Free agent goalies: Campbell to Oilers, Capitals get Kuemper, more

Free agent goalies: Campbell to Oilers, Capitals get Kuemper, more
Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

With names like Ville Husso and Marc-Andre Fleury being kept from the 2022 NHL Free Agency goalie market, it’s no surprise that a lot of goalies are getting signed right off the bat on Wednesday. Let’s review some of the most prominent free agent goalie signings, including Jack Campbell to the Oilers and Darcy Kuemper with the Capitals.

Oilers sign Jack Campbell: five years, $5M cap hit

The Oilers opened up considerable salary cap space by trading Zack Kassian and seeing Duncan Keith retire.

Personally, I would’ve preferred that the Oilers try to stay spry. Focus on bargains and values, while keeping yourself flexible in case your moves don’t work out. Instead, the Oilers are making some considerable bets on veteran players, especially from a term perspective.

Maybe these moves will work out, maybe not.

Late on Tuesday/early on Wednesday, the Oilers signed Evander Kane after all, handing a player with a long list of “controversies and legal issues” a four-year contract with a $5.125 million cap hit.

Like Kane, Jack Campbell is 30 years old. That’s part of the equation in assessing if the Oilers made the right call in handing Jack Campbell a five-year contract with a $5M cap hit.

On one hand, it’s promising that Campbell sports a .916 save percentage, and generated 17.7 Goals Saved Above Average throughout his career. He’s also a widely beloved teammate, something you uh couldn’t always say about Evander Kane.

For a 30-year-old goalie, his resume isn’t that large, though. Campbell’s only played 135 regular-season games in the NHL. Last season was his closest to being a borderline No. 1 goalie, as he appeared in 39 contests. Otherwise, he’s played 31 games or less (sometimes far less).

So, basically, there’s a mix of good and bad with Campbell, so we’ll see if the Oilers are glad they made a significant investment (again, especially in term).

Capitals end offseason goalie shuffling with Darcy Kuemper signing

If you were to spotlight an issue for the Capitals in 2021-22 (besides Father Time knocking on the door), it would be goaltending. Time will tell if the Capitals actually improved enough to justify their spending, but you can’t accuse them of sitting idly by.

After trading Vitek Vanecek and letting Ilya Samsonov (more on him soon) walk, the Capitals signed the big goalie free agent fish in Darcy Kuemper. The Capitals signed Darcy Kuemper to a five-year contract with a $5.25 million cap hit.

When it comes to judging Kuemper, it’s an especially interesting case.

It’s a misconception that Kuemper and Pavel Francouz failed to give the Avalanche quality goaltending all season long. Instead, Kuemper was fantastic during the regular season. His recent track record is very, very promising.

Things just got rocky in the playoffs, especially after a scary eye injury.

Really, a detail like this would make me slightly concerned. What if Kuemper can’t track the puck at the level he once did?

Later on, the Capitals made another reasonably promising bet in Charlie Lindgren. Naturally, the NHL sample size is small, but it could pay off nicely since they signed him for a few years at a small clip:

Maple Leafs complete free agent goalie moves by adding Samsonov

After trading Petr Mrazek and letting Jack Campbell walk in free agency, the Maple Leafs enter 2022-23 with a goalie tandem of Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov.

Following salary retention, Murray carries about a $4.688 million cap hit for the next two seasons. The Maple Leafs made an interesting short-term bet on Samsonov, 25, at $1.8M for 2022-23. From there, he could become a restricted free agents, and would have salary arbitration rights.

If you want, a subset of Maple Leafs fans will give you a full-bodied defense of the Matt Murray trade somewhere on social media. Personally, it still seems like a very, very dicey bet.

[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

One of the (not especially convincing) arguments to getting Murray is that goaltending is unpredictable. It is, but wouldn’t that approach lead you to spending less in salary cap space, not well over $4.5M?

Instead, the Maple Leafs signing Samsonov adheres closer to that (defeatist and/or pragmatic?) logic. If Samsonov struggles again, it’s not a huge investment. If they find something, he’s young and cheap for at least one season. It’s a bet on potential and maybe lowered expectations.

Other NHL free agent goalie moves

Let’s run down other free agent goalie moves of note:

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    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports
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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced Wednesday.

    The Knights termed the procedure Tuesday as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested early Wednesday morning in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released later Wednesday on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

    Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports
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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.