Summer is coming and that means hockey’s free agent frenzy is right around the bend. And that means the league’s 31 general managers will hit the market with open wallets. Maybe.
With this year’s Stanley Cup Final billed as a battle of attrition and an exhibition of fine goaltending, the benefits of landing that perfect netminder are clear. Luckily, there will be a number of top-tier names available for the right club at the right price.
Here’s a look at FIVE of them, with the obvious caveat that contracts could be offered before Canada Day. As always, feel free to chime in with helpful information about our many oversights and errors.
Bernier signed a one-year deal with the Avalanche in July of 2017, but injuries kept him on the sidelines for most of the season. He suffered an upper body injury on October 25 and was injured again in February of 2018. He started just 34 games for Colorado this season, finishing with a 2.85 goals against average and a .913 save percentage.
Bernier went 1-3 in the post-season against Nashville. His performance was disappointing, with a 3.87 goals against average. True to form, Bernier was injured in Game Four and Andrew Hammond stepped in.
Now, this may not seem like the best case for signing Bernier and it’s true that 2017-2018 was a letdown. But it’s also true that the Laval native is just 29-years-old and has a lot of quality hockey ahead of him.
Hutton is one of the more attractive UFA options. He backed up Jake Allen this season in St. Louis, starting 26 games and posting 17 wins. The 32-year-old didn’t see much rubber thanks to the Blues’ penurious defence, but he can provide a team with some depth under the right circumstances.
Hutton’s 2.09 goals against average and .931 save percentage make him among the best UFA netminders statistically. He’s played 138 NHL games. His busiest season came in 2013-2014, when he took home 20 wins in 34 starts for the Predators. Hutton could find a nice fit in Buffalo or Detroit.
Once the savior of Dallas Stars hockey, Lehtonen is now in line for a reversal of fortunes. The 34-year-old from Helsinki wore out his welcome, collecting just 15 wins in 30 starts this season and posting a .912 save percentage. He carried a heavy price tag at $5.9 million a year, but Lehtonen could be a quality hire for less money.
The best fit for the Finn is somewhere he can ride off into the proverbial sunset, which once again throws Buffalo and Detroit in the mix. Consider the New York Rangers on the list.
33-year-old Halak is kind of like Lehtonen in that he should be in the conversation as a reliable backup. He was the starter this season in New York with the Islanders. He put together an iffy campaign, with a .908 save percentage and a 3.19 goals against average in 49 starts. Halak had just 20 wins.
Fans remember Halak from better days in St. Louis and Montreal, but his tenure in New York hurt his value. He made $4.5 million, but that’s old money now. Look for the Sabres or Hurricanes to kick the tires.
We could finish by talking about Anton Khudobin or even Cam Ward. But Lack is an intriguing case, if only because his career is now a story about what might’ve been. The once popular Canucks netminder has bounced around a bit. He started the season in Calgary behind Mike Smith and didn’t feel the team was patient enough. He was traded to New Jersey and played just eight games this campaign.
The 30-year-old has 144 NHL games under his belt and was once a promising netminder. He was up to fine form in 2014-2015 and has a great personality in the room.