June 29, 2009
The Colorado Avalanche are looking for a starting goaltender, or at least one that will get the majority of the starts with Peter Budaj(notes) filling in the blanks. Like the Dallas Stars and the Toronto Maple Leafs, they're flirting with Jonas "The Monster" Gustavsson before the Free Agent Frenzy begins this week.
If it's not the Swedish netminder, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post predicts the other possibilities for the Avs:
Yeah, that's about where we are with the goalie free-agent crop in 2009: Bidding for Europeans that have never been in the NHL, hoping that big-name keepers like J-S Giguere are dealt or settling for the mismatched sock drawer of unrestricted free agent goalies that should hit the market this week.
What's at play with this group is a combination of salary and experience; and both for some of the bigger names at play. The contract figures for some of these keepers might have to come down based on their age; in other cases, goalies that will come cheaper simply are untested in pressure situations. Is a leap of faith worth a few million saved?
Here's a look at who we see as the Top 10 UFA goalies, pending buyouts and re-signings:
Current Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Current Cap Hit: $6.750 million
The Good: The best starting goalie in the mix, based on his regular season performance (2.33 GAA) and in the postseason (2.93), where he obviously brings a ton of experience and a little Stanley Cup bling.
The Bad: Being the stud of the free-agent goalie class means commanding a pretty decent price tag, though it's hard to imagine an NHL team signing him for that cap hit at age 36. Especially since teams seeking his services are pretty limited.
The Ugly: Hasn't started 60 regular season games since 2003, so he'd need a sturdy backup. The Bulin Wall has also been linked with the KHL on several occasions, and there's virtually no chance an NHL team would enter into (or win) that bidding war if he wants to leave.
Current Team: Edmonton Oilers
Current Cap Hit: $3.667 million
The Good: For a short-term run at the playoffs (or a Cup), Roloson's one of the best competitors in the UFA crop. His play down the stretch for the Oilers was phenomenal when you consider they were giving away more shots than the Red Cross for the last two months of the season.
The Bad: Not for nothing, but the guy sure does know how to play some outstanding hockey when entering a contract year. So a one-year deal would be perfect.
Current Team: Philadelphia Flyers
Current Cap Hit: $3.500 million
The Good: You can count the number of free-agent goalies who aren't over the hill, can be a primary starter and have decent numbers in the playoffs on one finger this year. Because Biron's it. Battled and eventually won the goalie job in Philly this season ...
The Bad: ... but it was still a battle. Biron's blazing inconsistency at the start of the season opened the door for Antero Niittymaki(notes), and there were a few moments in which is looked like neither of them wanted the gig.
The Ugly: Has absolutely no respect for the Hockey Gods. At all.
Current Team: Florida Panthers
Current Cap Hit: $550,000
The Good: Relatively young (27) and by far one of the least expensive options available. Wants his shot at a starting job, and his numbers over the last two seasons with the Panthers are fantastic when you consider the volume of quality shots he faced on some nights.
The Bad: He also started exactly 40 games in the last two season, which is the problem. He's a leap of faith, in the sense that Biron was for the Flyers when they acquired him. Can his acrobatic, incredible play stretch over 50-60 games for another team?
Current Team: Boston Bruins
Current Cap Hit: $4.333 million
The Good: Since the chances that Fernandez will earn that salary should he remain in the NHL are somewhere between slim and none, the Jennings Trophy co-winner is an intriguing option for a team that could use a backup with a decade's-worth of experience. He started 27 games for the Bruins last season, who no longer need his services with Tuukka Rask(notes) of Tatooine ready to play.
The Bad: He excelled under Jacques Lemaire in Minnesota and excelled under Claude Julien in Boston. The styles of those coaches have something in common. (Hint: It rhymes with "crap.")
The Ugly: His bum back had him thinking retirement earlier this season. Which doesn't exactly instill confidence in investors, we imagine.
6. Ty Conklin
Current Team: Detroit Red Wings
Current Cap Hit: $750,000
The Good: Outplayed Chris Osgood(notes) in the regular season with a stellar 2.51 GAA and a .909 save percentage. That's after his sterling effort in relief of Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) one year earlier with the Pittsburgh Penguins, as ConkBlock salvaged the Pens' season with an 18-8 record. Clearly an option for the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers or Washington Capitals if they value winning the Winter Classic, as Conklin is 3-0 in NHL outdoor games.
The Bad: Clearly not an option for any team that wants to win the Stanley Cup, as Conklin's teams are 0-for-3 (as any Red Wings fan can now tell you).
The Ugly: Outstanding numbers with Stanley Cup finalists are nice and all, but is the Conklin/Budaj two-headed monster scaring anyone? Besides Avalanche fans?
Current Team: New Jersey Devils
Current Cap Hit: $331,000
The Good: The hidden MVP of the New Jersey Devils' regular season, Clemmer finished with a 2.39 GAA and a .917 save percentage in 39 starts before some bum named Brodeur took his gig.
The Bad: You know the routine -- was Clemmensen a product of the Devils' system or was he an effective starter? We saw enough of him to say this: If the Devils carried Clemmensen for two periods, he'd carry them for one. How you can monetize that skill, we have no idea.
The Ugly: Still a goalie teetering on the line between the AHL and the NHL. But he believes that rather than getting a foot in the door, he now has his whole body. Which means it just hurts more when it's slammed.
8. Antero Niittymaki
Current Team: Philadelphia Flyers
Current Cap Hit: $1.225 million
The Good: The cap hit might decrease. The bottom line for Niittymaki is that he's a dependable backup who hasn't been able to win an NHL job despite getting his chances.
The Bad: He'd like to start, but it's hard to see a situation in which Niittymaki is competing for a job rather than coming in as a clear No. 2.
Current Team: Washington Capitals
Current Cap Hit: $ 812,000
The Bad: ... nagging injuries, including a nagging hip soreness, derailed his season. But his agent said he's in negotiations with the Capitals to return.
The Ugly: Hasn't started more than 30 games since 2003, and he has teased like this before. But he could be a very solid backup somewhere.
Current Team: Toronto Maple Leafs
Current Cap Hit: $3.7 million
The Good: Once upon a time, not so long ago, Martin Gerber was a dependable backup/quasi-starter in the NHL that was fairly coveted. Then he signed with the Ottawa Senators, it all went to hell, and he ended up as an emergency goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs after getting waived.
The Bad: At 35, the deterioration of his skills is a real concern. This would be the same boat that fellow UFAs Manny Legace(notes) and Olaf Kolzig(notes) find themselves in. At the very least, Gerber played well in spots for the Leafs last season. Although he refusal to embrace his Darth Gerber mask remains an affront.
The Ugly: When Manny Legace, Olaf Kolzig and Martin Gerber are all mentioned in the No. 10 spot and it's 2009, you know what kind of free agent crop we're dealing with here.