I wish that I could say I was thunderstruck by the Ottawa Senators’ decision to sign goaltender Craig Anderson to a four-year deal worth $12.75 million (for an annual cap hit just under $3.2 million). Sadly, that deal isn’t an aberration, either in the history of the Senators or recent NHL history. Ottawa follows in the tracks of San Jose (four more years of Antti Niemi for more money than Chicago was prepared to pay for one) and Edmonton (who gave Nikolai Khabibulin twice as many years at nearly twice as many dollars as any other goaltender got in summer ‘09), giving an average starter big money and elite term rather than take a chance on one or two of a whole bunch of average starter-type goaltenders who will flood the market this summer.
In the interests of sanity, let’s take a quick look at the goaltenders available via free agency or trade this summer versus the number of starting jobs in play.
What follows is a list of the 30 NHL teams, along with goaltenders who might be considered for an NHL job next season. Players in italics are restricted free agents, while underlined players are unrestricted free agents.
Anaheim Ducks: Jonas Hiller, Dan Ellis, Ray Emery
Atlanta Thrashers: Ondrej Pavelec, Chris Mason
Boston Bruins: Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask
Buffalo Sabres: Ryan Miller, Jhonas Enroth, Patrick Lalime
Calgary Flames: Miikka Kiprusoff, Henrik Karlsson, Leland Irving
Carolina Hurricanes: Cam Ward, Justin Peters, Mike Murphy
Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford, Marty Turco, Alexander Salak
Colorado Avalanche: Peter Budaj, Brian Elliott, John Grahame, Jason Bacashihua
Columbus Blue Jackets: Steve Mason, Mathieu Garon
Dallas Stars: Kari Lehtonen, Andrew Raycroft, Richard Bachman
Detroit Red Wings: Jimmy Howard, Chris Osgood, Joey MacDonald
Edmonton Oilers: Devan Dubnyk, Nikolai Khabibulin, Martin Gerber
Florida Panthers: Tomas Vokoun, Scott Clemmensen
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick, Jonathan Bernier, Martin Jones, Erik Ersberg
Minnesota Wild: Niklas Backstrom, Jose Theodore, Josh Harding
Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price, Alex Auld, Curtis Sanford
Nashville Predators: Pekka Rinne, Anders Lindback, Mark Dekanich
New Jersey Devils: Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg
New York Islanders: Rick DiPietro, Evgeni Nabokov, Al Montoya
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Biron,
Ottawa Senators: Craig Anderson, Curtis McElhinney, Pascal Leclaire, Robin Lehner
Philadelphia Flyers: Sergei Bobrovsky, Brian Boucher, Mike Leighton
Phoenix Coyotes: Ilya Bryzgalov, Jason LaBarbera, Matt Climie
Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury, Brent Johnson, Brad Thiessen
San Jose Sharks: Antti Niemi, Antero Niittymaki
St. Louis Blues: Jaroslav Halak, Ty Conklin, Jake Allen, Ben Bishop
Tampa Bay Lightning: Dwayne Roloson, Mike Smith,
Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Jonas Gustavsson, Ben Scrivens
Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider, Eddie Lack
Washington Capitals: Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov, Braden Holtby
A quick glance down this list shows that not many teams are looking for new goaltenders. Florida and Phoenix might need a new starter, but if they do than two of the league’s best goaltenders will be available (and that’s assuming that Florida doesn’t just hand the starting role over to Clemmensen, which seems a relatively likely scenario). Aside from those two teams, it’s just Colorado and possibly Tampa Bay and Columbus. In short: there aren’t a lot of places for a goaltender looking for a starting job.
There isn’t a shortage of candidates. Via trade, one of the Capitals’ trio, Cory Schneider, Evgeni Nabokov, and perhaps one of the Kings’ goaltenders could be available, based on depth charts. Tomas Vokoun headlines a strong list of possible candidates for a starting job that includes Dwayne Roloson, Jose Theodore, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Mathieu Garon, Brian Boucher, Alex Auld, Josh Harding, Ray Emery, Ty Conklin and Marty Turco. Based on free agents alone, every team could employ a relatively strong 1A/1B-style tandem.
A bunch of excellent goaltenders are going to go unsigned this summer. There’s no sign the market is going to slow down any time soon, as players keep playing longer into their careers and they’re supplemented by strong youngsters and the seemingly unstoppable flow of quality undrafted Europeans.
Signing an average goalie to a lot of money for many, many years, is one of the dumbest possible things an NHL general manager can do in this kind of climate.