The top 10 NHL UFA goaltenders available this summer are modest at best. Elite-level goaltending rarely hits the open market and this year is no exception. Only a few top UFA goalies are considered starter material. Teams looking for a backup could face slim pickings as well.
Top 10 NHL UFA Goaltenders 2016
#1 – James Reimer
2015-16 Cap Hit: $2.3 million
Underappreciated in Toronto, James Reimer’s trade to the San Jose Sharks was a shot in the arm for the netminder. His eight-game audition provided a massive uptick in his stock this summer. Additionally, Reimer has very good career numbers when considering the defenses he played behind. In 207 appearances in Toronto, Reimer had a 2.83 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Remembering the defense he had to play behind, these might be considered excellent numbers.
However, Reimer has only played in 50 or more games twice in his career dating back to his Midget AAA days. In the NHL, the 2015-16 season saw Reimer hit the 40 games played mark for the first time. There are few UFA goaltenders capable of contributing significantly to a club’s win total in the 2016-17 season. Reimer is one of them and the best option for a team looking for a starter.
#2 – Jhonas Enroth
2015-16 Cap Hit: $1.25 million
Jhonas Enroth waited a long time for a chance as a starting goalie. Once he did get a shot, Buffalo promptly traded Enroth to the Dallas Stars when it became evident his goaltending was pushing Buffalo the wrong way from the top overall pick. The small Swede rebounded from a sub-par year split between the Sabres and Stars last season with a solid backup campaign with the Los Angeles Kings.
Size will always be a concern with Enroth, who stands just 5’10, but his limited time in L.A. showed that he is a capable goaltender that can be a solid back-up on a contending team. With 147 NHL appearances under his belt, Enroth will be a known commodity. Factor in a likely affordable contract and there is a lot to like.
#3 – Chad Johnson
2015-16 Cap Hit: $1.3 million
Last year, Chad Johnson started more games for the Buffalo Sabres than any other goalie in the organization. In 45 appearances (including 40 starts), Johnson posted excellent numbers for a young Sabres team. His .920 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average were both top 20 in the NHL.
Buffalo was the fourth stop in five years for the former 5th round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has good size at 6’3 and just turned 30 as well. He might be in line for platoon duty, either again with Buffalo or another team with question marks in net.
#4 – Jonas Gustavsson
2015-16 Cap Hit: $700,000
There was much fanfare for Jonas Gustavsson coming over to the NHL back in 2009 but now after 172 appearances, the book is written on him, and it’s not good. His .902 save percentage is well below league average and his tendency to leave juicy rebounds has driven down his high-danger shot save percentage as well.
Gustavsson has all the makings of a solid netminder, including good size (6’4) and athleticism. The NHL shooters simply have been too good and the game too fast. Gustavsson might be able to catch on again as a back-up, but even that role has been a struggle for him.
#5 – Karri Ramo
2015-16 Cap Hit: $3.8 million
The former KHL star and Tampa Bay Lightning pick played well for Calgary over the past three seasons. Karri Ramo was a top UFA goaltender last year as well and signed a 1-year, $3.8 million deal with the Flames.
The Flames did not recapture the magic needed to return to the playoffs, and a large part of it was the lack of goaltending. Ramo split the Flames crease with Jonas Hiller, who’s game fell off a cliff this season, and Joni Ortio played the third wheel in the Calgary crease.
Ramo has had some injury troubles in his return to the NHL. In his three-year stint with the Flames, Ramo started 106 games posting a 2.63 goals against average and respectable .911 save percentage. In a thin UFA market, Ramo has starter experience but is a step down from Reimer.
#6 – Carter Hutton
2015-16 Cap Hit: $725,000
Carter Hutton has carved out a respectable backup job with the Nashville Predators over the past three seasons. His first year in Tennessee saw 40 games as Pekka Rinne struggled with injuries. The previous two years, Hutton appeared in a combined 35 games.
His .910 save percentage in the NHL is adequate and likely slated for another backup job somewhere in the NHL. With the glut of back-ups available, Hutton might have to accept a two-way contract to keep a job in the professional North American ranks.
#7 – Al Montoya
2015-16 Cap Hit: $1.05 million
Al Montoya, the New York Rangers 6th overall selection in the 2004 entry draft, continues his career as a journeyman backup. The 31-year-old goaltender has appeared in only 136 NHL games, and his struggles with consistency have continued.
However, his 2015-16 campaign with the Florida Panthers was one of the best of Montoya’s career. His 2.18 goals-against average was his best since 2008-09, and the .919 save percentage he posted was the above his career average of .909 as well. He has four seasons with a save percentage of .919 or higher, but in the remaining three years of his career, he hasn’t broken .900. It will be feast or famine for whoever signs the former 1st round pick.
#8 – Ben Scrivens
2015-16 Cap Hit; $2.3 million
The fellow Maple Leafs goaltending partner of Reimer, Ben Scrivens has played for four teams in the past five years. Outside of a stellar year with the Kings backing up Jonathan Quick, the numbers are not impressive for the Spruce Grove, AB native.
Overall, Scrivens was average at best last year with the Montreal Canadiens. In looking closer at the number, Scrivens was well below league average in high danger shots. The majority of goals scored come from that home plate area in front of the net. Comparing Scrivens to his peers’ average performance, holes in his game emerge, but could be an acceptable back-up.
#9 – Anton Khudobin
2015-16 Cap Hit: $2.25 million
Anton Khudobin was a steady goaltender over his career before the 2014-15 season with the Carolina Hurricanes where he struggled mightily. Last summer he was traded by Carolina to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman James Wisniewski.
Khudobin does not have ideal size yet has been a steady, serviceable NHL player over the past six campaigns. Khudobin has appeared in 100 NHL games and has a career .918 save percentage and 2.42 goals against average.
He likely isn’t a starter at this point, but an ideal landing spot for Khudobin could be right back with the Ducks. He is a familiar player to them and their system, and John Gibson‘s injury history is worrisome. Khudobin could also be a good for the Panthers or Boston Bruins.
#10 – Aaron Dell
2015-16 Cap Hit: $575,000
Not exactly the household name, but Aaron Dell is the “World’s Okayest Goalie” and looks ready for his shot. The Airdrie, Alberta native enjoyed a solid career at the University of North Dakota and amassed a solid resume while climbing through the professional ranks.
Dell took over the San Jose Barracuda starting netminder job in the last quarter of the AHL season. Starting Dell in nearly every contest, San Jose qualified in the 8th spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs, securing the slot in the last days of the season.
Dell is an excellent skater that moves well laterally. Behind an at times juggled Barracuda defense, Dell displayed above-average athleticism and mental toughness. He does appear ready for a backup job and has produced at every level of hockey he has played.