The free-agent market hasn't been kind to goaltenders in recent years because there are so few openings and even fewer teams willing to commit significant dollars to the position when they might be in a rebuilding phase.
Jaroslav Halak is the exception because he got what he was looking for in a four-year contract with the New York Islanders last month. The Islanders, though, were one of maybe three teams that closed the 2013-14 season without a goalie under contract who has either proven to be a No. 1 or has been advertised as one.
The Calgary Flames and Buffalo Sabres are the other two, but each is in the early stages of a rebuilding program and has goalies who are cheap, serviceable and potentially could turn into strong No. 1s in Karri Ramo (Flames), Michal Neuvirth (Sabres) and Jhonas Enroth (Sabres). There's no reason for either team to dole out big contracts to iron out the position now.
Barring a trade, the Vancouver Canucks might be willing to give out a significant multiyear contract to a goalie. Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom are inexpensive, but also young and inexperienced. If the objective is to get back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canucks might decide to address the position.
Miller and Hiller could be options.
Although they have incumbent No. 1 goalies, the San Jose Sharks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes might be in the market for change at the position, especially with Miller and Hiller available.
However, if Carolina trades Cam Ward, Anton Khudobin could step right in as the new No. 1. The Wild already have Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom under contract, and they are expected to re-sign Darcy Kuemper, who can be a restricted free agent.
Regardless, there are still several intriguing goalies scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at noon ET on July 1. They will eventually find a new home. Here are the top nine as identified by NHL.com, starting with the two we have already discussed:
Signed with: Vancouver Canucks, 3 years
Previous team: St. Louis Blues
Last contract: 5 years, $31.25 million (signed with Buffalo Sabres)
Goalie - STL
GAA: 2.64 | SV%: 0.918
Miller is easily the most attractive option for teams that need a No. 1 goalie, but he's coming off a subpar performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Miller had a 2.70 goals-against average and .897 save percentage in St. Louis' six-game series loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blues have already put in motion a plan to move on without Miller. They have re-signed Brian Elliott and are planning to give Jake Allen a chance to earn the No. 1 job in training camp after he was named the goalie of the year in the American Hockey League.
Miller reportedly is interested in playing in California because his wife, actress Noureen DeWulf, spends most of her time in Los Angeles. However, the Los Angeles Kings don't need him, the Anaheim Ducks are prepared to go with youngsters John Gibson and Frederik Andersen, and the Sharks want to focus on getting younger. Miller will be 34 on July 17.
Vancouver could be Miller's landing spot. Lack and Markstrom take up only $2.35 million on the salary cap, and Canucks general manager Jim Benning was the Sabres' director of amateur scouting when they drafted Miller in 1999.
Other teams that could be on Miller's radar include the Penguins, Jets and Wild. However, all have goalies under contract even if they have question marks at the position.
Signed with: Calgary Flames, 2 years
Previous team: Anaheim Ducks
Last contract: 4 years, $18 million
Goalie - ANA
GAA: 2.48 | SV%: 0.911
Hiller is in the same position as Miller in that he's a No. 1 goalie looking for a team that will be able to use him as its No. 1 goalie. The same teams interested in Miller should be interested in Hiller, but as outlined above, those teams are few and far between.
Hiller likely will come cheaper and might be more willing to go into a platoon role than Miller would be. That could open up a few more options for him, but remember he had a $4.5 million average annual value on his previous contract.
Hiller was 29-13-7 with five shutouts, a 2.48 GAA and .911 save percentage in 50 appearances in 2013-14 with the Ducks. He had a 2.19 GAA and .906 save percentage in six appearances in the playoffs, but he was passed over by Gibson and Andersen, spelling his end in Anaheim.
Previous team: New Jersey Devils
Last contract: 2 years, $9 million
Goalie - NJD
GAA: 2.51 | SV%: 0.901
It definitely looks like the Devils and Brodeur are parting ways. Arguably the best goalie to ever play the game will test the market and is unlikely to return to the only team he has played for.
Cory Schneider will to be the Devils' No. 1 goalie and Brodeur doesn't want to stand in the way of that. He also doesn't want to go into a season knowing he might only play 20-25 games. Brodeur has said he wants to go to a contending team, but that team also has to be willing to give him playing time, perhaps as much as 40 games or more.
He thinks he can still be a starter despite finishing 47th in save percentage (.901) among goalies who appeared in at least 25 games last season. He hasn't finished with a save percentage better than .908 since his .916 in 2009-10.
Previous team: Dallas Stars
Last contract: 1 year, $3.75 million
Goalie - DAL
GAA: 2.88 | SV%: 0.908
Thomas returned to the NHL last season after taking a year off and proved he can still play. But his numbers, even though he played 40 games with the Florida Panthers, left a lot to be desired. He had a 2.87 GAA and .909 save percentage with the Panthers, and a 2.97 GAA and .902 save percentage in eight games with the Stars after he was acquired in early March.
Thomas won't be back in Dallas. He might retire, or say he's taking another year off, if he doesn't find the right situation for himself. Thomas could also wait until training camp or even after to see which team might need a goalie then before ironing out his immediate future. He has never been in a rush and certainly won't be now.
Previous team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Last contract: 2 years, $4 million
Goalie - PIT
RECORD: 13-4-0 (2012-13)
GAA: 2.45 | SV%: 0.919
Vokoun, who turns 38 on July 2, could be an intriguing and cheap option for a team looking to solidify its goaltending with an experienced backup who could turn into a No. 1. He sat out last season because of blood clots, but he's healthy now and ready to return.
Vokoun hasn't appeared in a NHL game in almost 13 months (June 7, 2013), but he practiced with the Penguins for the final four months of the season and appeared in some minor-league games in April. He had a 2.45 GAA and .919 save percentage in 20 appearances with the Penguins in 2012-13.
One interesting possibility is returning to the Washington Capitals as a backup to Braden Holtby and reuniting with former goalie coach Mitch Korn. Vokoun played in Washington during the 2011-12 season and played under Korn while with the Nashville Predators from 1998-2007.
Previous team: Minnesota Wild
Last contract: 1 year, $2 million (signed with Edmonton Oilers)
Goalie - MIN
GAA: 2.68 | SV%: 0.909
Bryzgalov was a valuable player for the Wild after they acquired him in a trade on March 4. He helped them beat the Colorado Avalanche in a seven-game first-round playoff series and was at least serviceable (2.13 GAA, .904 save percentage) against the Blackhawks in the second round.
Bryzgalov will likely have to go to a team as a backup, and probably on a one-year contract considering his age and lack of leverage. He might be in a similar spot as Thomas in that he'll have to wait until late in the summer or potentially until after training camp starts to find his next NHL home. Going home to Russia to play in the KHL is also an option.
Previous team: Philadelphia Flyers (re-signed)
Last contract: 1 year, $1.65 million
Goalie - PHI
GAA: 2.96 | SV%: 0.903
Emery has been working off one-year contracts since 2009-10 and it's unlikely he'll get anything longer than that this summer after posting a 2.98 GAA and .903 save percentage in 28 appearances with the Flyers last season.
Emery is an option for a team looking for a relatively inexpensive veteran backup. The Devils should be in the market. So should Emery's former team, the Flyers. The Capitals, Penguins, Colorado Avalanche, Arizona Coyotes and Tampa Bay Lightning are also possibilities.
Signed with: Washington Capitals, 2 years
Previous team: Carolina Hurricanes
Last contract: 2 years, $1.075 million
Goalie - CAR
GAA: 2.50 | SV%: 0.919
Even if he signs as a backup, Peters should be able to get a raise off his previous contract based on how cheap he came and he played last season. He had a 2.50 GAA and .919 save percentage in a career-high 21 appearances for the Hurricanes.
Peters hasn't proven himself ready to become a starter, but he's young enough that he could still develop into one. If the Hurricanes keep Ward it's unlikely Peters will re-sign with them because there would be no room for him on the NHL roster. They also have Khudobin.
Signed with: Pittsburgh Penguins, 1 year
Previous team: Arizona Coyotes
Last contract: 1 year, $750,000
Goalie - ARI
GAA: 2.29 | SV%: 0.920
Greiss has been a backup in San Jose and Arizona. He might be ready for a bigger role, but it will happen only if a team is willing to take a big risk or if he goes somewhere and beats out the incumbent No. 1. The Coyotes already have Mike Smith and could go with rookie Mark Visentin as a backup, or look for a cheaper option than Greiss, who is due a significant raise.
Greiss had a 2.29 GAA and .920 save percentage in 29 appearances with the Coyotes last season. He has a career 2.43 GAA and .915 save percentage in 69 appearances.
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