Free Agent Frenzy: Goaltenders A Plenty

With no recent Buffalo Sabres news to chat about and the potential of a repeat Stanley Cup Finals matchup, I can’t help but to look towards free agency as an outlet to stir up some hockey banter.

As I was going through the list of free agents, I couldn’t help but notice the excessive number of goaltenders that were due for contracts this upcoming summer. Have a look at the list (please note there are quite a few more goaltenders that are UFA/RFA, however, are not on this list because of the potentially non-existent impact they will have on the 2009-2010 NHL season):

Free Agent Goaltenders
Potential Starters Bona Fide Backups/Minors Sleepers Retirement?
  • Nikolai Khabibulin
  • Manny Fernandez
  • Kari Lehtonen
  • Peter Budaj
  • Scott Clemmensen
  • Antero Niittymaki/Marty Biron
  • Brian Elliot
  • Ty Conklin (if in Detroit)
  • Manny Legace
  • Mathieu Garon
  • Frederik Norrena
  • Jason Labarbera
  • Brent Johnson
  • Andrew Raycroft
  • Mikael Tellqvist
  • Thomas Greiss
  • Kevin Weekes
  • Brian Boucher
  • Curtis Sanford
  • Marc Denis
  • Dany Sabourin
  • Wade Dubielewicz
  • Joey MacDonald
  • Curtis McElhinney
  • Yann Danis
  • Peter Mannino
  • Kari Ramo
  • Mike McKenna
  • Antti Niemi
  • Josh Harding
  • Craig Anderson
  • Justin Pogge
  • Tobias Stephan
  • Dwayne Roloson
  • Olaf Kolzig
  • Curtis Joseph

So Who Needs A Goaltender?

Put the Colorado Avalanche and the Edmonton Oilers at the top of this list. To say that Peter Budaj hasn’t panned out for the ‘Lanche is a bit of an understatement. He was chosen over Jose Theodore (shudder) as the starter a few years back and just has not lived up to expectations. Colorado will certainly be looking to revamp their goaltending situation to try and avoid a repeat performance of the 2008-2009 season.

By the time the 2009-2010 season rolls around, Dwayne Roloson will just be turning 40-years old. Yikes. While he proved his worth to the Oilers last season starting 62 games and keeping the club in the playoff hunt until the very end of the season, one would have to assume that the Oilers will not place that much of a workload on a guy with AARP eligibility. So unless Kevin Lowe wants to rely on Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers and Dany Sabourin to get him through next season, he’ll need to make an acquisition.

Other teams that could be in the market for a goaltender are the Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Flyers are in a precarious spot with both Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki being free agents this summer. Biron has been streaky between the pipes and in no way, shape or form is Niittymaki anything but a “fly by the seat of your pants” goaltender. Philly has the offensive talent and defensive prowess to be a Stanley Cup team, however, mediocre goaltending can only get you so far. Do they make a play for a bigger name to complete the package?

Although Chris Mason played well for the Blues down the stretch this past season, fans have to realize (as I’m sure the organization already has) that he isn’t the goaltender of the future for the franchise. He was booted out of Nashville as the Preds favored Dan Ellis over him but was fortunate to benefit from Manny Legace completely tanking in the new year. Do the Blues opt to bring in a goaltender to help solidify themselves between the pipes, or do they opt to put their faith in Ben Bishop?

If you look at the numbers opposed to the record, Mike Smith has done quite well for himself in Tampa Bay. It was hard to take notice, however, from the poor play of the team around him in 2008-2009. The Lightning goaltending prospects have proven ineffective in Smith’s absence which leads us to believe that they are not ready for the big show right now. Tampa is continuing to shuffle the lineup around, adding new faces and introducing new players. Does the organization make a play for a rock solid goaltender to give them the best chance to get the franchise back on track?

Justin Pogge
Photo by: Norum

Who To Watch Out For

The (potentially) new look Leafs have a solid prospect in Justin Pogge and could be in a position to allow him to get his NHL legs this season as the team is most certainly looking to rebuild themselves. Vesa Toskala may have his hands full with the starting job this season if Pogge is given an opportunity.

Don’t forget about Scott Clemmensen and Craig Anderson as potential starters somewhere this season. Clemmy showcased his undiscovered talent and essentially saved the Devils season in 2008-2009. He won’t go unnoticed as he has proven that he can handle starting responsibilities (and handle them well indeed). Craig Anderson always seemed to shine in Thomas Vokoun’s absence and is potentially a rock solid starter for a team looking for a bargain this off-season. He has proven that he’s ready to step out of the backup role and into the limelight, and I’m certain it won’t put too much of a dent in the salary cap of the team that’s able to acquire him.

Marty Turco
Photo by: texas_mustang

Lastly, playing off of an article Rick Gethin wrote entitled, “Is it time to trade Marty Turco,” I would go so far as to say that I have a difficult time doubting the ability of Tobias Stephan as a starting goaltender for the Stars. After another year of inconsistencies from Marty Turco, I agree with Rick in that it may be time to look at other options. He certainly is still a viable goaltender, and could bring in a nice return for the Stars if traded for the right price. While I like Matt Climie’s potential, he certainly isn’t a viable option for the team right now. Stephan has had a decent go of it in Juniors, Europe and the AHL. He could be a fresh face for the organization while Climie continues to improve his game in the minors. Hell, maybe Stephan turns into the next Steve Mason. Who knows…

Other Notes

It may be the end of the road for Kari Lehtonen in Atlanta. Far too many inconsistencies for the promising netminder has lead to questions of his ability to back a growing franchise between the pipes. Look for Ondrej Pavelec to give him a run for his money if he does re-up with the Thrash. Also, it’s worth noting that Brian Elliot will give Pascal Leclaire a run for his money in Ottawa. Leclaire better be on his game if he wants to see ice time. Could be a possible platooning situation at some point next season if you ask me…