Examining the NHL’s goalie landscape after offseason frenzy

NHL Free Agency
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Goalies have been the dominant storyline in the early portion of the NHL offseason.

So far we have seen eight different starters find new homes, a handful of teams re-sign their own regulars, and a couple of teams make significant financial investments in the position.

Given the importance of goaltending (it can literally be the difference between a good season and a bad season), the number of teams looking for an upgrade, and the surplus of talent that was available, it was expected to be a busy few months of goalie movement.

Let’s take a quick look at how it has all worked out so far.

The “safe” short-term investments

Safe is a dangerous word to use with goalies because the position can be so volatile in terms of on-ice performance. Just when you think you have your answer in net, things can quickly go south.

Still, there were a handful of signings this offseason that should provide teams with strong short-term options that cut down on long-term risk.

Henrik Lundqvist to the Capitals. I love this move for both sides. Lundqvist gets an opportunity to play for a contender and still try to chase down the Stanley Cup, and the Capitals get a bargain to play alongside Ilya Samsonov. Is he going to play like he did six years ago? No. But he is going to give them a great return on that $1.5 million investment.

Corey Crawford to the Devils. Kind of a surprise that he chose the Devils, but a healthy Crawford is still a fantastic goalie and should give the Devils a wonderful duo with Mackenzie Blackwood. Goaltending was New Jersey’s biggest weakness the past couple of years and it could become an actual strength overnight.

Braden Holtby to the Canucks. It is crazy how far his value dropped on the open market in such a short period of time. A year ago he seemed destined to sign a mega-contract comparable to Sergei Bobrovsky‘s free agent deal in Florida. But a bad year, a flat cap, teams not having as much money as they anticipated having, and a ton of goalie options really brought his price tag down. He is on the downside of his career, but he is a strong bounce-back candidate. If that happens the Canucks should have a cost-effective duo with he and Thatcher Demko.

The Sensible signings

Not sure how else to describe Minnesota’s signing of Cam Talbot and Detroit’s signing of Thomas Griess other than to say they were solid.

Neither goalie is going to be a franchise-changer, but they are good NHL goalies signed to fair contracts. You can not really go wrong here.

Greiss is the really intriguing one because he has very quietly been a solidly above average goalie for the past five years and really has not received much attention or fanfare for it.

The “you better be right” gambles

Matt Murray to the Senators. Man, this one is tough. Murray is still only 26 years old and has the “two-time Stanley Cup winner” label attached to his name. But he has been wildly inconsistent the past three seasons and there is still some question as to which goalie he is going to be. The Senators traded a decent prospect and a second-round pick for him, then signed him to the biggest cap hit of any goalie this offseason (four-years, $25 million; $6.25 million salary cap).

Jacob Markstrom to Flames. Markstrom is a very good goalie right now, but a six-year, $36 million contract for a soon-to-be 31-year-old is putting a lot of faith in his long-term outlook. He should improve the Flames’ net right now. But how many years does he have that level of play in him? And for that price?

Keeping the band together

Three teams (Vegas, Dallas, Edmonton) re-signed goalies to keep their same duos together.

The most intriguing one here is obviously the Golden Knights with the return of Robin Lehner on a five-year, $25 million contract. It was believe that signing was going to necessitate a Marc-Andre Fleury trade, but it has not happened. If we are to believe Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon it is not going to happen, either. That means the Golden Knights will have $12 million in salary cap space committed to their goalie position for the next two years. There was already drama surrounding that duo in the playoffs given the playing time split, and that is not likely to go away.

Dallas re-signing Anton Khudobin seemed like a no-brainer. He has been great since joining the team two years ago, has formed a great duo with Ben Bishop, and he just took them to the Stanley Cup Final. Having those two at a combined salary cap number of just under $8 million per season is very fair.

Edmonton did a lot of good things this offseason (Tyson Barrie and Kyle Turris on short-term, cheap deals) but bringing back the same goalie duo with the re-signing of Mike Smith could undo a lot of that.

These might still be problem spots

Devan Dubnyk to the Sharks. The Sharks have had one of the worst goalie duos in the league for two years and they finally did something to address it. But did they do enough? They acquired Devan Dubnyk from the Minnesota Wild for a late draft pick so he can share the crease with Martin Jones. Dubnyk was an upper-tier goal for most of his Minnesota tenure, but he is coming off the worst season of his career and will be 34 years old this season. He might bounce-back, but even if he does he is a free agent after this upcoming season and the position is still a long-term issue. It might still be a short-term issue as well.

The Blackhawks. This one is just hard to figure. The duo of Crawford and Lehner was the only reason the Blackhawks were even somewhat competitive year ago, and now both of them are gone. At the moment they are prepared to enter the season with Colin Delia and Malcolm Subban in net and that just does not seem ideal, especially during an offseason where there were countless options available. They seem to want to rebuild, but they still have some big-money superstars (and champions!) that are not going to want to play through that. This could be a mess.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Hughes has first NHL hat trick, Devils beat Capitals 5-1

    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
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    NEWARK, N.J. – Jack Hughes had his first career NHL hat trick, Vitek Vanecek made 38 saves against his former team and the New Jersey Devils beat the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Saturday for coach Lindy Ruff’s 800th victory.

    “It’s exciting,” Hughes said. “Couple of two-goal games in my career, so nice to cap it off with the third one tonight.”

    Ruff became the fifth NHL coach to reach the 800-victory mark. The former Buffalo player won 571 games with the Sabres from 1997-2011. He had 165 wins in five seasons with Dallas and has 64 in two-plus seasons with New Jersey.

    “It means I’ve been around a long time,” Ruff cracked. “Great to win the game. Again, you got to do a lot of right things, have good teams, and the way our team is playing I have to give them a lot of credit for getting me there.”

    The Atlantic Division-leading Devils have won two in a row after seeing their franchise-record 13-game winning streak snapped by Toronto.

    Devils captain Nico Hischier and Fabian Zetterlund also scored.

    John Carlson scored for Washington and Charlie Lindgren made 24 saves.

    “Not scoring goals, not capitalizing on our chances,” Carlson said. “We’ve had our chances, especially today, but we only walked away with one goal. We could have had five or six. It’s just not going in right now.”

    Vanecek, meanwhile, was hoping for the shutout against a familiar foe.

    “That would have been nice, but that’s hockey,” Vanecek said, “For sure you’re trying, but not every time; the win is more important.”

    Hischier opened up the scoring with his 10th goal of the season midway through the first period on a power play after Alexander Ovechkin was called for slashing.

    Hughes wrapped the puck around goalie Lindgren’s right leg and the goal post to put the Devils up 2-0 5:59 into the second period. Hughes appeared to have lost his angle on the goal when he ripped a shot off Lindgren’s face mask and into the net midway through the period for his 10th goal of the season to give New Jersey a 3-0 lead.

    The 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick added his third midway through the third period as hats rained down on the ice with New Jersey up 4-0.

    “You want to continue to play the right way, but if an opportunity comes you want to definitely put it in the back of the net with authority,” Hughes said. “So tonight, I was able to cap it off and it was nice.”

    Fabian Zetterlund capped the scoring for New Jersey late in the third period.

    NOTES: The Devils improved to 16-0-0 this season when Hischier has a point. New Jersey’s Nathan Bastain (upper body) did not return after the first period. . Ovechkin is still nine goals away from 800 and 11 from passing Gordie Howe for second place on the NHL goals list.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: At Vancouver.

    Devils: At the New York Rangers.

    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.