There are few, if any, No. 1 goaltending spots open in the NHL — the Islanders, perhaps? — which is a good thing for NHL clubs because there is not much high-end help with this year’s list of unrestricted free agent goalies full of 1B or back-up options.
However, since many teams are seeking depth help behind their No. 1, teams will be happy with some quality options in free agency.
Lets’ take a look at the Sporting News Top 5 UFA goalies for 2018.
Nice timing for the best year of your career, Carter Hutton, who is due a nice raise from his $1.125 million Cap hit in 2017-18 after leading the NHL with a 2.09 GAA and .931 save percentage while appearing in 32 games for the Blues. Will that raise come from St. Louis, which likely wants to keep its strong goalie tandem — with Jake Allen — intact after Hutton outperformed the club’s No. 1 this past season? Could be, but the 32-year-old will have more than a fair share of suitors lining up July 1.
Like Carter Hutton in St. Louis, Anton Khudobin filled an important role stepping in for hurting No. 1 Tuukka Rask in Boston, especially early in the season when debates centered on that Khudobin deserved increased playing time ahead of Rask, even when healthy. Khudobin appeared in 31 games, posted a 16-6-7 record, 2.56 GAA and .913 save percentage — numbers on par with the 32-year-old’s career totals.
STATUS: Despite his long injury history and never living up to being the 11th overall selection in the 2006 NHL Draft, Jonathan Bernier played an important role with the Avalanche this past season, filling in quote capably for injured No. 1 Semyon Varlamov. Bernier, 29, was 19-13-3 in 37 appearances with a 2.85 GAA and .913 save percentage for the surprising Avs, though his season ended midway the first-round of the playoffs because of a lower body injury.
Cam Ward is the only Stanley Cup-winning goalie on this summer’s free agent list. He also proved capable of still being a solid option in net this season, outplaying Scott Darling in Carolina with a 23-14-4 record, 2.73 GAA and .906 save percentage over 43 appearances — his lowest full season total since 2013-14. It will be strange to see the career-long Hurricanes netminder in a different uniform next season.
OK, we cheat a little bit here, but you’re getting six goalies for the price of five, right? It’s splitting hairs as to who is more valued this summer when it comes to veterans Jaroslav Halak and Kari Lehtonen. Both have been No. 1 in their careers and both suffered painful downturns at different points. Lehtonen, 34, seemed to thrive last year with a lesser role behind Ben Bishop in Dallas — his 2.56 GAA and .912 save percentage were both his best in four years. Halak, 33, appeared in 54 games — ten shy of the total of the two previous seasons combined — and had a career-worst 3.19 GAA for the disappointing Islanders.