Skip to Main Content

NHL teams snap up free-agent goaltenders

by Dan Rosen

After being acquired by the Capitals at the 2008 trade deadline, Cristobal Huet helped lead the Washington Capitals on an improbable run to the Southeast Division championship.  Huet is on the move again, signing with the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.  In all, eight netminders changed teams within the first few hours of free agency.
A goalie shuffle highlighted the first afternoon of the NHL's free-agent feeding frenzy. Eight goalies changed teams Tuesday within the first five hours of the signing period, and some are connected with a few degrees of separation.

Cristobal Huet and Jose Theodore were the most prominent names to change cities, as Huet went to Chicago and Theodore replaced him in Washington. Also, former starter Andrew Raycroft left Toronto to replace Theodore in Colorado, backup Curtis Joseph went to Toronto from Calgary, and Patrick Lalime went from Chicago to a backup role in Buffalo.

Ty Conklin (to Detroit), Olaf Kolzig (to Tampa Bay) and Alex Auld (to Ottawa) also switched teams.

The signings of Huet and Theodore were easily the most surprising.

It was expected that the Washington Capitals would come to terms on a new contract for Huet, their incumbent starter who helped them reach the playoffs this past season. But when talks broke down, they found a viable option in Theodore.

Chicago quickly swooped in and inked Huet to a deal that leaves a lot of questions surrounding the future of Nikolai Khabibulin, the Blackhawks' incumbent starter. The Hawks also have rookie Corey Crawford, who may be ready to be an NHL backup.

It was also expected that Theodore would re-sign in Colorado, where he has played the last two seasons, but when Washington VP and GM George McPhee realized the Caps weren't going to be able to sign Huet, he reached out to take Theodore off the market.

Theodore, who will turn 32 in September, has won the Hart Trophy and the Vezina Trophy. He was hot and cold this past season, but finished strong with a 28-21-3 record, a 2.44 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. He had a 2.24 GAA and a .919 save percentage over his final 37 starts.

Huet was downright spectacular in Washington. He supplanted Kolzig, who was Washington’s starter for a decade, as the No. 1 goalie by going 11-2 with a 1.63 GAA and .936 save percentage down the stretch — leading the Caps to the Southeast Division title.

Huet had a 2.93 GAA and .909 save percentage in the Caps' seven-game first-round loss to Philadelphia. He was on the losing end of Game 7 when Joffrey Lupul scored the series winner 6:06 into overtime.

While Kolzig lost his job to Huet, he feels he still has some hockey left in him and Tampa Bay seems like the perfect fit. He'll enter camp as the No. 2, but incumbent Mike Smith has never started the season as a No. 1 goalie so Kolzig is the perfect insurance. He’s 38 years old and owns 301 wins, all with the Caps. Kolzig was 25-21-6 with a 2.91 GAA this past season.

"Olaf is a real stabilizer in the locker room and on the ice," Lightning vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton said. "With Karri Ramo, Olaf Kolzig and Mike Smith we have a great deal of depth at the goaltending position and we like all the options that allows us moving forward."

To replace Theodore, the Avalanche signed Andrew Raycroft, who was put on waivers by the Toronto Maple Leafs last week.

Raycroft won 37 games for the Leafs in 2006-07, but lost the No. 1 job to Vesa Toskala last season. He appeared in only 19 games this past season and went just 2-9-5 with a 3.92 GAA and .876 save percentage.

It appears Raycroft will compete with Peter Budaj for the No. 1 job in Colorado. Budaj was 16-10-4 with a 2.57 GAA and .903 save percentage in 35 appearances as Theodore's backup this past season. He appeared in three playoff games in relief of Theodore.

"Andrew has played many seasons at the NHL level," Avalanche Executive VP and GM Francois Giguere said. "His experience will be an asset to our organization."

"Olaf is a real stabilizer in the locker room and on the ice. With Karri Ramo, Olaf Kolzig and Mike Smith we have a great deal of depth at the goaltending position and we like all the options that allows us moving forward." - Tampa Bay Lightning vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton on Olaf Kolzig

Conklin, who was a backup in Pittsburgh this past season, must have liked what he saw about Detroit during the Stanley Cup Final because he agreed to join the Red Wings as a potential backup to Chris Osgood.

Conklin watched from the other bench as the Wings beat the Penguins in six games to capture their fourth Cup in 11 years. Before the playoffs, he played a major role in keeping the Penguins afloat when Marc-Andre Fleury was out from December until February due to a high ankle sprain. He finished the season with an 18-8-5 record, two shutouts, a 2.51 GAA and a .923 save percentage.

Joseph, who came on board as Miikka Kiprusoff’s backup in Calgary in February and played in nine regular-season games as well as two playoff games, moves back to Toronto, where he was the starter from 1997-2002, to replace Raycroft. Joseph was 3-2 with a 2.55 GAA and .906 save percentage after the Flames pulled him out of retirement.

Auld is headed to his fifth team in four seasons. He has already been with Vancouver, where he started his career, and then moved to Florida, Phoenix and Boston. He's likely to be the backup to Martin Gerber in Ottawa.

Auld has 58 career wins and a 2.85 GAA. He was the Canucks’ No. 1 in 2005-06, when he played in 67 games and went 33-26-6 with a 2.94 GAA.

Lalime, formerly a starter in Ottawa, has been Khabibulin's backup in Chicago the past two seasons. He played in 32 games in 2007-08, winning 16 with a 2.82 GAA and .897 save percentage. Lalime has 191 NHL victories and a 2.53 career GAA.

Contact Dan Rosen at

View More

The NHL has updated its Privacy Policy effective January 16, 2020. We encourage you to review it carefully.

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.