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Top goalie free agent signing debated

Crawford to Devils, Khudobin staying with Stars among favorites of NHL.com writers

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

It was a busy first 48 hours of NHL free agency, especially among goalies, with several starters across the League changing teams in a flood of signings.

As a result, we asked seven NHL.com writers which goalie signing will have the most impact on the 2020-21 season. Here are their thoughts:

 

Corey Crawford, New Jersey Devils

In an admittedly biased move by me, I'm going with Crawford. The 35-year-old brings great experience to a young Devils team and a calm influence on and off the ice. Crawford has seen it all in his NHL career, from playing behind a stacked defense when the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2013 and 2015, to overcoming a shaky defense the past couple of seasons. Crawford is 260-162-53 with a 2.45 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and 26 shutouts in 488 career games (474 starts), all with Chicago. If he can remain healthy, he'll push Mackenzie Blackwood and help the Devils find more success. -- Tracey Myers, staff writer

Video: Corey Crawford signs with the New Jersey Devils

 

Braden Holtby, Vancouver Canucks

Normally I agree with Tracey on these roundtables, but I find the Crawford move to New Jersey peculiar, given his recent injury history and the fact he's 35. So I'm going with another former Stanley Cup champion in Holtby. This is a shrewd move by the Canucks. With young players such as Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes up for new contracts in the next couple of seasons, Vancouver has allowed itself more financial flexibility by signing Holtby (two years, $8.6 million) instead of keeping Jacob Markstrom, who signed with Calgary (six years, $36 million). Holtby's numbers with the Washington Capitals weren't great last season (25-14-6, 3.11 GAA, .897 save percentage), but at 31 years old there's plenty left in the tank. He'll form a promising tandem in goal with Thatcher Demko, who was outstanding in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and can learn plenty from Holtby. -- Mike Zeisberger, staff writer 

 

Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars

Although several goalies changed teams, I'm going to go with the one who stayed put. We saw how important Khudobin was to the Stars when he stepped in for the injured Ben Bishop and led them to the Stanley Cup Final. Dallas recognized it had arguably the best goalie tandem in the NHL with Khudobin and Bishop, and Khudobin recognized what a good fit the Stars were for him. In 30 games during the regular season, the 34-year-old was 16-8-4, led the NHL with a .930 save percentage and tied for second with a 2.22 goals-against average (minimum 25 games). Khudobin followed that up by going 14-10 with a 2.69 GAA, .917 save percentage and one shutout in the playoffs. So rather than seek a No. 1 job elsewhere, Khudobin stayed where he felt comfortable and signed a three-year-contract with the Stars. -- Tom Gulitti, staff writer 

I'm with Tom here. I've watched in Boston how crucial it can be to have a great goalie tandem, and although I could argue that the duo of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak beats out that of Bishop and Khudobin, there's no question that each team has figured out how to use its goalies to near-perfection. It's clear that more and more teams are seeing the success that comes with not relying on one goalie to make 70-plus or even 60-plus starts, so kudos to both Khudobin and the Stars for recognizing that they have a good thing going. -- Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

 

Thomas Greiss, Detroit Red Wings

The default answer to this roundtable should be Khudobin, but since he didn't change teams, I'm going to go with Greiss. You can argue that there are flaws in just about every goalie who has changed teams, from evidence of decline or inconsistency in their game, but in my opinion, the two who rise slightly above the field are Markstrom and Greiss. The Red Wings were the team that needed an upgrade at goalie the most after allowing a League-worst 265 goals last season (.894 save percentage as a team), so this was a much-needed signing. Greiss was 16-9-4 with a 2.74 GAA and a .913 save percentage in 31 games (29 starts) with the New York Islanders last season, and 2-2 with a 2.02 GAA and .929 save percentage in four playoff games (three starts). The work Greiss put in during his five seasons with the Islanders was above average, and his .915 career save percentage says that although he may not solve all the issues for the Red Wings, he will improve the situation at goalie. -- Tim Campbell, staff writer

 

Henrik Lundqvist, Washington Capitals

All these picks make sense, especially since all of them are for commitments of three or fewer years. I do not believe in tying yourself to a veteran goalie for more than three years, especially, as in the case with the Devils, Canucks and even Cam Talbot with the Minnesota Wild, your future No. 1 goalie might already be on your NHL roster. And that's also the case in Washington, which has Ilya Samsonov, a 23-year-old with a bright future. That's why I love this signing of Lundqvist to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. Samsonov is going to get a front-row seat to witness everything a goalie does to have a long and successful NHL career. Lundqvist is a fierce competitor and his work ethic is second to none. If Samsonov pays attention, he'll learn a ton from Lundqvist. Along the way, Lundqvist will push the young goalie for playing time, steal starts from him when he plays well, and show that nothing comes easy in the NHL. Lundqvist still has enough game left to play well, especially on a good team like the Capitals. -- Dan Rosen, senior writer

Video: Lundqvist signs 1-year deal with Capitals  

 

Cam Talbot, Minnesota Wild

In a market flooded with goalies, the Wild identified Talbot as their target and signed him to a three-year, $11 million contract. They looked at data that went beyond the statistics the 33-year-old posted with the Flames last season. "A lot of it gets deeper than just the goals against or save percentage and things like that, things that are better explained by Mat Sells than me," Wild general manager Bill Guerin said, citing Sells, who is Minnesota's director of hockey analytics. "There's a significant amount of other data that we use that helps us make decisions, and we just feel like with what Cam did last year, if he does that or better, we'll have some success." -- Nick Cotsonika, columnist

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