2018 NHL Free Agents: Restricted Free Agent Goalies

2018 NHL Free Agents: Restricted Free Agent Goalies

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NHL restricted free agent goaltenders Connor Hellebuyck – Philipp Grubaur – Jusse Saros

The offseason is close at hand. Three of the more prominent restricted free agent forwards from the Pacific Division were under the spotlight here. Now, we continue with a forgotten position. The goalies take center stage.

There are quite a few intriguing RFA’s out there. Here are three who could, err, should see a bigger paycheck.

NHL Restricted Free Agents – Goalies

Connor Hellebuyck – Winnipeg Jets
His 2017-18 salary was only $2.25 million. He led all restricted free agent goalies with 67 games played. Hellebuyck topped the league with 44 wins in 64 starts. The other numbers were solid as well. He posted a 2.36 GAA and .924 save percentage with six shutouts.
The even greater news is that the Winnipeg goalie put it all together this year. Winnipeg was able to get to the Western Conference Final before they fell to the Vegas Golden Knights. Along the way, Winnipeg upended a Stanley Cup Final favorite in the Nashville Predators.

How much is Hellebuyck worth to Winnipeg or to projections?

Keep in mind, he is 25-years old. The progression in his numbers seemed illogical. This year was a huge step. He handled a heavy workload and produced an impressive .901 save percentage on the penalty kill. This also included a league-leading goalie point share of 14. Hellebuyck was nominated as a Vezina Trophy finalist for best goaltender.

Hellebuyck exceeded expectations with an increased role under full usage. Matt Cane again provides us with his numbers for expected salary and term this UFA and RFA season. The Winnipeg goalie is expected to see a four-year deal at around $6.7 million AAV. It is possible Hellebuyck is given an even longer deal for a few more dollars per season.

Philipp Grubauer – Washington Capitals

The 26-year-old goalie emerged to help lead Washington to another division title. Grubauer played in 35 games and started in 28. That included 15 wins, a 2.35 GAA, and .923 save percentage. He earned $1.500,000 for the 2017-18 campaign.

One concern was his two-game stint in the playoffs. On the other hand, Grubauer’s body of work was too good overall. His quality save percentage over the last two seasons was .681. That is a great stat for a backup. Furthermore, his consistency is that of a goalie around a .925 save percentage. Penalty kill numbers hovered around average for the goaltender. Even strength statistics were in the top 5 percentile among backups.

Grubauer showed an ability to stay focused despite Braden Holtby taking the lion’s share of the load. That paid off when Grubauer started nine crucial games down the stretch (winning seven). This showed that the backup had grown in his development.

Do the Capitals bridge Grubauer? Could he see a raise that is more modest? That is plausible. He may due to contracts to other free agents from a Stanley Cup finalist. Projections suggest a two-year deal with an AAV of close to $3.5 million. A longer term contract would buy a few years of unrestricted free agency. However, that may be money Washington does not want to spend yet.

Juuse Saros – Nashville Predators

Alas, Saros still has to wait his turn with Pekka Rinne the starter in Nashville. Despite that, the young goalie showed his mettle. His penchant for performing well in all situations became noticed. His .902 penalty kill save percentage on a team that took among the most penalties spoke volumes. Overall, Saros posted 11 wins in 23 starts with a 2.45 GAA and .925 save percentage.

He saw many different situations as a backup and even mopped up in the playoffs stopping 40 of 42 shots in 114 minutes of action. Nashville arguably has their more consistent goalie waiting in the wings. Whenever Pekka Rinne is deemed not the number one, it will be Saros that takes over the reins.

Nashville expects to give Saros a one- or two-year deal, which makes sense. What raise could he see in his next contract? Expect a nice raise from his previous $692,500 cap hit ($925,000 AAV). Matt Cane projects a two-year bridge with approximate AAV of $2.44 million. Saros may become the starter in the next couple seasons as Pekka Rinne is approaching 36. The young Finnish goaltender, while just 23, plays at a level of a veteran. Nashville’s future is close at hand and window likely open for some time to come.