NHL Free Agent Speculation: Ranking the Top 10 Goalies on the Market
As we approach the end of the season, and the beginning of free agency, several teams will be looking for goaltending help.
Despite a lack of unrestricted free agents with offensive talent, there should be many good options available for goaltending.
The Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers will all almost certainly be signing (or re-signing) one of the top 10 free agent goalies of 2011.
10. Ray Emery, Anaheim Ducks
Current Salary: $500,000
In March 2010, while playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, Ray Emery was diagnosed with avascular necrosis, a disease that where bone cells die due to a lack of blood supply. He had to undergo a bone graft surgery and it was uncertain if he would ever be able to play again.
Luckily, the surgery was a complete success, but it still took Emery nearly a full year of rehab before getting back to playing level.
On February 7, he signed a contract with the Anaheim Ducks for the balance of the season, and he spent the next month in the minors on a conditioning assignment.
Emery was recalled, and played his first game on March 13. Since then, he's posted a 7-2 record with a 2.28 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage.
Emery led the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007, and is still a reliable option for teams needing goaltending help.
At this point in his career, Emery is probably best suited to playing in a time-splitting tandem, rather than as a starter expected to play 65-70 games.
9. Johan Hedberg, New Jersey Devils
Current Salary: $1.5 million
Johan "The Moose" Hedberg is having one of the best seasons of his NHL career. Hedberg has battled Martin Brodeur for playing time this year, and has beaten Brodeur in most categories.
Hedberg's goals-against-average, save percentage and winning percentage are all better than the future Hall of Famer's.
Hedberg should fill the role of a 15-20 start backup goalie. Possible options for him are Vancouver (if they trade Cory Schneider as has been regularly speculated), re-signing with New Jersey or St. Louis.
8. Brian Boucher, Philadelphia Flyers
Current Salary: $925,000
With Michael Leighton still under contract, and Sergei Bobrovsky expected to fill the starting position next season, it's unlikely that the Philadelphia Flyers will re-sign Brian Boucher.
The only scenario in which Boucher will be back in Philadelphia is if Bobrovsky struggles in the playoffs, and Boucher replaces him and plays extremely well.
This year, Boucher is 13th in the league in goals-against-average and 18th in save percentage, and he's having the third best season of his career.
Boucher's never played more than 45 games in a season, so he's probably best suited to a tandem or 15-20 game backup role.
7. Dwayne Roloson, Tampa Bay Lightning
Current Salary: $2.5 million
At 41 years of age, Dwayne Roloson just keeps doing what he's been doing for the last decade.
Since 2001-02, Roloson has played at least 43 games each season and has always had a save percentage above .900.
This year's trade to the Tampa Bay Lightning seems to have reinvigorated Roloson as he posted four shutouts in his first 11 games with the team.
His performance in the playoffs will go a long way towards determining his value this summer. It's also possible that he could retire, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't play at least one more season.
Roloson would fit well in a system that lets him play 50-60 games next season, which could well be Tampa Bay again.
6. Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders(?)
Current Salary: $570,000
Whether or not Evgeni Nabokov will actually be a free agent is unknown at the moment. Nabokov initially signed with the Detroit Red Wings last season, but had to clear waivers due to having played in Russia earlier in the season.
The New York Islanders claimed Nabokov on waivers, but he refused to report to the team. The Islanders responded by suspending him, and Darren Dreger of TSN reported that the Islanders can choose to "toll" Nabokov's contract for the 2011-12 season, which would prevent him from being a free agent.
If the Isles decide against doing that, there would certainly be a market for Nabokov's services. When he last played in the NHL in 2009-10, he was second in the league in wins, and he placed in the top 10 in every major goaltending category, except shutouts.
Like much of the San Jose Sharks team, Nabokov has developed a reputation for falling apart under pressure, but he will still have several offers if he hits the market.
5. Semyon Varlamov, Washington Capitals
Current Salary: $821,667
The Washington Capitals crease is a crowded place these days with youngsters Semyon Varlamov, Michael Neuvirth and Braden Holtby battling for playing time.
Neuvirth and Holtby are each signed for two more seasons, and have both shown that they deserve to be in the NHL, but Varlamov is a restricted free agent this summer.
The 22-year-old is in the top five in the league in goals-against-average and save percentage, but has only played 27 games this season, going 11-9-5.
It's unlikely that anyone will sign Varlamov to an offer sheet, but it's very possible that Washington will trade him somewhere so that he'll have a better chance to play.
4. James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs
Current Salary: $596,667
Another restricted free agent makes the list, but this one almost certainly isn't going anywhere. One of the major focuses for Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke will be re-signing James Reimer this summer.
Reimer joined the Leafs in January and helped them turn their season around and make a push for the final playoff spot. Despite falling just short, Reimer has secured himself a spot on the Leafs for next season.
One of the hardest things about Reimer's contract negotiations will be determining the value. As good as he's been, he's only played 37 NHL games, so it's hard to tell how good he'll actually be.
Reimer has accepted an invitation to the World Championships, so his performance in that tournament might help determine his next contract.
3. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
Current Salary: $800,000
Corey Crawford is a large part of why the Chicago Blackhawks have managed to secure a playoff spot. When Marty Turco struggled early in the season, Crawford took over the starting position and hasn't looked back.
Crawford has posted 33 wins, a .917 save percentage and a 2.30 goals-against-average this season, which will warrant a significant raise.
I don't think anyone will attempt to sign Crawford to an offer sheet, but it is possible because the Blackhawks will still have limited cap space to match it.
2. Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers
Current Salary: $5.7 million
Tomas Vokoun's record doesn't even come close to showing his value. Without a goalie like Vokoun, the Florida Panthers would have been even worse than they actually were.
Vokoun has posted a save percentage of .919 or better in every season since 2005-06, while no other goalie has done it for even the last three years.
Vokoun will be 35 on July 2, which makes it very likely that he'll be signed on the first day of free agency, July 1. By signing on July 1, he'll still be under 35, so his contract won't continue counting against the cap if he retires.
1. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes
Current Salary: $4.25 million
Without Ilya Bryzgalov, the Phoenix Coyotes wouldn't have made the playoffs for the last two seasons. Bryzgalov's solid play in net is the foundation of the Coyotes success.
Bryzgalov is very technically solid and he doesn't get himself out of position very often. His size helps him to cover a lot of the net without scrambling.
The Coyotes will definitely begin contract negotiations to lock up their MVP immediately after their season ends.