This summer could feature the busiest market for goalies in a long time, as there are many teams who could potentially make changes between the pipes.
The Calgary Flames could likely begin the season with an ECHL-level duo in Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio, but don’t expect them to make any moves in net, as their lack of a #1 will help their chances at snagging Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in the 2015 draft. The Wild have many question marks surrounding their goalies, as Niklas Backstrom is an injury waiting to happen, Josh Harding has his health issues, and Ilya Bryzgalov is a UFA, leaving them with Darcy Kuemper. Do the Canucks and Ducks feel comfortable enough to alternate between their young goalies, or do they move one in search of veteran talent (Seems unlikely the Ducks move either John Gibson or Frederik Andersen though)? Also, there are numerous clubs that could say sayonara to their unreliable, veteran keepers. Do the Hurricanes move on from Cam Ward, who has struggled to stay healthy since 2010? Will the Penguins trade Marc-Andre Fleury to free up cap space to better their bottom-six and find a more steady hand in goal? Finally, will Jets fans get their wish with the team finally moving on from the mediocre play of Ondrej Pavelec?
Instead of trying to figure the endless amount of “what-ifs?” for goalies who could be dealt, I’ll stick to looking at only a few “what-ifs?,” in those who we know for sure are destined to become UFA’s come July 1st.
Miller was left the odd-man-out when Blues GM Doug Armstrong announced St. Louis would be going with a tandem of Brian Elliot and Jake Allen next season, this coming after Miller’s time in St. Louis was less than stellar. Miller’s SV% dropped from .923% on an awful Sabres team, to .903% in 19 regular season games with the Blues, and fell even further to .897% in the playoffs. I wonder if Miller’s lack of playoff success will hinder his leverage in negotiations, not to mention the fact he’s already 33. He hasn’t been past the first round since 2007 in three playoff trips (2010, 2011, 2014), and though he posted good numbers in 2010, he was fairly average in 2011. Then again, that was on an average Buffalo team. No matter what his past playoff numbers have been, Miller will be the most sought after free agent goalie. The most likely destination could be Minnesota. Forget about inking Thomas Vanek to a deal, the Wild have $23 million in cap space, leaving them enough to go after Miller to solve their goalie issues, and enough to re-sign UFA Matt Moulson. The Capitals could also be in the mix. They don’t have as much money to spend as Minny, but they’ve never been 100% faithful in Braden Holtby, and if they still think the lineup they have is playoff worthy, Miller could be their best option to improve. The Penguins could be an outside possibility, but that would depend on them moving Fleury and signing Miller to a deal that would be close to the $6.25 million a year he makes now. I’ve heard rumblings he could go to the Sharks as well, but I doubt San Jose will give up on Antti Niemi just yet.
It’s likely Hiller’s time in Anaheim is over. With the Ducks possessing the aforementioned super-rookie John Gibson, as well as Freddy Andersen, it’s doubtful they will shell out a rumoured $6 million a year for Hiller, and will likely spend it on balancing the offensive distribution. It’s likely that between Minnesota and Washington, the team that doesn’t land Miller will pursue Hiller. The big question remains though: is Hiller worth at least $6 million a year? His SV% has continually been in the bottom third of the league among starters, and that’s while playing for one of the top teams in the NHL. So who’s going to dish out that kind of money to sign him?
Brodeur may be the most interesting name on the market. It’s clear the NHL’s all-time leader in wins and shutouts still wants to play, but it’s 99.9% sure that he will not be in New Jersey next season. Father Time is catching up to the 42-year old Brodeur, and he hasn’t posted a SV% above .910 since 2009-10, but Brodeur could still be valuable as a backup. Only problem, Brodeur stated he will only backup a Stanley Cup contending team. The problem for Marty is that of the final four teams in this years playoffs, the only one who could use a change at the backup position is Chicago, meaning Marty may have to change his desired location to “playoff team.” Maybe he could wind up in Philly if they choose to let Ray Emery walk? Maybe even Boston if they cannot re-sign Chad Johnson? Also, what will Marty be willing to take in terms of a pay cut, as there’s no way he will have a $4.5 million cap hit as he did this year in Jersey.
There are also plenty of strong backup options available. If a team wants to ink a veteran, Ilya Bryzgalov (whose value will be up after a positive playoff performance in Minnesota), Ray Emery, and Tim Thomas will be available. Of the younger #2′s, look for Chad Johnson and Thomas Greiss to get sizable raises after superb seasons in Boston and Phoenix respectively. Other options include San Jose’s Alex Stalock and Winnipeg’s Al Montoya, as well as a couple of AHLer’s who have led their teams deep in the playoffs, including Texas’ Chris Nilstorp and Toronto’s Drew MacIntyre.
Photo credits: theinquisitr.com and zimbio.com