Now that Martin Brodeur (and Johan Hedberg) have re-signed in New Jersey, let’s take a look at the remaining unrestricted free agent goalies.
Based on games started in 2011-12, from most to least, they go like this: Dwayne Roloson, Al Montoya, Brent Johnson, Ty Conklin, Andrew Raycroft, Alex Auld, Dan Ellis, and you get the point – there’s nobody that’s going to significantly improve a team at the position.
Now let’s consider the teams that have question marks in net:
Toronto – Leafs GM Brian Burke has said he’s willing to go into the season with the tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens, but you can bet he’s not happy about it. Miss the playoffs again and Burke could be looking for work, not a goalie. All of which is why we’ll keep monitoring the Roberto Luongo situation in Vancouver. At the moment, Florida is believed to be the most likely to land the Canucks’ goalie.
Columbus –Scott Howson went out and got Sergei Brobovsky from the Flyers, but can the embattled Blue Jackets GM trust a 23-year-old that’s coming off a bad season when his only other options are Steve Mason and Allen York? At least Howson has lowered expectations on his side.
Chicago – The Blackhawks were reportedly interested in Brodeur when he was exploring free agency, and for good reason – Corey Crawford struggled badly in 2011-12 and the backup, Ray Emery, didn’t do any better. GM Stan Bowman can’t let goaltending drag his Stanley Cup contender down again.
Tampa Bay – Anders Lindback may be the Lightning’s goalie of the future, but GM Steve Yzerman would be asking a lot of the 24-year-old with 28 NHL starts under his belt to take over the top spot right away. Mathieu Garon is under contract for another season, but he’s bounced around the league for a reason.
The NHL’s oldest goaltending tandem is sticking around for a couple more years.
On Monday, the New Jersey Devils announced they’ve re-upped with Johan Hedberg on a two-year, $2.8 million deal, one that includes a full no-trade clause.
With the earlier announcement of Martin Brodeur signing a two-year deal as well, the Devils retain the oldest goaltending tandem in the league — Brodeur is 40, Hedberg is 39 — with contracts that will take their ‘tenders to ages 42 and 41, respectively.
The deal represents a slight pay bump for Hedberg, who made $1.25 million over each of the last two years. The veteran Swedish netminder appeared in 27 games for the Devils last season, posting a 17-7-3 record with a .918 save percentage, 2.23 GAA while leading the Devils with four shutouts (Brodeur had three.)
It’s a key signing for the Devils. Many credit Hedberg’s large body of work last season as an important part of keeping Brodeur fresh for the postseason.
As for the rest of the league — with Hedberg coming off the market, the UFA goalie pool is officially thinned out. Teams looking for veteran backup help are now left to sift Dwayne Roloson, Alex Auld, Brent Johnson and Ty Conklin, to name a few.
There’s a new wrinkle in the free agent goalie market.
According to Carolina GM Jim Rutherford, ‘Canes backup Brian Boucher suffered a shoulder injury that will sideline him for 4-6 months, preventing him from being Cam Ward’s security blanket until at least October, possibly December.
That puts a spotlight on 25-year-old Justin Peters — he of the 28 career NHL appearances — who is an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Do the ‘Canes scramble to re-sign Peters, or acquire a more veteran presence?
“Obviously this thing with Brian’s injury gives Justin a better chance,” Rutherford explained. “But the fact that we’re this close to July 1, we’re probably going to wait a few days into [the free agency period] to make a decision.”
It’s hard to imagine who else the ‘Canes would land in free agency. They’re basically offering a temp position that will get crowded when Boucher comes back, so it’s shaping up to be a stopgap/filler signing — perhaps a guy that’s on the verge of not being in the league (read: Brent Johnson, Ty Conklin.)