save percentage in 2013-14 with Edmonton and Minnesota, and he was able to help the Wild beat the Avalanche in the playoffs when Darcy Kuemper went down.
He probably wouldn’t cost much, and he could be good insurance option to have.
7. Thomas Greiss – Phoenix Coyotes – 28
Prior contract: one year, $750,000 ($750K cap hit)
Greiss has bounced around quite a bit over the last few seasons – he’s set to join his 3rd team in as many years – but he’s actually been a pretty good NHL goaltender throughout his career.
Dating back to 2011, Griess has posted save percentages of .915, .915, and most recently .920 in 25 games with the Coyotes. Those are above average numbers every year (league average is about .913SV%) so he should catch on somewhere, especially still being young.
6. Martin Brodeur – New Jersey Devils – 42-years old
Prior contract: two years, $9 million ($4.5M cap hit)
At this point what many people consider the best goaltender of all-time is not much more than a spot starter. He’s posted a save percentage below league average in four consecutive seasons now, and the last two seasons he has a .901SV%, so he’s struggled to stay on the good side of .900.
Brodeur can handle the puck exceptionally well and make a good breakout pass so I have him ranked this high more so for that than his ability to stop the puck. I think on a good team he’d still be a solid spot starter, but if a team is considering giving him a starting job they shouldn’t expect to make the playoffs.
5. Al Montoya – Winnipeg Jets – 29-years old
Prior contract: one year, $601,000 ($601K cap hit)
Montoya’s career has been a bit of a roller coaster in that he’s bounced around from team to team and never become the quality starter he was projected to be when drafted, but he seems to finally be figuring it out. In 28 games with a mediocre Jets team last season Montoya was able to post a .920 save percentage and give the team a chance to win more often than not.
If you’re looking for a goaltender to backup and start 25-30 games he could be a nice add.
4. Chad Johnson – Boston Bruins – 28-years old
Prior contract: one year, $600,000 ($600K cap hit)
Chad Johnson is the best free agent goaltender that most people don’t know about. In 27 starts with the Bruins last season Johnson posted a .925SV%, which ranked 1st among all free agent goaltenders. Whether he could carry the starting load or even play 40+ games remains to be seen, but he’s proven to be a very good spot starter if nothing else. He’d also come cheap to any team, and at 28 he still has plenty left in the tank.
3. Tomas Vokoun – Pittsburgh Penguins – 37-years old
Prior contract: two years, $2 million ($4M cap hit)
Vokoun is one of the most underrated and underappreciated goaltenders of this era. He’s posted a save percentage of .919 or better in all but one season (.917SV%) since 2005 and has consistently been near the top of the league in that regard.
He didn’t play a game last season as he had some health issues, but he appears to be fully clear and ready to go for next year. Goaltenders tend to age well compared to regular players, and given his track record I’d definitely be willing to take a shot on him.
2. Jonas Hiller – Anaheim Ducks – 32-years old
Prior contract: four years, $18 million ($4.5M cap hit)
Hiller hasn’t been the same goaltender since his vertigo issues a couple years ago, but he’s still a capable starter and has done quite well in Anaheim throughout his career.
Hiller has 162 wins in 326 career starts, and a career save percentage of .916, which is above league average.
He likely wouldn’t command close to as much as Miller, and to a team looking for a reasonably priced starting option, Hiller could be the perfect fit.
1. Ryan Miller – St. Louis Blues – 33-years old
Prior contract: five years, $31.25 million ($6.25M cap hit)
After a very good start to the season where Miller posted a .923 save percentage in 40 starts with a very poor Buffalo Sabres team, the wheels sort of fell off when he was given a change of scenery and traded to the St. Louis Blues.
He had a .903 save percentage – which is well below league average – in 19 regular season starts for St. Louis, and looked leaky at times in a 4-2 series loss to the Blackhawks where his .897SV%.
Luckily for Miller, he consistently posts save percentages above league average and still looks to be the best goaltender in this class, so he should do well for himself in free agency.