With the St. Louis Blues recently parting ways with not one, but two number one netminders in the last few months, one has to wonder just what their value is out on the open market. Jaroslav Halak and Ryan Miller are just a couple of names that will be available July 1st. It's an odd time to be a goaltender in the NHL. Most of the good teams have the goalie they want to move forward with. All of the bad teams who need goaltending help, aren't intriguing to the top goalies who will be available. The guys who are free agents will want to start, not share time in net. It creates a conundrum that will certainly make for some interesting moves in the offseason. Who's available that could cause a shakeup? Let's take a look.
The aforementioned Halak and Miller will be out there. James Reimer is a restricted free agent in Toronto while San Jose is an interesting case with Alex Stalock becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer and Antti Niemi moving to free agency next summer. Jonas Hiller is surely out of Anaheim and while Martin Brodeur will forever be a New Jersey Devil, he may take the last season of his legacy elsewhere for a crack at more playing time. Will Ilya Bryzgalov find a home? Other goalies who have time on their contract, but are in a tough position are Jimmy Howard, Cam Ward, Marc-Andre Fleury and Ondrej Pavelec. Howard has been up and down in Detroit the last couple of seasons while battling injuries. Cam Ward is fighting for a starting job with Anton Khudobin who comes at a third of the cost. He may waive his NTC if it means a starting job. Fleury has been erratic to say the least in the last few post seasons and Pavelec frankly just hasn't had the team in front of him, nor has he stolen enough games to be a go-to #1.
So those are the potential moving parts, but which teams will be actively looking for goaltending help? Here's who I think will look to add to their respective creases: Calgary, Detroit, Minnesota, New York Islanders, Winnipeg and I think there are outside chances that Pittsburgh, San Jose, Vancouver and Washington may be looking for a move as well.
Calgary - James Reimer gave Brian Burke a few good seasons before Burke was fired so I could see the Calgary GM making a play for Reimer with the promise of starting time and an improving roster.
Detroit - If they determine they need a change in net, now is the time to do it with local guy Ryan Miller hitting the open market. Yes, everyone knows he wants to move out west to be closer to his wife, but those teams have to want him as well. The Kings and Ducks are set and I have a hard time believing the Sharks part with Niemi who is three years younger and half the price to bring in Miller. Detroit is the next logical guess and may be a favorite if they're willing to move Howard.
Minnesota - It's a shame what has happened to the net in Minnesota. Who knows if Backstrom will be back or the status of Josh Harding. That leaves Ilya Brygalov and Darcy Kuemper. Those two may return as a 1-2 punch, but the Wild front office feels they could have made a deeper run this year. I would expect a move for a veteran in free agency to shore up the goaltending for two or three years. Miller will be attached to any good team with an opening in net, but I don't think this is his fit. Kuemper showed enough in the regular and post season to be at least a quality back up for the time being. Cam Ward perhaps?
Winnipeg - Another team that will likely have to make a trade to bring in goaltending. Pavelec just isn't the answer as his career 2.96 GAA shows. Would Martin Brodeur want to play in Canada for a rabid fan base? I could see it. But this franchise has been extremely loyal to Pavs so I wouldn't be too surprised to see them stand pat.
Pittsburgh - Whoever is named as the new GM will have to answer questions as to the future of Marc-Andre Fleury. A playoff scapegoat for the last few years, he didn't help himself any this post season with plays like we saw in the Columbus series. This summer may be the best time to move him to a team wishing for more negotiating time. Obviously Pittsburgh will need a plan for his replacement. Miller or Hiller may be the latest flightless bird.
San Jose - I think they get both Stalock and Niemi signed because the collapse in these playoffs was far from their fault. That was a total team collapse. I can see them re-signing Stalock, keeping Niemi through next year, and moving forward with Stalock as the starter in two seasons.
Vancouver - I have to wonder what approach Jim Benning will take with this squad. Is he prepared to move forward with Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom? The Canucks may be a surprise player in the goaltender market. They aren't as bad as they appeared last season. A one or two year deal with a top option like Ryan Miller may actually be a good fit.
Washington - This is another franchise waiting on a new GM who will have to decide whether Braden Holtby is their guy or if they need to search for another. I could see them making a run at Jonas Hiller.
One other Brodeur thought: would he serve as Carey Price's backup in Montreal for one season? What a tandem that could be and I bet Brodeur would shine if given 25-30 games with the Habs.