The National Hockey League and its teams are headed towards what many expect to be one of the most tumultuous off seasons in recent memory and one of the big talking points heading into the offseason is the subject of goaltenders. Goalies like the Penguins' Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry could very well be on the move, there have been rumblings around goaltenders like Darcy Kuemper of the Arizona Coyotes as well in recent weeks, and who knows what the future holds for Marc Andre Fleury after his agent published a now infamous tweet.
There's a lot going on there and that is before we get into the unrestricted free agents that will potentially be up for grabs this offseason, of which there will be many. Although some of them are expected to re-sign with their respective teams before hitting free agency on October 9th, there are enough options out there this time around that I wouldn't be shocked to see several of these players on different teams come the start of next season.
With that in mind here are the top 5 free agent goalies that will be unrestricted free agents on October 9th.
#1 Robin Lehner.
There have been indications that the Las Vegas Golden Knights will look to sign Lehner to a long term contract and make him their goaltender of the future, but with the aforementioned Marc Andre Fleury still in the picture no one truly knows how this one will play out. Lehner has bounced around quite a bit over the last few years and I suspect for that reason he will seriously consider re-signing with the Golden Knights if he is offered a long term deal before October 9th.
#2 Jacob Markstrom
It once seemed like a forgone conclusion that the Vancouver Canucks would be signing Markstrom to a long term contract prior to him hitting the open market, but the emergence of Thatcher Demko in the Stanley Cup playoffs has muddied the waters. Demko was incredible for the Canucks in the postseason with a 0.64 goals against average and a .985 save percentage, but admittedly it was over an incredibly limited sample size of 4 playoff games. During the regular season his numbers were much less impressive with a 3.06 goals against average and a .905 save percentage over 27 appearances, so the safe bet here for the Canucks would be to sign Markstrom. Whether or not they gamble on Demko, and save a ton of cap space in the process, remains to be seen.
#3 Braden Holtby.
There are some big red flags surrounding Holtby however, notably his career worst season with the Capitals this past season. Holtby has been a workhorse for the Capitals and a true #1 goaltender, but having a career worst season at 30 years old is not going to do him any favors as a free agent. I think it will be telling if the Capitals choose not to bring him back, and possibly even look for an upgrade among some of the names listed here.
Holtby was alright during the playoffs but his 2.49 goals against average and .906 save percentage will be marred by his performance in the regular season where he posted a 3.11 goals against average and a .897 save percentage over 48 games.
#4 Anton Khudobin
Khudobin is coming off arguably the two best seasons of his NHL career with the Dallas Stars and his importance to that team in these Stanley Cup playoffs cannot be understated. Over 18 playoff appearances with the Stars this season the Kazakhstani goalie has a 2.67 goals against average and a .918 save percentage and that has come against some offensively gifted opposition. In the regular season he was also very good with 30 appearances and a 2.22 goals against average and a .930 save percentage.
The big gamble with Khudobin of course is that he is a career backup and no one really knows how he would fare as a full time starter. That is an especially big gamble when you consider that it would come very late in his career at 34 years of age. I will add however that he made 41 appearances for the Stars 2 seasons ago and his 2.57 GAA and .923 save percentage over that stretch can be viewed as a promising sign.
#5 Corey Crawford.
I strongly suspect that the Blackhawks will look to bring back Crawford on a short term deal, especially considering that they made the decision to trade Robin Lehner prior to the National Hockey League's trade deadline. Crawford showed this season that at 35 years old he is still a capable goaltender, making 40 appearances for the Blackhawks and recording a 2.77 goals against average and .917 save percentage, but there are of course gigantic red flags around Crawford as well.
The longtime Blackhawks netminder has been plagued by concussion problems that have kept him away from the game for extended periods of time and the possibility of the next one potentially being the last one will no doubt weigh on the mind of any general manager contemplating the possibility of signing Crawford.
Cam Talbot, Thomas Greiss.
My one concern for all of these goalies, particularly the ones on the free agent market, is the possibility of their value being diminished by the sheer number of options that will be out there for NHL general managers.
Which of these guys would you like to see your team go after?