Ranking the NHL’s 32 Starting Goalies – 2021-22 Season

The poet John Donne famously wrote, “no man is an island unto itself.” But he wrote that in 1623, long before the game of hockey was invented. Had he survived to see it, Donne might have instead written: “no man is an island, except for NHL goaltenders.”

The job of an NHL goalie is one of the hardest in all of professional sport. It is a solitary and often thankless task, where one night can be a shutout and the next day can be a nightmare. As such, it is a difficult position to evaluate, which is why it is vital to do so frequently.

At The Hockey Writers, we evaluate goaltenders several times a season, accounting for the instability of the position. Goalies change teams and lose their jobs more frequently than many others. Because of changes like that, we regrade goalies regularly. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the methodology for our evaluation.

Methodology

Because of the fleeting nature of goaltender success, our rankings prioritize numbers from the most recent season, in this case, the 2020-21 season. With that said, it would be ludicrous to ignore history or overemphasize a six-month run. Where two goalies are more or less equal, their track record will become a factor in determining a final position. Goalies who have performed at a high level for longer will receive the benefit of the doubt, whereas goalies with great numbers who are relative newcomers may sink a spot or two accordingly.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Connor Hellebuyck, and Jussi Saros Starting Goalies NHL

A number of statistics were considered. Two metrics were given primary emphasis: goals saved above average (GSAA) and quality start percentage (QS%). GSAA is a statistical calculation of a goaltender’s performance as compared with his peers. It considers the number of shots he faced and measures it against the league average save percentage on the same number of shots.

QS% measures the percentage of starts in which the goalie’s save percentage (SV%) surpassed the league average SV% for the season. Anything above 60 percent is considered very good, anything below 50 percent is poor, and 53 percent is league average.

In addition to these metrics, we’ll examine SV% and goals-against average (GAA), shutouts (SO), and really bad starts (RBS) where the goalie has a SV% below .850. Judging by those numbers, a composite score was created to represent overall goalie effectiveness. Then, we made adjustments based on experience and track record and settled on a final order.

So, without further ado, here are your goaltender rankings at the start of the 2021-22 season.

32) Craig Anderson: Buffalo Sabres

Previous Rank: Unranked

With all the challenges of the last few seasons, as well as a pair of strong free agent classes for goaltenders, there has been an incredible amount of turmoil in these ranks in recent months. Add to that the debut of a new NHL franchise and Craig Anderson lays claim to a bit of history (though history he might not want): he is the first goaltender to come in at 32nd on this list. The designation is meant as no disrespect to Anderson’s storied 19-season career, but the 40-year-old Park Ridge, Illinois native was openly expecting to retire before the Buffalo Sabres swooped in with a starting goaltender job. Anderson will make league minimum and serve one purpose: be the poor soul peppered with shots while the bottom-feeding Sabres hope to win the Shane Wright sweepstakes. But Anderson won’t be alone in that ignoble pursuit.

31) Carter Hutton: Arizona Coyotes

Previous Rank: Unranked

As we said, Anderson won’t be the only veteran goalie making league minimum for a team hoping to win the services of Wright, the projected first-overall pick. Carter Hutton left Buffalo to do the same with the Arizona Coyotes this season. The 35-year-old posted an .886 SV% and a 3.47 GAA in 13 games in Buffalo last season, claiming only one victory. He’s there to do a job, as neither team can quite get away with simply leaving the net empty for 82 games this season. After all, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman doesn’t believe there’s any tanking in his league, so the Coyotes and Sabres have to keep up appearances.

30) Sergei Bobrovsky: Florida Panthers

Previous Rank: 27

By the time we make midseason adjustments, it may be entirely clear that Sergei Bobrovsky is no longer the starter in Sunrise, FL. After all, rookie phenom Spencer Knight made his debut last season, and didn’t look overwhelmed, even in the bright spotlight of two playoff starts against the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. But Bobrovsky did start the most games for the Panthers in the 2019-20 season and given his contract, he has to be considered the starter until there is absolutely no evidence to support it.

Sergei Bobrovsky Florida Panthers
Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bobrovsky is the only active two-time Vezina Trophy winner in the NHL. But since signing his seven-year, $70 million contract prior to the 2019-20 season, which seemed like the right gamble for the Panthers at the time, he has looked like a shell of his former self. Last season was actually an improvement over his first season in Florida, but he still finished with a .906 SV% and a 2.91 GAA, to go along with minus-1.9 GSAA. Bobrovsky has always been streaky, and it’s not out of the question that he could find his form again and put in a top-level season again. But until he proves it on the ice, he has to be ranked amongst the league’s worst goalies.

29) Matt Murray: Ottawa Senators

Previous Rank: 24

Speaking of gambles that didn’t pay off, the Ottawa Senators’ decision to trade for Matt Murray, then give him a four-year, $25 million contract extension, certainly didn’t pay off in his first season in Canada’s capital city. It’s hard to identify what blame to place on Murray and what blame to place upon Ottawa’s porous defense, but the end result wasn’t pretty: he closed the season with a 10-13-1 record, a 3.38 GAA, a .893 SV%, and minus-11.0 GSAA. He actually did maintain a .560 QS%, which is significantly above league average (.530), but he also allowed eight “really bad starts” (RBS). This indicates that on his best night, Murray was ok, but when things went bad, they went terribly wrong. That kind of inconsistency from an NHL goalie is crippling, and the Senators will be hoping for much better in the 2021-22 campaign.

28) James Reimer: San Jose Sharks

Previous Rank: Unranked

San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson finally pulled the trigger and bought out goaltender Martin Jones, ridding his team of one of the most troublesome goaltender contracts in the league. The trade deadline departure of Devan Dubnyk and the offseason arrival of Adin Hill means it’s an entirely new regime in San Jose. While neither goalie is completely proven as an everyday starter, the Sharks desperately needed a fresh start in net, and they’ve got it.

It’s difficult to be certain who will truly be the starter in San Jose, and it may come down to a genuine training camp competition. But the nod has to go to the veteran James Reimer, signed as a free agent, to begin the season as the number one. He was fairly reliable in two seasons of backup work with the Carolina Hurricanes and has been consistent as a solid 1B option throughout his career. For the Sharks’ goaltending situation, any change is a positive one, so fans have to be going into the 2021-22 season excited to see what materializes in net.

27) MacKenzie Blackwood: New Jersey Devils

Previous Rank: 21

There’s no question that MacKenzie Blackwood is still the future in net for the New Jersey Devils. And the huge offseason acquisition of Dougie Hamilton will certainly help solidify the defense in front of him. But his 2020-21 numbers were too weak to rank him any higher here. He led the league in RBS with 10, had minus-6.41 GSAA, and a 3.04 GAA. It was a rough season in New Jersey, and Blackwood will be hoping that the rebuilding Devils’ defense, with Hamilton, Ryan Graves, and eventually fourth-overall draft pick Luke Hughes now in the picture, solidifies sooner than later.

26) Carter Hart: Philadelphia Flyers

Previous Rank: 16

Carter Hart is in a similar situation to Blackwood in many ways. There’s no doubting his talent, and the three-year contract the Philadelphia Flyers just gave him, with an AAV of almost $4 million, shows their faith in him. But his numbers last season were dreadful to say the least. His GSAA was twice as bad as any other goaltender, with his minus-22.57 doubling Murray’s minus-11.01. And his GAA (3.67) and SV% (.877) were also bottom of the barrel. Hart managed only nine wins total in the abbreviated season. It is only because of his pedigree that he did not fall farther on this list. But the Flyers also made many moves to shore up their blueline, and if Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Ellis, and Keith Yandle can make Hart’s life easier, he’ll certainly use his new contract to take them out for a steak or two as the season progresses.

25) Jacob Markstrom: Calgary Flames

Previous Rank: 9

Jacob Markstrom’s first season with the Calgary Flames wasn’t a terrific proof of concept for the six-year, $36 million contract he signed the offseason prior. His numbers weren’t dreadful, but a .904 SV% and a 2.66 GAA won’t put you among the league’s top flight of goaltenders, and an AAV of $6 million will.

Jacob Markstrom Calgary Flames
Jacob Markstrom, Calgary Flames (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Flames did trade for Nikita Zadorov in the offseason, but they also watched their captain, their defensive cornerstone, and a recent Norris Trophy winner in Mark Giordano walk for nothing to the Seattle Kraken. It’s a confusing picture for the Flames, and general manager Brad Treliving looks like one of the losers of the offseason. The Flames’ path to improvement isn’t obvious, although a return to the Pacific Division, probably the weakest in the NHL, can only help. The easiest solution for the team is to see a much-improved Markstrom, so there will be plenty of pressure on his shoulders entering the season.

24) Frederik Andersen: Carolina Hurricanes

Previous Rank: 12

Frederik Andersen once ranked amongst the great goalies in the NHL, but his last two seasons have been less-than-stellar. The Carolina Hurricanes’ decision to trade Alex Nedeljkovic and sign Andersen and Anti Raanta is a huge and largely inexplicable gamble. Last season, while battling injury, Andersen started just 23 games and posted a .895 SV% and a 2.96 SV%. He also had minus-8.5 GSAA. By the time the playoffs arrived, he was clearly no longer in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ plans. But now, with his two-year, $9 million contract, he factors heavily in the Hurricanes’ future. They must believe he gives them a better chance at playoff success than did Nedeljkovic, but Andersen’s history of only escaping the first round once doesn’t bear that out.

23) John Gibson: Anaheim Ducks

Previous Rank: 8

Some view John Gibson as one of the best goalies in the world and argue that his remarkable skill is only overshadowed by the poor team around him. And several seasons ago, when he was posting GSAA numbers like 15.4, 25.3, and 12.7 in three consecutive seasons, it was tough to argue against that perspective.

John Gibson Anaheim Ducks
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Unfortunately, whether by his own fault or that of his teammates, Gibson’s numbers have fallen precipitously in recent years. Last season, he finished 9-19-7 and maintained a .903 SV% and a 2.98 GAA. His GSAA over the past two seasons combine to minus-13.7. And he has led the league in losses each of those seasons, as well. Though that is certainly a systemic issue more than something that should blemish his record, it is tougher to make the argument now that he remains one of the league’s true elites. Gibson is just 28, but has a contract with the Ducks that carries him through the 2026-27 season. If the team cannot improve quickly, a change of scenery would likely be a welcome opportunity for him to justify all his believers.

22) Anton Khudobin: Dallas Stars

Previous Rank: 6

After spending much of his career as a journeyman and a backup, Anton Khudobin had a career season in 2019-20. He had a league-leading .930 SV% in 30 games, and 17.8 GSAA. It built on a strong campaign from the season prior, where he had 16 GSAA. Then, he performed his masterpiece, almost single-handedly carrying the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup Final against all odds. Though they didn’t win, it was hard not to number him amongst the best goalies in the league at the time.

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Unfortunately, nothing went right for the Stars in the 2020-21 seasons. Injuries plagued the entire roster, and the team ended up missing the postseason entirely. Though Khudobin wasn’t the problem, his numbers suffered significantly. His GAA climbed to 2.54, still strong, but not elite, and his SV% dropped to .905. He even got benched by head coach Rick Bowness for disciplinary reasons early in the season. It was a tough campaign for all involved. But Khudobin is likely to remain the starter headed into a season with Ben Bishop probably still on long term injured reserve (LTIR). Unless Braden Holtby catchers fire, it’ll remain Khudobin’s net to lose.

21) Ilya Samsonov: Washington Capitals

Previous Rank: 22

Ilya Samsonov is young, and he is as yet unproven. His numbers last season were not terrific, and he lost a lot of playing time to Vitek Vanecek, a rookie goaltender who emerged out of nowhere in the unexpected absence of Henrik Lundqvist. But there is little doubting Samsonov’s pedigree. He is just 24, but the 2021-22 season will be a significant proving ground for him. He needs to show that all his potential can translate to the NHL level. Once he does, though, he could climb up this list very quickly.

20) Tristan Jarry: Pittsburgh Penguins

Previous Rank: 14

The Pittsburgh Penguins cut the cord from Murray, the young playoff hero, thanks in part to the incredible 2019-20 campaign put forth by Tristan Jarry. But those world-beating numbers fell of significantly during the 2020-21 season. His SV% dropped to .909, his GAA was 2.75, and he had just 1.3 GSAA. None of those numbers are bad, but they also might cause people to second guess the decision to move on from Murray, had he himself not performed so poorly in Ottawa. The strongest part of Jarry’s game, after a rough start to the season, became consistency. He closed the season with a .632 QS%, which is incredibly strong. If he can continue to harness that ability, he may still be the solution in Pittsburgh. But a reunion with Marc-Andre Fleury, which never materialized, might have been the better short-term solution.

19) Carey Price: Montreal Canadiens

Previous Rank: 17

After last season’s playoff run, this is certain to be a controversial placement, probably the most controversial on the entire list. Yes, at his best, Carey Price can be a truly elite goaltender. But his numbers in recent regular seasons make it hard to justify ranking him among the league’s best game in, game out. Injuries, age, and inconsistency plague his career far too much at this point.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

During the regular season, Price started just 25 games, carrying a .901 SV%, ranking him in the bottom-third among starters. His minus-4.3 GSAA also put him in that region, as did his six RBS. His 2.64 GAA was average, but the Montreal Canadiens are known for their stout defense, which helped attribute to that number. Price has had negative GSAA and a SV% below .910 in three of the last four seasons, and even his terrific playoff performance this season was worse than his numbers from his last two postseasons. There is no denying Price’s greatness nor his significance to the Canadiens, but with his contract, he remains a challenge. General manager Marc Bergevin’s willingness to even flirt with losing Price in the expansion draft signals that the goalie is past his prime. He needs to show a consistently great regular season performance to be ranked among the league’s best in 2021.

18) Calvin Petersen: Los Angeles Kings

Previous Rank: Unranked

Calvin Petersen’s 9-18-5 record does not fairly portray the impressive 2020-21 performance of the up-and-coming goaltender. He has inarguably unseated Jonathan Quick is the starter for the Los Angeles Kings, managing a .911 SV% and a 2.89 GAA on a defensively suspect LA team. He even posted 3.9 GSAA. At just 26, the former fifth-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres looks to have a bright future in the big city, assuming that the Kings have faith in him as a true number one goaltender as their long rebuild reaches its pinnacle in the coming seasons.

17) Linus Ullmark: Boston Bruins

Previous Rank: 11

Speaking of Buffalo-drafted goaltenders who posted strong numbers on rough teams, none fits the description better than Linus Ullmark, whose 2020-21 season with the Sabres was nothing short of remarkable. The Lugnvik, Sweden native managed a winning record on a team that managed just 15 wins all season. But his supporting numbers were strong as well.

Linus Ullmark Buffalo Sabres
Linus Ullmark, Buffalo Sabres (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Even on the Sabres, Ullmark managed a .917 SV% and a 2.63 GAA, along with a .550 QS%. He even posted 5.5 GSAA, and had zero RBS. It was an incredible season on a bottom-feeding team, and it convinced the Boston Bruins to shock the league and sign Ullmark to a four-year, $20 million contract. With Tuukka Rask expected to miss most or all of the season recovering from injury, Ullmark will be the number one this season. And if he can post numbers like he did in Buffalo on a team as strong as the Bruins, he could shoot up this list to be considered one of the game’s very best.

16) Darcy Kuemper: Colorado Avalanche

Previous Rank: 5

The Colorado Avalanche watched their goaltender of three seasons, and a Vezina Trophy finalist, depart in free agency this summer. They were forced to trade a first-round pick and defensive prospect Conor Timmins to the Arizona Coyotes to acquire Darcy Kuemper as their new starter. But as backup plans go, this is a terrific one. Kuemper has been terrific in four seasons with the Coyotes, and, like Ullmark, has consistently outperformed a bad team. The 2020-21 season wasn’t his best effort: coming off seasons with 25.1 (2018-19) and 16.7 (2019-20) GSAA, he finished with minus-0.6 this season. But that shouldn’t concern the Avalanche too much. Their strong defense should make Kuemper a force to be reckoned with, and he too stands a strong chance of climbing much higher on this list by midseason.

15) Robin Lehner: Vegas Golden Knights

Previous Rank: 4

Continuing a trend, Robin Lehner is yet another goalie with a strong chance to rocket up this list in the season ahead. He has been a Vezina Trophy finalist and a Jennings Trophy winner in recent seasons, and the Vegas Golden Knights are committed to him for four more seasons at $5 million per season. But injury, and the lights-out performance of former teammate Marc-Andre Fleury, kept him in a backup role for the 2020-21 season.

Robin Lehner Vegas Golden Knights
Robin Lehner, Vegas Golden Knights (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

Even in limited work, Lehner still worked strong. He went 13-4-2, maintained a .913 SV% and a 2.29 GAA, and had 2.5 GSAA. It was a very solid season for a backup, and it showed the Golden Knights enough to trade Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks for almost nothing to clear salary cap space. Assuming he’s healthy, there’s every reason to believe Lehner will be right back in top form during the 2021-22 season.

14) Mike Smith: Edmonton Oilers

Previous Rank: Unranked

Mike Smith gave a jaw-dropping performance in his second season with the Edmonton Oilers. Even without a stalwart defense in front of him, he went 21-6-2 with a .923 SV% and a 2.31 GAA. He also managed 13.9 GSAA. Smith has always been streaky (note his minus-7.7 and minus-12.7 GSAA in the two seasons prior), but the 2020-21 campaign was truly one of the best performances of his career. The only question now is, can Smith maintain that pace entering a season in which he will turn 40? Uncertainty about that prospect is what kept him lower on this list, but the Oilers showed no hesitation in signing him to a two-year, $4.4 million contract in the offseason.

13) Jordan Binnington: St. Louis Blues

Previous Rank: 7

Jordan Binnington may never again put up the world-beating numbers that he displayed en route to winning a Stanley Cup in his rookie season. But he has shown almost every doubter now that he can be a consistent, top-tier NHL goalie, and his 2020-21 season was no exception. Though he struggled some in the middle of the season, shortly after signing a six-year, $36 million contract extension, it was Binnington’s strong performance that willed the team across the finish line and into the postseason. Without him, the St. Louis Blues might well have missed the playoffs. Goalies that can make that kind of difference consistently for their team are some of the league’s very best, and he has proven himself to be among that number.

12) Cam Talbot: Minnesota Wild

Previous Rank: 23

For two seasons, it seemed like years of overwork in Edmonton might have broken Cam Talbot. But in his past two seasons, first with the Flames and now with the Minnesota Wild, he has once again shown the skills that made the Oilers start him in 73 games in 2016-17 in the first place.

Cam Talbot Minnesota Wild
Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Playing on the first season of a three-year, $11 million contract in the Twin Cities, Talbot managed 6.9 GSAA and a strong QS% of .636. His .915 SV% and 2.63 GAA were more than enough for the Wild, who had finally watched the tread wear off of Devan Dubnyk the season prior. Talbot’s performance was a major reason why they turned back into a postseason contender — though the arrival of Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov certainly played a role as well. Now 34, Talbot will hope to continue to prove that he has what it takes to keep Minnesota relevant. He will need to hold off a challenge from young goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen to hold onto a starting job, but if he plays like he did last season, remaining a starter won’t be any challenge.

11) Alex Nedeljkovic: Detroit Red Wings

Previous Rank: Unranked

As already mentioned, the Hurricanes’ decision to trade Nedeljkovic to the Red Wings is one of the most head-scratching moves of the offseason. Long discussed as the future in Carolina, his rookie season was immediate proof of concept. The Parma, Ohio native was a force to be reckoned with in his rookie season, earning third-place in Calder Trophy voting thanks to league-leading SV% (.932%) and GAA (1.90) numbers. He also managed 15.7 GSAA, despite starting just 23 games. Red Wings fans love to talk about the “Yzerplan,” a loving reference to their faith in general manager Steve Yzerman’s team-building approach, but it’s hard to imagine even Stevie Y expected to get a potential franchise goaltender for just a third-round pick. Unless the Hurricanes recognized something about Nedeljkovic that no one else has, this trade could go down to haunt their organization for years to come.

10) Elvis Merzlikins: Columbus Blue Jackets

Previous Rank: Unranked

Take your pick between Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins as the Columbus Blue Jackets’ true number one, because both were fantastic. But there were trade rumors about Korpisalo, which have been shrouded by the tragic events of the offseason, and that indicates that the Blue Jackets view Merzlikins as the #1 internally. After the heartbreaking loss of Matiss Kivlenieks in the offseason, Merzlikins also entrenched himself in the heart of the team and the community.

On the ice, Merzlikins has been consistently strong since his 2019-20 rookie season. He’s got 19 career GSAA despite starting just 54 games. This season, he kept a .916 SV% and a 2.77 GAA, even though the Blue Jackets struggled to stay competitive. The 27-year-old native of Riga, Latvia has established himself as a strong NHL goaltender, and he will have a lot of pride on his shoulders entering the new season. All of the league will be rooting for him.

9) Jack Campbell: Toronto Maple Leafs

Previous Rank: Unranked

Jack Campbell is the primary reason the Maple Leafs felt comfortable moving on from Frederik Andersen in the offseason. But a career of playing backup to Quick in Los Angeles might deceive some into underestimating Campbell’s career. He’s no young up-and-comer: his first season as a full-time starter will also be the season in which he turns 30. But he’s earned his opportunity: a .921 SV% and a 2.15 GAA in 22 games, plus a 17-3-2 record, was more than enough for general manager Kyle Dubas to plan to move forward with Campbell. Even so, they signed veteran platoon goalie Petr Mrázek as an insurance policy. This is an all-or-nothing season in Toronto, so there will be plenty of pressure on Campbell to perform.

8) Igor Shesterkin: New York Rangers

Previous Rank: 20

Is it possible that ranking Igor Shesterkin at #8 is an over-ranking based on pedigree? Sure. But the 25-year-old Russian has all the makings of the next great goaltender in the NHL, and he has already started to show his worth at the highest level. In his second season, he started 31 games on a defensively suspect team, and still held a QS% of .645, which ranks fifth amongst starters on this list. His .916 SV% and 2.62 GAA were also perfectly strong for a second-year goalie, and he managed 7.9 GSAA.

Igor Shesterkin New York Rangers
Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Shesterkin has long carried the reputation as one of the league’s next great goaltenders and is slated to join a superstar cast of Russian netminders headlined by Samsonov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Ilya Sorokin, and, in the not-too-distant future, Yaroslav Askarov. The New York Rangers saw their last franchise goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist, announce his retirement earlier in the offseason. But there is little question that their next cornerstone netminder is already between the pipes in Madison Square Garden.

7) Thatcher Demko: Vancouver Canucks

Previous Rank: Unranked

The Vancouver Canucks hitched their wagon to San Diego, CA native Thatcher Demko when they watched Markstrom depart to Calgary in free agency, and in his first full season as the number one, the 25-year-old justified the team’s faith in him. Coming off a 2019-20 postseason run in which he stood on his head, maintaining a .985 SV% and a 0.64 GAA in four games, his performance level remained high even as the team around him fell apart. Despite coming last in the North Division, and struggling with the league’s most serious COVID-19 outbreak, Demko still managed 8.2 GSAA, a .915 SV%, and a 2.85 GAA. It was an impressive season and convinced general manager Jim Benning to make the commitment to him that he would not to Markstrom, signing Demko to a five-year, $25 million contract in March.

6) Semyon Varlamov: New York Islanders

Previous Rank: 10

Semyon Varlamov may be the most consistently underrated goaltender in the NHL. Say whatever you wish about the defensive structure in front of him, a goalie can’t maintain a .929 SV%, a 2.04 GAA, and a breathtaking, league-leading 22.0 GSAA just because of a strong defense. Varlamov also led the league with seven shutouts, a career high. Many questioned the wisdom of allowing Lehner to leave as a free agent, only to sign Varlamov to a four-year, $20 million contract in 2019. But his first two seasons with the Islanders have been outstanding. And if he has doubled as a mentor and eventually gives way to Sorokin in the final years of his deal, it will have been a perfect outcome for general manager Lou Lamoriello.

5) Philipp Grubauer: Seattle Kraken

Previous Rank: 15

Continuing a theme of goaltenders who will be tied to the defense in front of them, Philipp Grubauer rose to become a Vezina Trophy finalist last season thanks in no small part to the strong Avalanche defense in front of him. But while that may have enhanced his 30-9-1 record, it should take nothing away from his .922 SV%, or his ridiculous 1.95 GAA. Grubauer also tied with Varlamov with seven shutouts and claimed 14.5 GSAA. It was a fantastic season, with our without the great defense in front of him.

With that said, if Grubauer was looking for an opportunity to prove he was more than the sum of his defenders, he has it now: the Rosenheim, Germany native signed with the expansion Seattle Kraken in free agency. Marc-Andre Fleury became the face of the Golden Knights when they expanded. Can Grubauer do the same over the life of his new six-year contract? If he plays anything like he did last season, all signs point to yes.

4) Juuse Saros: Nashville Predators

Previous Rank: Unranked

Some franchises struggle to ever pin down a cornerstone goalie. Some franchises transition seamlessly from top-tier netminder to top-tier netminder. Such has been the good fortune of the Nashville Predators. Right when Finnish legend Pekka Rinne finally looked to be out of gas, a new Finnish backstop reached a whole new level. Juuse Saros is now 26 and entering his sixth full NHL season, but the 2020-21 campaign was his breakout season as the Predators’ true starter. A .927 SV%, a 2.28 GAA, 20.9 GSAA, and a 21-11-1 record were enough to fetch Saros not only Vezina Trophy votes, but even some consideration for the Hart Trophy! Music City looks like it has already found the next great goaltender to grace the ice of the Bridgestone Arena, even if Pekka has officially left the building.

3) Marc-Andre Fleury: Chicago Blackhawks

Previous Rank: Unranked

What is there to be said about Marc-Andre Fleury at this point in his career? Even after 16 seasons and three Stanley Cups, the former first-overall pick still found another gear at age 36 and won his first Vezina and Jennings Trophies for the Vegas Golden Knights. All that he did despite entering the season with a massive chip on his shoulder as the presumed backup. Whatever his motivation, he held a .722 QS%, trailing just Varlamov, and his .928 SV%, 1.98 GAA, and 20.1 GSAA make it hard to argue with his selection as Vezina Trophy recipient. Even if it had elements of a “lifetime achievement” award, it was well earned.

Marc-Andre Fleury Vegas Golden Knights
Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If playing with a chip on his shoulder is what makes Fleury great, then the Central Division will need to look out this season. As mentioned earlier, even after winning the top goaltending trophy, the Golden Knights traded Fleury for peanuts to the Blackhawks in a cap-clearing move. The move came as such a shock — and was such a perceived disrespect to the face of the franchise — that Fleury reportedly weighed retirement rather than reporting for the Blackhawks. But he later confirmed in a social media post that he was “in,” meaning the Blackhawks should have a highly-motivated future Hall of Fame member between the pipes this season.

2) Connor Hellebuyck: Winnipeg Jets

Previous Rank: 2

Likely to be the starter for the U.S. Team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, Connor Hellebuyck has unquestionably established himself as one of the game’s true elites. He played the most games and logged the most minutes of any starter in the NHL this season, yet held onto a .916 SV%, a 2.58 GAA, and 11.0 GSAA to boot. He also managed four shutouts and helped Winnipeg slam the door on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in a brutal four-game first-round sweep in the postseason. Even with years of consistent success and a Vezina Trophy under his belt, Hellebuyck is just the seventh-highest-paid goaltender in the league, ranking between Binnington and Murray. It’s an absurd value for the Jets, and one they’ll be glad to leverage for the next three seasons.

1) Andrei Vasilevskiy: Tampa Bay Lightning

Previous Rank: 3

If you read to the end of this article expecting any other name at the top of the list, we’re sorry to disappoint, but Andrei Vasilevskiy’s rightful place as the best goaltender in the NHL is unimpeachable. He has been a Vezina Trophy finalist four-seasons running, is a back-to-back Stanley Cup Champion, and is the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner. His .925 SV%, 2.21 GAA, 21.0 GSAA, five shutouts, and zero RBS all speak for themselves. There’s no need to belabor the point: Vasilevskiy is a full head and shoulders above even the other elite netminders in the NHL, and it would take a remarkable performance to unseat him from his throne.


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The Bottom Line

The NHL has seen plenty of turnover between the pipes this season, including seeing two of the three Vezina Trophy Finalists arriving on new teams. Grubauer and Fleury will be looking to prove themselves in new homes, as will Nedeljkovic, Kuemper, Ullmark, Andersen, Reimer, Hutton, and Anderson. Over a fourth of the NHL’s teams will have a new presumed starter entering the season. At an already volatile position, that is guaranteed to make for a very interesting season. And as the first season fully back in front of fans, these goaltenders will be looking to flash the leather and make a great first impression for their new teams.

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