NHL Free Agency Targets: Goalies

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.

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

RFA2017-182017-18 Cap HitUFA2017-182017-18 Cap Hit
Jordan BinningtonSTL$660,000Ken ApplebyNJD$635,000
Eric ComrieWPG$636,666Jonathan BernierCOL$2,750,000
Oscar DanskVGK650,000Laurent BrossoitEDM$750,000
Philippe DesrosiersDAL$653,333Joe CannataCOL$650,000
Pavel FrancouzCOL-Adam CarlsonWAS$705,000
Jon GilliesCGY$725,000Jared CoreauDET$612,500
Connor HellebuyckWPG$2,250,000Chris DriedgerOTT$735,000
Tristan Jarry PIT$589,166Zachary FucaleMTL$714,666
Jason KasdorfBUF$612,500Chris GibsonNYI$650,000
Marek LanghamerAZ$660,000Jeff GlassCHI$612,500
Alex LyonPHI$874,125Kristers GudlevskisNYI$650,000
Matej MachovskyDET$742,500Jaroslav HalakNYI$4,500,000
Spencer MartinCOL$728,333Andrew HammondCOL$1,350,000
Marek MazanecNYR$650,000Michael HutchinsonWPG$1,150,000
David RittichCGY$725,000Carter HuttonSTL$1,125,000
Juuse SarosNSH$692,500Chad JohnsonBUF$2,500,000
Anthony StolarzPHI$725,000Anton KhudobinBOS$1,200,000
Eddie LackNJD$2,750,000
Maxime LagaceVGK$650,000
Robin LehnerBUF$4,000,000
Kari LehtonenDAL$5,900,000
Michael LeightonPIT$650,000
Anders LindbackNSH$650,000
Sean MaguireAZ$925,000
Thomas McCollumDET$612,500
Mike McKennaDAL$650,000
Stephen MichalekMIN$715,000
Petr MrazekPHI$4,000,000
John MusePHI$655,000
Matthew O'ConnorNSH$650,000
Ondrej PavelecNYR$1,300,000
Jamie PhillipsWPG$675,000
Harri SateriFLA$750,000
Jeremy SmithCAR$750,000
Dustin TokarskiPHI$650,000
Adam VayMIN$842,500
Cam WardCAR$3,300,000
Scott WedgewoodLAK$650,000
Jeff ZatkoffCBJ$900,000

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