Goalies will flood the NHL free agent market when it opens Friday, Oct. 9, and several big names are expected to be on the move.
“There is going to be fluidity in the goaltending market for sure,” Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving said.
It has already been happening through trades in the past week.
Devan Dubnyk was traded from the Minnesota Wild to the San Jose Sharks on Friday, and the Ottawa Senators acquired two-time Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.
The Sharks now have Dubnyk and Martin Jones, but trading Dubnyk put the Wild in the market for a No. 1 goalie as either a short-term or long-term solution.
“We’re going to try to address it as soon as we can,” Wild GM Bill Guerin said. “It’s a very important position and something that we’re looking to add to.”
The Penguins identified Tristan Jarry as their No. 1 goalie and signed him to a three-year, $10.5 million contract on Saturday, which made Murray expendable.
Murray, who won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017, is Ottawa’s replacement for Craig Anderson, who will be one of many goalies available as a free agent.
“Without a doubt, we feel Matt is a No. 1 goalie in this league,” Senators GM Pierre Dorion said. “Our goaltending coach, Pierre Groulx, feels really high on his potential and to be the goalie he was just a year or two ago.”
Brian Elliott will not be available after he signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract to remain with the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. But the market is still loaded.
Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals), Jacob Markstrom (Vancouver Canucks), Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks), Thomas Greiss (New York Islanders), Anton Khudobin (Dallas Stars), Cam Talbot (Flames) and Mike Smith (Edmonton Oilers) are expected to be unrestricted free agents.
The Vegas Golden Knights are exploring ways to trade goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has two years remaining on his contract ($7 million NHL salary cap charge), after they signed Robin Lehner to a five-year, $25 million contract Oct. 3.
The NHL salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for next season, which is targeted to begin Jan. 1, 2021.
“It’s a bit unusual the goalie market and the way it is,” Guerin said.
Holtby is not expected to return to Washington, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2018 and the Vezina Trophy in 2015-16, which is why Lundqvist is of interest to the Capitals, GM Brian MacLellan said Tuesday.
The 38-year-old is available because he had the final year of his seven-year, $59.5 million contract bought out by the Rangers, who are expected to go with Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev next season.
The Canucks are trying to re-sign Markstrom, GM Jim Benning said Monday. But Benning also said they were prepared to move on from the 30-year-old, who was fourth in Vezina Trophy voting as the top goalie in the NHL this season with a 2.75 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 43 games.
The emergence of Thatcher Demko in the Stanley Cup Playoffs should soften the blow for Vancouver if Markstrom leaves. The 24-year-old allowed two goals on 130 shots (.985 save percentage) in four games (three starts).
“We still own [Markstrom’s] rights here until Friday and we’re going to keep trying to work with his agent and see if there is some sort of place where we can find common ground to do a deal,” Benning said. “If we can’t, we’ll look at our other options. He would be our first choice.”
Treliving said he hasn’t ruled out bringing back Talbot to pair with David Rittich.
But if Talbot leaves, the Flames would be in the market to replace him, joining the Wild and potentially the Blackhawks (if Crawford doesn’t re-sign), the Oilers (if Smith doesn’t re-sign), the Stars (if Khudobin doesn’t re-sign) and the Canucks (if Markstrom doesn’t re-sign).
“It appears that there is going to be a lot of goalie movement,” Oilers GM Ken Holland said. “We’ve got to sign somebody, and maybe a No. 3 as well.”
The Detroit Red Wings should also be in the market for a goalie after deciding to move on from Jimmy Howard, who will become an unrestricted free agent. The Golden Knights could be looking for a backup if they trade Fleury.
The Islanders could be in the market too, but they have to be careful not to block the path of Ilya Sorokin, a 25-year-old who agreed to terms for next season July 14.
“There’s a lot of goaltenders, and we’ll see when it all shakes down, but there’s a lot of pending UFAs,” Treliving said. “The goaltender market through potential UFAs, potential trade opportunities, is about as fluid as I ever recall it. We’ll see.”
NHL.com staff writers Tim Campbell and Mike Zeisberger, and correspondent Aaron Vickers contributed to this report