To begin the mini-series looking at the best value contracts from each position in the NHL, we will kick off by looking at the goaltenders. Though the best goaltenders in the league often earn more, there are a number of goaltenders who are just breaking out or having stellar seasons. The heavily relied upon stats in determining who has great contracts are based on if the goaltender can stop the puck and make the big saves, providing much better value to his team than he is paid to do.
10. Vitek Vanecek ($716,000)
The Washington Capitals have struggled in net overall this season and were one of the teams most in need of a goaltender upgrade at the deadline. They decided to stick with Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov, but they’ve been able to rely on Vanecek more.
Over the past two seasons, he has shown that he is a more consistent goalie and can step up when the Capitals need wins or a solid presence in net. Among the goaltenders on this list, Vanecek is tied with the worst save percentage (SV%) at .912. That isn’t a bad number and is very good for someone making as little money as he does in a 1A position in net. He has the lowest goals saved above expected (GSAA) among these netminders but has posted three shutouts this season.
His stats may not be the very best, but they are much better than a team can ask for from a goaltender being paid so little for his services in a starting role most of the time.
9. Anthony Stolarz ($950,000)
Anthony Stolarz has played his way into at least splitting time with one of the presumed best goaltenders in the NHL, John Gibson. The Anaheim Ducks haven’t really helped Gibson over the past few seasons, but Stolarz has stepped in and at least stabilized the position.
Stolarz has the fewest amount number of games played and started this season among the group. But his numbers, given how poor the Ducks have played a good chunk of the season, speaks volumes about how well he has played. On a team that has allowed 242 goals, 10th-worst in the league, he has posted a 2.57 goals-against average (GAA) and .920 SV%. His GSAA is 14th in the NHL at 8.13, which is impressive considering he’s started just 20 games. If he had more starts, he’d be higher on this list.
8. James Reimer ($2.25 million)
James Reimer has been a big part of holding the San Jose Sharks together for most of this season. He has put up very good numbers considering the team has had to inject a ton of rookies into the lineup. There have also been inconsistencies and injuries to his counterparts in net.
Reimer was expected to split starts and be a mentor to Adin Hill, who’s finding his way in the NHL, but Reimer has done much more than that. He has started 41 games, which is a fair bit over half of the games played, and posted an SV% of .915. Among goaltenders who have played more than five games this season, he has the third-best quality start percentage in the NHL at .683. He is the third-highest paid player on this list, but it’s still a great contract for what he’s provided to this poor defensive team.
7. Jack Campbell ($1.65 million)
Jack Campbell, despite his struggles for the Toronto Maple Leafs since the calendar flipped to 2022, has been a great contract for them. As most know, the Maple Leafs are strapped for cap space every season since they have four forwards making up 50 percent of the cap on their team. Campbell’s production, especially early for just $1.65 million, has been a savior for them and a big reason they were in a great position in the first half of the season.
Campbell’s original partner, Petr Mrazek, made the list for the most overpaid goaltenders in the NHL this season, so at least the Maple Leafs had Campbell to balance the scales a bit and allow them to continue to be a top team. He is the other goaltender I mentioned above that has the lowest SV% of these goalies at .912.
Related: Top 10 Overpaid Goalies in the NHL in 2021-22
His pre- and post-All-Star break differences in performance are astronomical. Before the All-Star break, Campbell was 21-6-3 with a 2.30 GAA, .925 SV%, and four shutouts. Since the break, he is 6-3-3 with a 3.86 GAA, .878 SV%, and no shutouts. He is making the same, if not less, than most backups in the NHL, so I would’ve valued his contract as the best before his recent slide.
6. Ilya Sorokin ($4 million)
Ilya Sorokin is the second-highest player on this list, and his contract is still a steal. Yes, the New York Islanders are a defensive team, but it’s not without the performance of Sorokin this season that allows the team to even have a sliver of hope.
He has the second-most shutouts (six), second-highest SV% (.927) and quality start percentage (.727), with the fourth-highest GSAA (26.12). At only $4 million per season, the Islanders need to take advantage of this goaltender while he’s underpaid before he surely demands more money somewhere in the NHL.
5. Jake Oettinger ($925,000)
Despite not even starting the season on the Dallas Stars, Jake Oettinger was called up a month into the season and immediately stabilized the goaltending, starting 5-0-0 and then 9-2-0. He slowly overtook Braden Holtby for the starting job and has it locked down fully now with the decline of Holtby’s play and then an injury.
Oettinger is still on his entry-level deal, which is great for the Stars to take advantage of the cap space available and use it in a place of need. The Stars aren’t the best all-around team, but they are right in the mix for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The team intends on riding Oettinger into the postseason since he is their best option to win and one of the league’s best (from ‘Stars continue to ride Jake Oettinger in victory over Capitals, but add reinforcements postgame,’ Dallas Morning News, March 20, 2022).
4. Jeremy Swayman ($925,000)
Jeremy Swayman has the luxury of playing for a good team while on his entry-level deal. He’s had a rollercoaster of a season so far, starting as a tandem/1B goaltender to newly signed Linus Ullmark, playing lights out at home and earning the starting job, getting sent down to the American Hockey League (AHL) to make room for Tuukka Rask, and then getting recalled only to basically split time with Ullmark once again since his production has been much better (from’ Linus Ullmark, Jeremy Swayman and the likelihood of a goalie rotation in the playoffs,’ The Athletic, April 10, 2022).
For 33 starts, Swayman’s numbers have been very impressive, especially considering he’s just 23 years old. He has the fifth-best SV% in the NHL and a 9.51 GSAA, 12th in the NHL. What is impressive is the Boston Bruins have a weaker and inexperienced back end this season, and Swayman has still managed to post three shutouts and have the numbers he does.
3. Anton Forsberg ($900,000)
Anton Forsberg has very similar stats to Swayman, but since he has performed the way he has on the Ottawa Senators as opposed to the Bruins, he gets the edge. He has played so well that the Senators, who have two young and talented goaltenders, decided to sign him to a three-year extension already worth three times as much as he’s earning this season.
Forsberg has posted a .917 SV% to this point, has a positive win/loss record on a team that is 26-40-6, ranks 11th in GSAA with 10.39, and has the fifth-highest quality start percentage in the NHL. This is also without their top defenceman Thomas Chabot and is very impressive when compared to the other netminders the Senators have used this season.
2. Igor Shesterkin ($5.66 million)
All season long, Igor Shesterkin has been incredible for the New York Rangers. He is leading the Vezina Trophy conversation by a wide margin, and he is certainly in the top five for the Hart Trophy this season. At one point deep into the season, he was holding strong with a .940 SV%, which would have been second to only Jacques Plante’s for the best single-season SV% in NHL history.
Yes, he earns significantly more than any other goaltender on this list other than maybe Sorokin, but Shesterkin’s numbers and the impact he has had on his team this season have been second to none among goaltenders. His GSAA is leaps and bounds ahead of the next closest netminder this season at 40; Darcy Kuemper is second with a 28.33 GSAA.
A goaltender of his level should be getting paid as much as the highest-paid goalies in the league, especially if he can keep it up for years to come.
1. Ville Husso ($750,000)
Ville Husso comes in as the best value goaltender in the NHL this season. He has seemingly come out of nowhere, considering his stats from last season were troubling as a backup in his first NHL season. He has completely taken over the starting job for the St. Louis Blues and left Jordan Binnington, who’s making $6 million a season, starting much fewer games.
The beginning of the season didn’t see Husso get very many opportunities to prove himself. He kicked off the season with a shutout, then followed that up about three weeks later with his next start, allowing only one goal. That earned him a few more starts, where he fumbled the opportunity, posting a SV% of under .900 three consecutive games. It wasn’t until the NHL returned from the pause over the Christmas break where he made himself really known.
Husso got a bit of luck since Binnington hasn’t played well all season, allowing for Husso to get more starts, especially when he’s been playing well. He has the sixth-best SV% in the NHL at .924 and only trails the goaltenders making at least $4 million. Husso earns $750,000 this season and is an unrestricted free agent this summer. He has a GSAA of 16.95, ninth in the NHL, and has definitely earned himself a raise this offseason.
Any surprises above? Let me know in the comments if you agree with the list or who should get switched around.