The 10 Highest-Paid NHL Goaltenders: Which Ones Are Worth the Price?

Adam Graham@@adam_grahamAnalyst IIFebruary 12, 2012

The 10 Highest-Paid NHL Goaltenders: Which Ones Are Worth the Price?

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    There are many elite goaltenders in today’s NHL. Some are paid accordingly, while others are not.

    There are also cases of lofty expectations being placed on certain goaltenders after a few good seasons, which usually comes in the form of a huge contract. While some of these big-money goaltenders are a little overpaid, some have earned their large salaries and are the primary reason for their team’s overall success.

    Let’s analyze the 10 highest-paid goaltenders in the NHL (based on salary cap hits) and see which goaltenders are truly worth the amount of money they make.

    Rather than simply giving a yes or no answer to this question, I’ve created a pay scale rating system, just as I did with the 13 highest-paid NHL skaters. The scale ranges from one to five, with one representing a goaltender that isn’t even close to earning his salary and five representing a truly elite goaltender that is worth every penny he makes.

    Note: All contract figures are courtesy of

Notables That Aren't on the List

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    Pekka Rinne

    Starting next season, Pekka Rinne will be the highest paid goaltender in the league, as he begins a seven-year deal worth $7 million annually. However, this season his cap hit remains at just $3.4 million, which is why he is not on this list.

    It’s safe to say the Rinne is currently among the top five goaltenders in the world, although it’s difficult to say he if he’s truly worth $7 million per season.

    Cristobal Huet

    Believe it or not, Cristobal Huet is still being paid by the Chicago Blackhawks, even though he’s playing in Europe, and his contract does not count against the Blackhawks’ salary cap.

    Huet’s $5.625 million cap hit would have put him as the seventh-highest-paid NHL goaltender had Chicago not loaned him to HC Fribourg-Gotteron SA of the Swiss National League A in 2010.

    Needless to say, Huet is easily the most overpaid goaltender in the world, whether he plays in the NHL or not.

10. Tim Thomas: Boston Bruins ($5 Million: Two Seasons Remaining)

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    Tim Thomas is arguably the best goalie in the world right now. He has posted a goals against average of below 2.20 and a save percentage of above .930 in three of his last four seasons. He is the reigning Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy winner and is the only reason Tuukka Rask is still a backup in the NHL.

    Despite his age and the fact that he let his political agenda get in the way of a team event recently, $5 million per season is a steal for a goaltender that has accomplished what Thomas has.

    Pay Scale Rating: 5 out of 5

9. Marc-Andre Fleury: Pittsburgh Penguins ($5 Million: Four Seasons Remaining)

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    Even though Marc-Andre Fleury and Tim Thomas both have the same cap hit, Fleury’s contract lasts longer, which is why he is officially ahead of Thomas.

    With the technicalities out of the way, Fleury has played exceptionally well for the Pittsburgh Penguins throughout his career. It’s not easy living up to the hype of being a No. 1 overall draft pick, especially as a goaltender, but Fleury has come close to doing just that.

    Despite his occasionally streaky play, Fleury has put up fairly consistent numbers since the 2006-07 season. They might not be at the same level as Tim Thomas, but Fleury still has a Stanley Cup ring to his name and was the biggest reason why the Penguins managed to hold onto the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both injured for much of last season.

    Pay Scale Rating: 4.5 out of 5

8. Martin Brodeur: New Jersey Devils ($5.2 Million: One Season Remaining)

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    Although Martin Brodeur is among the greatest goaltenders of all time, his age seems to have finally caught up to him, and his play has declined over the last two seasons.

    Brodeur’s save percentage is .899 right now, and, if he finishes the season that way, it will the first time ever in his career that he has played a full season with a save percentage below .900.

    With that being said, he’s still a reliable starting goaltender that will usually come up with a big save when it’s needed. The Devils have confidence in Brodeur and are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with him in goal for most games.

    Pay Scale Rating: 3 out of 5

7. Roberto Luongo: Vancouver Canucks ($5.33 Million: 11 Seasons Remaining)

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    Despite his long-term contract that doesn’t expire until 2022, Roberto Luongo only has a $5.33 million cap hit, which is a misconception among many.

    Luongo has been among the top five goaltenders in the world since he joined the Canucks in 2006. Of course, his one downfall has been his consistency, particularly in big playoff games, and that’s what causes the ridicule from many fans both in and out of Vancouver.

    If the Canucks can finally win the Stanley Cup on Luongo’s shoulders this season, he’ll get a perfect five on the pay scale rating. Until then, he’s stuck just below that.

    Pay Scale Rating: 4.5 out of 5

6. Ilya Bryzgalov: Philadelphia Flyers ($5.67 Million: Nine Seasons Remaining)

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    Ilya Bryzgalov is an interesting character who’s had an interesting NHL career to date.

    He started out as the backup to Jean-Sebastien Giguere with the Anaheim Ducks and was then picked up by the Phoenix Coyotes when the Ducks placed him on waivers in 2007. That’s where he took his play to another level.

    Bryzgalov cemented himself as the starter in Phoenix and posted two consecutive stellar seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11, which made the Philadelphia Flyers interested enough to offer him a huge contract last summer.

    However, Bryzgalov has disappointed most Flyers fans this season, as they were hoping he’d finally be the goalie to put them over the top. He has a 2.78 GAA and his save percentage is barely .900. Bryzgalov was able to prove his value as an elite goaltender with the Coyotes, but he has yet to do so since he signed his new contract with the Flyers.

    Pay Scale Rating: 2 out of 5

5. Miikka Kiprusoff: Calgary Flames ($5.83 Million: Three Seasons Remaining)

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    Over the last few seasons, Miikka Kiprusoff has flown under the radar a little bit because the Calgary Flames have been stuck in mediocrity. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t played great, though.

    Kiprusoff has been one of the few bright spots for Calgary and has been solid for the Flames. His statistics haven’t exactly been worthy of a Vezina trophy, which is why he hasn’t been nominated for the award since 2005-06 when he won it. But he’s played over 70 games in every single season since the lockout and is still undoubtedly one of the top 10 goaltenders in the world today, even at the age of 35.

    Pay Scale Rating: 4 out of 5

4. Niklas Backstrom: Minnesota Wild ($6 Million: Two Seasons Remaining)

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    Niklas Backstrom often gets lost in the shuffle in the discussion of the top goaltenders in the NHL. Much like Miikka Kiprusoff’s situation with the Flames, Backstrom has been stuck on a mediocre team that hasn’t scored many goals over the last three-and-a-half seasons, so his record doesn’t boast many wins.

    However, Backstrom has never had a save percentage below .900 and was even nominated for the Vezina trophy in 2009.  The only problem with Backstrom is that he’s never been able to take a team on his back and establish himself as one of the very best goaltenders in the world, even though he is paid like one.

    Backstrom is a very good goaltender. Unfortunately, the Wild aren’t paying him to be good. They’re paying him to be one of the best.

    Pay Scale Rating: 3 out of 5

3. Ryan Miller: Buffalo Sabres ($6.25 Million: Three Seasons Remaining)

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    In 2010, Ryan Miller was the cream of the crop when it came to NHL goaltenders. He almost led the USA to a gold medal the Olympics, and he was the easy choice to win the Vezina trophy. We’re not sure what has happened to him since then, but clearly he’s not the same goalie he once was.

    It’s not as if he has been terrible over the last couple of years, and you can’t blame him for the Sabres disappointing season thus far, but he has certainly fallen from the top of goaltending podium.

    If you took a survey among knowledgeable hockey fans and analysts today, the results of where Miller ranks among the best goaltenders in the world would range anywhere from being inside the top five to outside the top 20.

    He still has the skills and determination to be one of the best, and he has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but he needs show a lot more to earn his $6.25 million cap hit.

    Pay Scale Rating: 3.5 out of 5

2. Cam Ward: Carolina Hurricanes ($6.3 Million: Five Seasons Remaining)

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    Cam Ward was a remarkable story in 2006, as a rookie goaltender that struggled in the regular season to a Conn Smythe trophy winner and Stanley Cup Champion.

    However, Ward has been forced to carry a huge burden of high expectations since then, and it’s been almost impossible for him to live up to the hype.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that the much of the Hurricanes' Cup-winning roster was gutted almost immediately after their victory. But Ward has also struggled with the task of taking his game to the next level and becoming a consistent star in the NHL. At times, he looks like one of the best in the world, but his stats from year to year usually don’t show it.

    On the bright side, Ward is usually calm and collected when the pressure is on and has a knack for being a clutch performer. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes haven’t won enough games over the last two seasons to even put Ward in a position where he can come up big when it matters the most.

    Pay Scale Rating: 3 out of 5

1. Henrik Lundqvist: New York Rangers ($6.875 Million: Three Seasons Remaining)

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    If you look at the cumulative performances and statistics of all the NHL goaltenders since the lockout ended in 2005, Henrik Lundqvist is undoubtedly the best there is.

    His career 2.27 GAA and his .920 save percentage are proof of that, and this year he may finally win his first Vezina trophy with a 1.81 GAA and a .939 save percentage. Lundqvist has been the MVP of the New York Rangers for the past five seasons and has them in first place in the entire NHL right now.

    Since he might just the best there is, why shouldn’t Lundqvist he paid like the best there is?

    Pay Scale Rating: 5 out of 5

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