The 2021-22 season has been a very eventful one for the NHL. This is especially the case when focusing on goaltenders. Goalies like Igor Shesterkin, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Juuse Saros have once again been dominant, but that was easy for all hockey fans to predict. However, there have also been a handful of netminders who have outperformed expectations rather significantly. Now feels like the right time to shine a light on them.
Each of these four goaltenders come with different, yet interesting situations. However, it’s also clear that they all have been very pleasant surprises for their respective franchises. Let’s dive into why now.
Ville Husso, St. Louis Blues
Ville Husso is making an excellent case for himself to be the St. Louis Blues’ long-term starting goaltender. In 20 appearances thus far, he sports a 13-3-2 record, 2.03 goals-against average (GAA), and .935 save percentage (SV)%. This is a remarkable kind of play from the 27-year-old, but this is especially true when remembering how much he struggled last season. In 17 games as a rookie, he had a 9-6-1 record, 3.21 GAA, and a .893 SV%. His numbers have improved immensely since then.
This kind of marvelous campaign could not have come at a better time for Husso, either. He has an expiring contract and will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after this season is over. Therefore, he is set to make a major raise from his current $750,000 cap hit. Yet, this spells trouble for the Blues, as his time with the organization could be coming to a close. Jordan Binnington has a no-trade clause and carries a $6 million cap hit until the completion of the 2026-27 season. Thus, he is very likely going to be staying in St. Louis. In 26 appearances this season, he has a 13-10-3 record, 3.12 GAA, and a .904 SV%.
Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes
The Carolina Hurricanes had an extremely eventful offseason last summer. They shockingly traded Alex Nedeljkovic after his spectacular rookie campaign to the Detroit Red Wings. They also lost goaltenders Petr Mrazek and James Reimer through free agency. To replace them, they signed Frederik Andersen to a two-year, $9 million with the expectation of him being their starter. There was understandable concern in regards to the move, as he struggled with the Toronto Maple Leafs the season before. In 23 games, he had a 13-8-3 record and disastrous .895 SV%.
Yet, any concern following the Andersen signing quickly evaporated because of his marvelous play. At this point of the season, he has a 29-7-2 record, 2.03 GAA, and a .930 SV%. With numbers like these, the 32-year-old is a Vezina Trophy candidate. The change of scenery is benefitting him immensely, as he’s having a career year. Although a bounce-back of some kind could have been predicted, not many people would have envisioned him performing this excellently. If he plays this well from here, his $4.5 million cap hit until the end of next season will be a complete steal.
Matt Murray, Ottawa Senators
After starting the season with a 0-5-0 record, 3.26 GAA, and .890 SV%, the Ottawa Senators placed Matt Murray on waivers. The two-time Stanley Cup champion was also coming off of a disastrous first season with the team, as he went 10-13-1 and had an .893 SV%. Due to his struggles and $6.25 million cap hit until the end of the 2023-24 season, all 31 other teams avoided claiming him. Yet, when observing how massively he has since turned things around, there are likely some teams currently regretting it.
Since fighting his way back to the NHL roster, Murray has found his previous form. The truth is in his statistics. Although he has a 5-10-2 record, he now also sports a 2.65 GAA and .920 SV%. This kind of turnaround warrants a lot of praise, and this is especially true when noting that most fans did not expect it. The 27-year-old appears to be getting his career back on track, and that is simply great to see.
Anthony Stolarz, Anaheim Ducks
For the majority of his professional hockey career, Anthony Stolarz has played in the American Hockey League (AHL). Over the previous three seasons between the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks, he made only 15 total NHL appearances. However, with the latter this season, he is cementing himself as a legitimate NHL-caliber goaltender. In 18 appearances thus far, he has an 8-6-1 record and a .917 SV%. That certainly is strong enough play for him to keep his spot on their roster.
With Stolarz almost being 30 years old, his chances of becoming a full-time NHL goaltender did not seem too high. However, he has earned the right to be the team’s backup goalie for at least the remainder of this campaign. The Ducks also have to be happy that he has a $950,000 cap hit until the completion of next season. If he can continue to play this well from here, this will be another excellent contract in the NHL.
It will be fun to see how these four perform for the remainder of this season. It’s fair to state that each of their teams is ecstatic about the way they have played thus far. However, the playoffs are still over two months away, so there is much more work for them to do until then. Who knows? Maybe their numbers will become even better from here.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHLTradeRumors.me, BBallRumors.com, BaseballRumors.me, FootballRumors.me and The Rat Trick.