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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