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NHL Free Agency Targets: Goalies

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With Free Agency beginning Sunday, July 1, we take a look at potential goalie targets across the NHL landscape. The Blue Jackets have already made minor moves.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Washington Capitals at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Sergei Bobrovsky is entering his contract season and those among the fan base may be somewhat split on the potential future of ‘Bob’ and another reunion with the Jackets going forward.

But I’ll pose the question simply:

Are you ready to pay upwards of $10 million per year for a goalie?

The accolades are off the charts. Bobrovsky leads the Blue Jackets franchise with 176 wins, all since joining Columbus prior to the 2012-13 season. He’s number one in games played (312), games started (308), SV% (.923), GAA (2.37) and shutouts (24).

The best goaltender in Blue Jackets history, and among the best players overall to suit up for Columbus, he has also joined the list of elite goalies across the NHL, winning two Vezina trophies between 2013 and 2016.

His 5-14 playoff record, 3.18 GAA and .900 SV% isn’t exactly elite. Though he was better in these most recent playoffs for what it’s worth, he and the team still haven’t found their way past the Quarterfinals.

When considering a new contract, how does that factor into the valuations?

Yeah, you can say Bobrovsky is among the primary reasons the Jackets were even in the playoffs last season, and he is a huge part of their overall team success. But you can also look at the history of teams like the Montreal Canadiens who threw a blank check at Carey Price (really, that figure came to 8-years, $84 million, $10.5 mil on average) prior to the 2017-18 season.

Price was dragged down by injury in 2017-18, and only made 12 starts in 2015-16. But he was a Vezina finalist in between those years. The new 8-year contract actually starts this upcoming season, for the 2018-19 campaign. Now 30-years of age, and hampered by injury in recent years, consider those figures again.

Oof. Luckily ‘Bob’ seems to have gotten past the stubborn groin issue that plagued him in recent seasons.

The Canadiens were a really good team when Price was healthy, contending atop the Eastern Conference but haven’t been out of the first round since 2014-15. They missed the playoffs each of the seasons in which Price dealt with injury (2015-16 and 2017-18). In reality, the team was propped up by their All-World goaltender. Look how poor things were for the team when he wasn’t available. Not to suggest they didn’t deal with other injuries and issues.

But back to the main point.

What good is it to mortgage a potential future on a goalie that makes you good enough to contend but little else once the tournament begins?

Or how much can one realistically throw at a goalie when considering age, peak value, and injury? But then to play devils’ advocate, this is a window of sorts for Columbus, first with the Artemi Panarin saga, and contemplating potential life without either Bobrovsky or Panarin.

The Jackets parting with Panarin now doesn’t bode well for their current contention window. From the goaltending standpoint, is Joonas Korpisalo going to be given more of a serious shot to contend for time in the net with Bobrosvky?

Remember, Bobrovsky enters his age-30 season this September.

Fortunately we don't really have to worry about the potential end of ‘Bob’ right this second. All those potential contract scenarios will play out in the headlines throughout next season and hedge on team play and priority.

Goalies in Play

Right now, we look at the current crop of goaltending available. Philipp Grubauer’s time was up in Washington before the trade that saw the Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals send him and defenseman Brooks Orpik to the Colorado Avalanche at the onset of the NHL Draft last weekend. For three years and $10 million the Avs will bank on another ex-Capital to lead their crease.

Remember Semyon Varlamov?

Of course you do. He and Grubauer are set to split the timeshare in the Colorado goal which means 29-year-old Jonathan Bernier is a free agent. The Buffalo Sabres have sent Robin Lehner on his way. The Chicago Blackhawks are trying to figure out their Corey Crawford situation.

Well, I guess.

Maybe they already know something we don’t regarding the health of their ace in goal. After sustaining an injury last December, the Hawks shut down Crawford for the remainder of the season, as they never really got going on the ice and settled for the June lottery pick.

Sometimes you have to know when to play for the future as opposed to just settling for a potential first-round exit.

The free agent crop of goalies doesn’t feature a lot of marquee names. You have Cam Ward who is among the more accomplished on the list, having captured the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 as a rookie. And it sounds like he will be suiting up for the Blackhawks next season, presumably to backup Corey Crawford, but obviously, Crawford’s status is still murky at best.

Maxime Lagace and Jeff Zatkoff are both unrestricted free agents. Lagace saw slight action for the Vegas Golden Knights in the early goings on of last season once both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban were sidelined by injury.

We saw Anton Khudobin and regular starter Tuukka Rask share the net in the beginning of the Boston Bruins season, and Khudobin was successful in the process. Winning 16 games in 29 starts and making 31 appearances on the season, he put together a stat line any team will take for their backup including a 2.56 GAA and .913 SV%.

On Wednesday, the Jackets most recently completed a trade with the Blackhawks for the acquisition of goaltender Jean-François Bérubé for Jordan Schroeder.

Don’t confuse Bérubé with being any more than organizational depth. He has made 23 career NHL starts and made 34 overall appearances in the parent league since 2015-16. First with the New York Islanders and then filling in for the absence of Crawford in Chicago, compiling a 3-6-1 mark, .894 SV% and 3.78 GAA in 10 starts.

Acquiring Bérubé likely means another landing spot for Zatkoff. Among the crop of restricted free agent goalies includes Vezina runner-up Connor Hellebuyck, who emerged as the clear number one for the Winnipeg Jets, leading the club to the Western Conference Finals. He’ll be getting his pay day from Winnipeg soon.

Below is the list of goalie restricted and unrestricted free agents.

NHL RFA and UFA Goaltenders

RFA 2017-18 2017-18 Cap Hit UFA 2017-18 2017-18 Cap Hit
RFA 2017-18 2017-18 Cap Hit UFA 2017-18 2017-18 Cap Hit
Jordan Binnington STL $660,000 Ken Appleby NJD $635,000
Eric Comrie WPG $636,666 Jonathan Bernier COL $2,750,000
Oscar Dansk VGK 650,000 Laurent Brossoit EDM $750,000
Philippe Desrosiers DAL $653,333 Joe Cannata COL $650,000
Pavel Francouz COL - Adam Carlson WAS $705,000
Jon Gillies CGY $725,000 Jared Coreau DET $612,500
Connor Hellebuyck WPG $2,250,000 Chris Driedger OTT $735,000
Tristan Jarry PIT $589,166 Zachary Fucale MTL $714,666
Jason Kasdorf BUF $612,500 Chris Gibson NYI $650,000
Marek Langhamer AZ $660,000 Jeff Glass CHI $612,500
Alex Lyon PHI $874,125 Kristers Gudlevskis NYI $650,000
Matej Machovsky DET $742,500 Jaroslav Halak NYI $4,500,000
Spencer Martin COL $728,333 Andrew Hammond COL $1,350,000
Marek Mazanec NYR $650,000 Michael Hutchinson WPG $1,150,000
David Rittich CGY $725,000 Carter Hutton STL $1,125,000
Juuse Saros NSH $692,500 Chad Johnson BUF $2,500,000
Anthony Stolarz PHI $725,000 Anton Khudobin BOS $1,200,000
Eddie Lack NJD $2,750,000
Maxime Lagace VGK $650,000
Robin Lehner BUF $4,000,000
Kari Lehtonen DAL $5,900,000
Michael Leighton PIT $650,000
Anders Lindback NSH $650,000
Sean Maguire AZ $925,000
Thomas McCollum DET $612,500
Mike McKenna DAL $650,000
Stephen Michalek MIN $715,000
Petr Mrazek PHI $4,000,000
John Muse PHI $655,000
Matthew O'Connor NSH $650,000
Ondrej Pavelec NYR $1,300,000
Jamie Phillips WPG $675,000
Harri Sateri FLA $750,000
Jeremy Smith CAR $750,000
Dustin Tokarski PHI $650,000
Adam Vay MIN $842,500
Cam Ward CAR $3,300,000
Scott Wedgewood LAK $650,000
Jeff Zatkoff CBJ $900,000
All information via Spotrac