NHL Rumor Mill – June 27, 2020
A look at this year’s top UFA goaltenders in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE SCORE: Vegas’ Robin Lehner, Vancouver’s Jacob Markstrom, and Washington’s Braden Holtby top Sean O’Leary’s ranking of this year’s top-10 NHL unrestricted free agent goaltenders.
O’Leary observes Lehner has better stats than teammate Marc-Andre Fleury, suggesting it’s possible Lehner could outperform Fleury and take over as the Golden Knights’ starting goalie in the playoff tournament. Nevertheless, he believes it will be difficult for the cap-strapped Golden Knights to re-sign Lehner with Fleury carrying two more years on his contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some media speculation suggested the Golden Knights pull a swerve by trading Fleury to free up sufficient cap space to sign Lehner. Fleury, however, has a 10-team no-trade list. His age (35) and $7 million annual average value could also make him difficult to move if Vegas wanted to go down that road.
I’ll be surprised if the Canucks part ways with Markstrom. He’s become a reliable starter in Vancouver and they want to keep him. I think the two sides can agree on around $6 million annually, but the term could be a sticking point. Markstrom is 30 and the Canucks could be leery of any deal beyond five years.
Some might be surprised to see Holtby slide to third despite being a former Vezina winner (2016) who backstopped the Capitals to their first-ever Stanley Cup in 2018. His struggles over the last two seasons account could hurt his value.
Holtby will draw interest if he hits the open market, but he probably won’t get the type of big-money contract he otherwise would’ve had his numbers remained strong. Of course, that will change if he carries the Caps on another deep playoff run.
Chicago Corey Crawford and Dallas’ Anton Khudobin are fourth and fifth on O’Leary’s list.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Crawford and Khudobin could stay put. Crawford wants to remain in Chicago but he’ll have to accept less than his current $6 million AAV on a much shorter contract. The Stars, meanwhile, are believed interested in keeping their tandem of Khudobin and Ben Bishop intact. That could require a bump above Khudobin’s current $2.5 million annual salary.
The New York Islanders’ Thomas Greiss, Calgary’s Cam Talbot, Edmonton’s Mike Smith, San Jose’s Aaron Dell, and Philadelphia’s Brian Elliott round out the top ten.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Greiss would be a fine backup for any NHL club. Talbot’s bounce-back performance this season could have him looking for a starter’s job.
Smith is in the twilight of his career, but some Edmonton pundits think the Oilers should bring him back for one more season. Dell’s had a rough couple of years as a backup in San Jose. Elliott could be re-signed by the Flyers for another season to back up Carter Hart.