NHL Free Agent Predictions – Goaltenders

The Free Agents

Unrestricted

  • Ryan Miller, 36: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $6,000,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Vancouver:
      • 54 regular season games: 54 GS,18-29-6, 3 shutouts, .914 SV%, 2.80 GAA, 48.1 Quality Start % (QS%), .924 Even Strength (ES) SV%, .897 PP SV%, .852 Short-Handed (SH) SV%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • The Canucks realistically have no reason to bring Miller back for next season since they are in the middle of a rebuild. However, no team wants to be truly awful and they will want to at least stay competitive and be able to sell tickets.  Miller wasn’t that bad this season, especially considering he played behind a porous defense and an untalented team overall.  His backup this season, Jacob Markstrom, was horrible this season and is no longer even a prospect at age 27, and there is no way that the Canucks will want to go with him as their starter next season.  They do have talented prospect Thatcher Demko in the minors and he has been amazing at every level probably isn’t ready yet to spend a full season in the NHL.  The Canucks also have a ton of cap space for next season and essentially could pay Miller his same $6 million salary he made this season, even though this would be a sizable overpay.  I also think that Miller will want a chance to win a Stanley Cup, something he has been chasing since leaving Buffalo.  I think that Anaheim, Boston, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal, Pittsburgh, and Toronto.
      • I predict that Miller will end up signing with Anaheim for 2 years with an AAV of $2.5 million.  The Ducks will need a backup goaltender with Jonathan Bernier most likely leaving via free agency.  Miller could be a solid backup to John Gibson since Gibson has had injury problems thus far in his career. Currently, they don’t have the cap space to sign Miller but they are almost guaranteed to move Sami Vatanen this offseason which will free up enough space to make this move.  There is also something to be said about how Miller spends his offseason in the LA area since his wife is an actress.
  • Jonathan Bernier, 28: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $4,150,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Anaheim
      • 39 regular season games: 33 GS, 21-7-4, 2 shutouts, .915 SV%, 2.50 GAA, 57.6 QS%, .923 ES SV%, .824 PP SV%, .892 SH SV%
      • 4 playoff games: 1 GS, 1-2-0, 0 shutouts, 3.28 GAA, .873 SV%, 0 QS%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Bernier’s regular season backing up John Gibson was good enough for teams to possibly consider giving him a shot at being their starter next season, or at least in a split starter role.  His play in the playoffs will likely give those teams pause as he cost the Ducks game six almost entirely on his own, stopping just four of 16 shots.  He will still have teams looking to sign him as a quality backup, but there is no way he will make the $4 plus million he made this season. Boston, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Edmonton, and Minnesota could all look to bring him in to be their backup.
      • I predict that Bernier will sign a 2 year deal with an AAV of $3 million with Edmonton.
  • Steve Mason, 29: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $4,100,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Philadelphia:
      • 58 regular season games 54 GS, 26-21-8, 3 shutouts, .908 SV%, 2.66 GAA, 48.1 QS%, .920 ES S%, .891 PP SV%, .840 SH SV%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Steve Mason’s time in Philadelphia seems to have concluded after the Flyers signed Michal Neuvirth to a two year extension and with the presence of Anthony Stolarz, who appears to be their goaltender of the future, at the NHL level. Mason wasn’t very good this season but that is partially indicative of the quality of players in front of him.  The fact that he had a .920 even strength save percentage shows that he can still play quite well.  I think that teams currently without a dependable starter will consider signing Mason as he has the experience of being a starter.  Teams like Buffalo, Calgary, Vancouver, and Vegas could all be interested in signing Mason.
      • I think that Mason will end up signing with Vancouver on a 3 year deal with an AAV of $4 million.
  • Brian Elliott, 32: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $2,500,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Calgary:
      • 49 regular season games: 45 GS, 26-18-3, 2 shutouts, .910 SV%, 2.55 GAA, 57.8 QS%, .919 ES SV%, .912 PP SV%, .873 SH SV%
      • 4 playoff games: 4 GS, 0-3-0, .880 SV%, 3.89 GAA, 25 QS%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Brian Elliott started this season off on a rough patch and Chad Johnson had to step in and essentially saved the season.  Elliott was able to regroup and put together quite a nice season by the end.  Elliott is so difficult to figure out because he has had some really good seasons and has twice led the league in save percentage and once in goals against average.  However, at the same time, he has also had some really bad seasons and seems to be best served by playing in a split role rather than a traditional starter who starts 60 or more games each season. There is always the chance that the Flames bringing him back but I think they are going to attempt to bring in Marc-Andre Fleury to be their starter.  I also think that Buffalo, Rangers, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, and Winnipeg could have interested in Elliott.
      • I predict that Elliott will sign with the Rangers on a 2 year deal with an AAV of $2 million.  I understand that the Rangers already have Antti Raanta to be their backup but I’m operating under the assumption that he will be taken by Vegas in the Expansion Draft.
  • Chad Johnson, 31: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $1,700,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Calgary:
      • 36 regular season games: 36 GS, 18-15-1, 3 shutouts, .910 SV%, 2.59 GAA, 50 QS%, .918 ES SV%, .909 PP SV%, .870 SH SV%
      • 1 playoff games: 0 GS, 0-1-0, .952 SV%, 1.15 GAA
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • As I wrote above, Johnson helped bail out Brian Elliott this season and saved the Flames season, helping them to return to the playoffs.  While he was originally brought in as a backup, he ended up more in a dual starters role and probably deserved more of an opportunity in the playoffs.  He has continuously shown throughout his career that he is a goaltender capable of being more than a backup but is not quite a starter.  The most starts he has received in a season was 40, two seasons ago in Buffalo.  That seems to be the best role for Johnson and giving him between 30 and 40 starts in a year is a really good way for a team to manage their net.  I think that there is a really good chance the Flames will retain Johnson, assuming that they liked the way he held the crease during the season.  He won’t be the starter there but rather could be part of a 60-40 split with another goaltender. Additionally, I think that Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Colorado, Edmonton, and Vancouver would be interested.
      • I think that Johnson re-signs with the Flames for 2 years with an AAV of $2.5 million.
  • Anders Nilsson, 27: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $1,000,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Buffalo:
      • 26 regular season games: 23 GS, 10-10-4, 1 shutout, .923 SV%, 2.67 GAA, 47.8 QS%, .934 ES SV%, 1.000 PP SV%, .873 SH SV%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Nilsson had his best season to date this year while backing up Robin Lehner.  He had an above average save percentage while playing behind a rough Sabres defense.  His even strength save percentage of .934 was even better and shows that he is capable of more starts going forward.  I think that Buffalo will actually re-sign Nilsson and work him into something close to a 50-50 starts split and see if he can develop into a starter in the future.
      • I predict that Nilsson will re-sign with Buffalo for 4 years with an AAV of $2.5 million.

Restricted

  • Robin Lehner, 25: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $2,225,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Buffalo:
      • 59 regular season games: 58 GS, 23-26-8, 2 shutouts, .920 SV%, 2.68 GAA, 55.2 QS%, .926 ES SV%, .935 PP SV%, .891 SH SV%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Robin Lehner has actually been really good the past two seasons even though many throughout the hockey world probably haven’t noticed.  He had a .920 save percentage and a .926 even strength save percentage this season, all while playing behind a very porous defense.  The combination of Lehner and Anders Nilsson, plus one start from Linus Ullmark, had a .918 save percentage, good enough for 6th best in the league.  With a new coaching staff coming in and a new front office regime, the Sabres should get better on defense and this will help the team’s goaltenders greatly.  I think that with how well Lehner and Nilsson played this season and the fact that they are both Swedes and friends means that the Sabres and both players will have interest in reuniting.
      • I predict that Lehner will sign a 3 year deal with an AAV of $3.25 million with Buffalo.
  • Anthony Stolarz, 23: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $753,333
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Philadelphia:
      • 7 regular season games: 4 GS, 2-1-1, 1 shutout, .928 SV%, 2.07 GAA, 50 QS%, .952 ES SV%, .600 PP SV%, .867 SH SV%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Stolarz was the Flyers best goaltender this season and with the team only extending Michal Neuvirth, I take that to mean that they are confident going with Neuvirth and Stolarz next season.  Stolarz is the team’s goalie of the future and should receive close to a split in the starts next season.
      • I predict that Stolarz will re-sign with the Flyers for 2 years with an AAV of $1.5 million.
  • Connor Hellebuyck, 24: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $667,500
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Winnipeg
      • 56 regular season games: 53 GS, 26-19-4, 4 shutouts, .907 SV%, 2.89 GAA, 47.2 QS%, .917 ES SV%, .909 PP SV%, .859 SH SV%
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Hellebucyk took a step back this season from the year he had last season.  I think that this partially due to the fact that he started too many games in his first full season in the NHL. He was essentially forced into this with the lackluster play of his fellow netminders, Michael Hutchinson, Ondrej Pavelec, and Eric Comrie.  Hellebuyck is one of the best young goaltenders in the league based on talent, but he needs some help to succeed, at least until he develops into the goaltender he is going to become.  That needs to come both on the blueline and by signing a veteran goaltender who can take some of the strain off Hellebuyck.  He is their goaltender of the future so they have reason to be patient and they will end up re-signing him this offseason.
      • I predict that Hellebuyck re-signs with the Jets for 2 years with an AAV of $2 million.
  • Philipp Grubauer, 25: 2016-17 Cap Hit: $750,000
    • 2016-17 Stats, all with Washington:
      • 24 regular season games: 19 GS, 13-6-2, 3 shutouts, .926 SV%, 2.04 GAA, 68.4 QS%, .937 ES SV%, .909 PP SV%, .883 SH SV%
      • 1 playoff game: 0 GS, .778 SV%, 6.32 GAA
    • 2017-18 Outlook:
      • Grubauer has been on the fringes of the NHL for much longer than I realized and therefore is eligible to be taken by Vegas in the Expansion Draft.  From what I’ve seen and have read, Grubauer is a really good goaltender who deserves the chance to get close to a split in starts, and I think that Vegas will recognize this as well.  I fell fairly confident that he will be taken by them and then they will work out a new contract. This is probably the best case scenario for Grubauer in terms of getting playing time because as long as he is in Washington and Braden Holtby is healthy, Grubauer is only getting limited time in net.  In Vegas, he could share the net with another goaltender, perhaps Marc-Andre Fleury, and get close to 40 starts a season.
      • I think that he will sign a 3 year deal with an AAV of $2.5 million.

*All stats and information come from hockey-reference.com, eliteprospects.com, rosterresource.com, spotrac.com, capfriendly.com, and hockeyanalysis.com.

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