With Tim Thomas announcing that he’s taking a year off and Tomas Vokoun being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the pool of NHL goaltenders ripe for the signing got shallower this week.
As we approach the summer, and the July 1 free agency date, anticipate a big push by a handful of teams to acquire a new netminder; several clubs are either looking for a starter or backup/1A goaltender. Among those looking to fill the space between the pipes: Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Tampa Bay Lightning,
Here are the top 10 remaining goaltenders that either are or might be available this summer:
1. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks, 12-year deal (ends in 2021-22), $64,000,000
With Cory Schneider seemingly taking over the Canucks’ No. 1 goaltending position, Luongo has made it clear that he’d be willing to leave town for the right fit.
Luongo is coming off a regular season in which he had 31 wins, a 2.41 goals against average, a .919 save percentage and five shutouts. Unfortunately, he struggled a bit in the postseason, and that led to the team starting Schneider in the last two games of the first round against the Los Angeles Kings.
Though GM Mike Gillis is playing it tight to the vest, Luongo is easily the top netminder with the potential to move this summer. Luongo will have to waive his no-trade clause should the Canucks have a deal in place, and Luongo made it clear that he will do whatever he can to make it easier on the team. Eastern Conference teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers, or the Toronto Maple Leafs could be on Luongo’s wish list.
2. Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames, 6-year deal (ends in 2013-14), $35,000,000
With veteran Kiprusoff’s no-movement clause up on July 1 and with two years left on his six-year deal, the time might be right for the Flames to start rebuilding and trade their second biggest asset (first is Jarome Iginla). Despite missing the postseason, Kiprusoff had a solid year for the Flames with 35 wins, a 2.35 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and four shutouts.
Teams that Kiprusoff could go to are the Leafs, Lightning, Panthers, or maybe even the Chicago Blackhawks.
3. Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild, UFA, $750,000 previous salary
Before the trade deadline, the Minnesota Wild’s backup netminder was rumoured as a man on the block.
This will more than likely be the case this off-season as the Wild appear to be set in goal with Niklas Backstrom as the starter and youngster Matt Hackett primed and ready to be the team’s No. 2.
In 34 games last season, Harding went 13-12-4 with a 2.62 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and two shutouts. While there’s no doubt that Harding is talented, he is also injury-prone and has not played more than 34 games in six seasons with the Wild.
The financially flush Detroit Red Wings will be looking for someone to support netminder Jimmy Howard next season, and Harding’s name is one that came up as someone who could fill that role for the Red Wings.
4. Jonathan Bernier, Los Angeles Kings, 2-year deal (ends in 2012-13), $2,500,000
Based on the way Kings Vezina Trophy-nominated netminder Jonathan Quick played in the regular season and now the postseason, it appears that L.A. is set with their No. 1 man in goal for quite awhile.
The team’s backup, 23-year-old Bernier, appeared in just 16 games this season. He went 5-6-2 with a 2.36 goals against average, a .909 save percentage and one shutout.
With one year left on his two-year deal, Bernier has great trade value because of his age (23) and level of skill. Teams that might want to take a chance on Bernier? The Lightning, Blue Jackets, and Blackhawks.
5. Anders Lindback, Nashville Predators, 2-year deal ends this year, $1,375,000 previous deal
Much like Bernier in Los Angeles, Predators backup Lindback is playing behind a Vezina Trophy nominee in Pekka Rinne.
Lindback, 24, went 5-8 in 16 games with a 2.42 goals against average and a .912 save percentage. In his two seasons as Rinne’s backup, Lindback has played a total of 38 games.
Unfortunately for Lindback, the Preds always seem to have a young netminder waiting in the wings. Remember Dan Ellis in 2007-08 and then Rinner in 2008-09?
Luckily for Lindback, he has shown that he can play upwards of 20 games as a back-up and he is also just 24 years of age.
6. Johan Hedberg, New Jersey Devils, UFA, $1,250,000 previous deal (one year)
When you’re the backup for the New Jersey Devils and are playing under future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, you probably know that you will not see a ton of action.
Johan Hedberg, 39, has been more than solid for the Devils since joining them in 2010-11. Hedberg was especially impressive for the Devils this season as he went 17-7-2 with a 2.23 goals against average, a .918 save percentage and four shutouts.
With Brodeur, 40, leaning towards another year, the Devils will need to have a backup who can play upwards of at least 25 games; Brodeur cannot play all the time the way he used to. It would make sense for the Devils to bring Hedberg back considering how well he has played for the team in two seasons and how reliable and consistent he has been.
7. Martin Biron, New York Rangers, UFA, $1,750,000 previous deal
Playing under starting netminder Henrik Lundqvist the last two seasons, backup Biron has been a real trooper for the Blueshirts.
This past season, Biron, 34, went 12-6-2 with a 2.46 goals against average, a .904 save percentage and two shutouts. In his two seasons with the Rangers, he proved to the team that he could get the job done when it needed him to and that he was a more than reliable in a support role.
The Rangers will more than likely try to re-sign Biron, but if it doesn’t work out, the Red Wings are rumoured to be a good fit for the veteran.
8. Scott Clemmensen, Florida Panthers, UFA, $3,600,000 for three years previous deal
In his seven years in the NHL, Florida Panthers UFA Clemmensen has held both the backup and starting positions with the New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs and, most recently, Florida Panthers.
Clemmensen, 34, played 30 games this season and went 14-6-6 with a 2.57 goals against average, a .913 save percentage and a shutout. His strong play down the stretch was one of the reasons why the Panthers were able to make the postseason this year for the first time in 12 years.
While it is yet to be determined if the Panthers will try and bring him back, other teams might want to take a look at him because he has proven that he is capable of being both a starting and back-up netminder. Clemmensen can play over 30 games a year and would be a terrific goaltending depth move for any club that might need it.
9. Chris Mason, Winnipeg Jets, UFA, $3,700,000 for two years previous deal
While it’s obvious that Jets backup netminder Mason is not getting any younger at age 36, he’s still a netminder that can play in upwards of 20 games and provide stability between the pipes.
In 20 games this season, Mason went 8-7-1 with a 2.59 goals against average, a .898 save percentage and 2 shutouts. He did a good job of relieving Jets’ starting netminder Ondrej Pavelec every once in awhile and was also a good leader in the locker room for the young Jets.
It would be wise for the Jets to bring him back at a reasonable price but if they cannot, a team like the Columbus Blue Jackets could use him to help struggling and young netminder Steve Mason get his game back in order.
10. Dominik Hasek, UFA
This is a wild card if there ever was one. Former Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, and Ottawa Senators netminder Dominik Hasek has expressed an interest in returning to hockey’s greatest league.
At 47 years of age, no one is sure what the living legend is capable of accomplishing in the NHL at this point. In 2010-11, as the goaltender for HC Spartak Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League, the “Dominator” went 23-18-3 with a 2.45 goals against average, a .915 save percentage and led the league with seven shutouts.
There are current players in the NHL who actually think the former Hart Trophy winner could make the cut as a legitimate backup, even in his dotage. A true wildcard for any team brave/crazy enough to take a chance.