Thursday’s Jaroslav Halak trade has opened up a vacancy in Montreal’s
goaltending duo, there’s a help wanted sign for Carey Price’s backup. The
goalie market is quite saturated this coming offseason with lots of options
available. As a prelude to HW’s upcoming UFA market preview coming after
the draft, let’s take a closer look at some of the options out there.
I’ll break them down into two tiers, +$1 million and less than $1 million.
For the purposes of this article, I’m omitting Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco as
both will likely be out of Montreal’s price range unless they take major pay
Tier 1 – Over $1 million:
Martin Biron (NYI): Getting the local factor out of the way (which
really could be beneficial to deflect media attention), he can still play as
well. His numbers weren’t too pretty this year (9-14-4, 3.27 GAA and a
.896 SV%) but a lot of that can be attributed to a poor Islander defence in
front of him. His days of being a true number one are gone (he turns 33
this offseason), so Montreal, a place where he may play more than the average
backup sounds appealing at this point. Projected salary cost: $1.0 –
Dan Ellis (NSH): There’s some familiarity with Ellis in the
organization as he once played for the Hamilton Bulldogs when they were a split
affiliate. In 3 full NHL seasons, he has winning records in 2 and his GAA
has been around the league median when averaged out over the 3 seasons.
Simply put, he’s your typical backup goalie. One concern is his NHL
experience; despite turning 30 later this week, he has less than 150 NHL games
under his belt. Projected salary cost: $1.25 – $1.75 M
Johan Hedberg (ATL): The Habs liked him a few years ago near the
deadline (the failed Hossa acquisition) and he hasn’t done too much to really
change that opinion. At 37, he’s most likely a 1 and done (retirement)
goalie, but as short-term options go, he may be the best. Projected
salary cost: $1.25 – $1.75 M
Chris Mason (STL): Though it may look a little odd seeing the player
that Halak replaces take his spot in Montreal, it’s somewhat feasible as well.
Mason had his ups and downs last year but still played over 60 games, meaning he
can shoulder the load if necessary. However, with not a lot of teams
looking for starting goalies, he’s probably not going to get the $3 M he’s made
for each of the last 3 seasons. At 34, he’s a very short term option too.
Projected salary cost: $1.9 – $2.5 M
Antero Niittymaki (TB): He signed for a bargain basement $600,000 last
year but given his performance in Tampa, that should easily double this summer.
At 30, he has a few years left in him so the potential for a multi-year
investment is there. Knowing there were KHL offers last season though,
it’s hard to believe there won’t be this time as well – he could bolt from the
Bolts and the NHL altogether. Projected salary cost: $1.5 – $2.0 M
Jose Theodore (WAS): Before you cringe at the thought, look at the
facts. He’s still a competent NHL goalie who surely realizes his days as a
starter are gone, despite the great record (30-7-7) with the Caps this year.
His best days were in Montreal and there have been rumblings he’d be open to a
return. In fact, I think he’d take less to come home than to serve as
backup elsewhere, something that can’t be ignored. Projected salary cost:
$1.5 – $2.0 M
Tier 2 – Below or equal to $1 million:
Alex Auld (NYR): A late season waiver claim, Auld didn’t quite put up
the numbers he did 2 years ago in Ottawa but they weren’t that bad either.
He’s a veteran who’s bounced around and is good for 20 or so games per season.
Depending on what the Habs expect from Price, this may be just the type of
goalie they want. Projected salary cost: $700 K – $1.0 M
Patrick Lalime (BUF): Though I hate to put a player here largely
because of where he’s from, it has to be mentioned. He’s a veteran, knows
his place, and like Biron, could deflect some of the media attention from Price.
A concern here is that he may not be able to handle a 25 game workload which I
suspect is what the Habs are interested in. Projected salary cost: $550
– $900 K
Manny Legace (CAR): Earlier this week, Carolina announced he wouldn’t
be back to back up Cam Ward, but it’s not because he played poorly. When
he came in, the Canes were sliding badly but were one of the toughest of the
non-playoff teams to beat down the stretch. Considering he had a minor
league deal to start the year, he may be content with a cheap backup deal – at
least he’s in the NHL for sure that way. Projected salary cost: $600 – $950 K
Andrew Raycroft (VAN): Despite the grief he gets from struggling with
Toronto, Raycroft had a solid year backing up Luongo; his 2.42 GAA is only
behind Yann Danis (NJ) in terms of the lowest. That said, Raycroft may be
looking for a longer term deal, which could take him out of this tier and into
Tier 1. On a 1 year deal though, he’d fit this price range. Projected
salary cost: $800 K- $1.0 M
Curtis Sanford (MTL): He’s been an NHL backup before and had a solid
season with the Bulldogs. Better still, him moving up would ensure Cedrick
Desjardins (who admittedly is also an option to become the backup) gets a full
workload for the first time in his pro career in Hamilton. The fact he
wasn’t in the NHL last season means he’d be the cheapest option out there…if
the Habs are going cheap, he may be the guy for the job. Projected salary
cost: $500 – $700 K
Vesa Toskala (CGY): Though Toskala may think he can still be a number
one goalie, reality has to set in some time, I expect it will around July 3rd or
so when teams proclaim they only see him as a backup. This is where the
Habs would come in. If Price falters, theoretically Toskala could step in
and really all he’s going to want is an opportunity. On a 1-year deal, you
could do worse. Projected salary cost: $750 K – $1.0 M
Despite the above lists, there’s other options as well not noted here,
including Yann Danis (NJ), Michael Leighton (PHI), and Joey MacDonald (ANA).
The good news is that it will be a buyer’s market with so many options which
should bode well on the money side of things. (It also explains why it was
best to trade a goalie now rather than wait until into free agency when all
these other options become available). Who will Price’s backup be?
We’ll find out soon enough.