For an NHL franchise, finding the long-term goaltender to support your team for years to come can be tough. With only 10 to 15 elite, reliable netminders in the league at any time, those without their own reputable backstop can often find it's the one shortfall that keeps their team from reaching the next level.
Some teams can do without it. Some can find that a rotation will work as a short-term solution. Some will dig through their prospects group to locate a reasonable candidate. But most will turn to the ultra-competitive race every July for the few star goalies who are hitting the market that offseason.
This summer, there are even more teams than usual searching for that elusive veteran goaltender. We've picked out seven teams for this article—these are the ones who truly have no goaltender under contract for next season and no one to fill their spot—but there are a number of other franchises who still aren't satisfied with their current option, whether he's under contract for three more years or not.
The free agent pickings in terms of goalies are also especially thin.
Experienced stars Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun will most certainly be highly sought after players, but the ranks of goaltenders besides them that seem trustworthy enough to receive a starting job are few to none. In all respect, would you still trust someone like Brian Boucher, Jose Theodore, Jean-Sebastien Giguere or Marty Turco with your favorite team's lead goalie slot? Or would you trust unproven players such as Peter Budaj, Mike Smith, Curtis McElhinney or Ray Emery? Frankly, we sure wouldn't!
Even with the next-to-nothing pool of available goalies, the demand is still high. Which teams need a netminder for their 2011-2012 season the most? We take a look at seven in particular who need to be bidding early and high.