The free agency period is less than a month away; teams can make massive improvements or risk anchoring themselves with an albatross of a contract through free agency. Not every year, you can sift through goaltenders and see multiple top goaltenders available through the free agency market. It’s also not every year when multiple established goaltenders are available via trade. Here at Inside The Rink, we’ll examine the top goaltenders available through free agency on July 1st or via trade at any moment.
The Trade Market
Let’s first go through some of the names that are available via trade.
Honestly, I’m 50/50 when it comes to Saros actually being moved, but Barry Trotz is set to become the new general manager of the Nashville Predators. He might decide to bring Yaroslav Askarov up and take a chance on the young goaltender. I can also see a veteran getting signed to split games with Askarov and Kevin Lankinen.
Juuse Saros has two years left on his contract, worth $5 million annually. He will be an unrestricted free agent once his contract expires at the end of the 2024-25 season.
New general manager Daniel Briere is slowly blowing things up and moving players. Briere recently took on Cal Petersen’s contract to serve as a backup to Carter Hart or to take Hart’s place when he is eventually traded.
Carter Hart has one year left on his contract, worth $3.797 million annually. He will be a restricted free agent once his contract expires at the end of the 2023-24 season. He will also remain under club control until the 2026-27 off-season.
This will be a tricky contract to move unless Anaheim retains some of his salary; the length and money will be an issue for teams unless John Gibson returns to his early career form or a team takes a flyer on him. Gibson’s numbers have declined since 2018-19, and he has not seen any save percentage numbers past 0.917 since then. In the 2022-23 season, Gibson posted a career-low 3.99 goals against average and a 0.899 save percentage.
John Gibson has four years left on his contract, worth $6.4 million annually. He will be an unrestricted free agent once his contract expires at the end of the 2025-26 season.
This is not a trade scenario that I enjoy; when Linus Ullmark was signed in the summer of 2021, I thought it was a great deal for the Ullmark and the Boston Bruins. In Ullmark’s two seasons with the Bruins, he has played 90 games in total, averaging a 0.928 save percentage and a 2.14 goals-against average. In favor of Ullmark, he won the William Jennings Trophy in the 2022-23 season. He had 40 wins on the season, a 1.89 GAA, and a 0.938 save percentage, arguably numbers we likely won’t see for a while. Teams will be buying high on a potential Linus Ullmark trade.
Linus Ullmark has two years left on his contract, worth $5 million annually. He will be an unrestricted free agent once his contract expires at the end of the 2024-25 season.
This is probably the best goaltender available either through trade or free agency, and there are some really good names available on this list. You might be a good goaltender when your name is in the top 10 for Vezina voting in all of your full NHL seasons. Connor Hellebuyck has won the Vezina trophy once, been a runner-up twice, finished fourth, and is in the top 10 every year he’s been in the league.
Connor Hellebuyck has one year left on his contract, worth $6,166,666 annually. He will be an unrestricted free agent once his contract expires at the end of the 2023-24 season.
Thatcher Demko – three years left at $5 million – UFA in 2026-27
Jacob Markstrom – three years left at $6 million – UFA in 2026-27
Casey DeSmith – one year left at $1.8 million – UFA in 2024-25
At first, I was going to limit this to five unrestricted free agents, but there are some great names in the restricted free agent list. Let’s go through the names that are available via free agency.
David Rittich (UFA)
David Rittich had probably one of the quietest resurgence seasons in recent memory. Known as Big Save Dave in Calgary, he lost his stride in the 2020-21 season, especially after his trade to Toronto. Rittich would sign in the 2022 offseason as the backup to Connor Hellebuyck and proved to fans that he deserved his spot in Winnipeg.
Alex Lyon (UFA)
Alex Lyon came out of nowhere for the Florida Panthers, and it’s nice to see a player who struggled for many years finally find their footing. Lyon is a curious case as he can provide a team with a third goaltender option for cheap. His small sample size proves that he could easily be a solid option in goal for any team.
Semyon Varlamov (UFA)
Teams looking to add a veteran presence in goal should consider adding Semyon Varlamov. Even into Varlamov’s mid-30s, he’s still a solid backup goaltender option for any team needing playoff goaltending experience.
Tristan Jarry (UFA)
Tristan Jarry spent part of the season playing tug-of-war with another Pittsburgh netminder Casey DeSmith. Jarry would eventually spend the majority of the season in net for Pittsburgh and showed that he hasn’t slowed down. Jarry is currently 28 and could be an anchor in the net for any championship team for a few seasons.
Frederik Andersen (UFA)
Frederik Andersen has been a workhorse wherever he goes, and he rarely plays less than half the season. This will be valuable to any team with a young goalie and a bright playoff future.
Joonas Korpisalo (UFA)
Traded to Los Angeles at the trade deadline, Korpisalo’s small sample size showed that he could quickly become a solid goalie for any team that needs experience. While Korpisalo won’t be a starting goaltender for most teams, he’s a great option if a team prefers two fringe starters and one backup goaltender.
Adin Hill (UFA)
Adin Hill caught lightning in a bottle at the right time. Stuck in Arizona for stints of less than 20 games for four seasons, Hill was traded to San Jose, and then San Jose moved Hill to Vegas for a fourth-round pick. While Hill was brought in to provide stability in the net, he would play 27 games posting a 2.5 goals against average and a save percentage of 0.915 and helping Vegas storm into the playoffs. Hill looks like he has been a dominant NHL goaltender for years with his performance in this year’s playoffs, leading Vegas to be one win away from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Jeremy Swayman (RFA)
Jeremy Swayman has been incredible since joining the Boston Bruins in 2020-21; since that debut season, he never looked back on how he’d play at the NHL level. Swayman’s strong play leaves Boston in a tough position as Linus Ullmark has never looked better in net, and Jeremy Swayman looks ready to take over the starting goaltender spot for Boston.
Mackenzie Blackwood (RFA)
After a couple of down seasons with the New Jersey Devils, Mackenzie Blackwood might be available via trade or signed via offersheet. The Devils have a young goaltender prospect Akira Schmid who looked really good. Vitek Vanecek is also under contract for two more seasons, making it a tough situation to be in for the Devils. $34 million in cap space is a ton of room, but the Devils have 12 players to sign, making Blackwood a potential cap casualty.
Ilya Samsonov (RFA)
After a season that was less than ideal for the Washington Capitals, Ilya Samsonov was allowed to be a free agent last summer. Toronto took a chance on Samsonov, and he made it worth Toronto’s time and money. If Toronto can’t sign Samsonov, they’ll look to trade his restricted free agent rights.
Filip Gustavsson (RFA)
Filip Gustavsson was traded by Pittsburgh to Ottawa, and then traded Ottawa swapped him one-for-one for Cam Talbot. Gustavsson had a massive year for Minnesota, playing 39 games and posting a 2.10 goals against average and a 0.931 save percentage. If Gustavsson and Minnesota can’t agree on a new contract, I’d expect a trade or an offer sheet to be the route.
Alex Nedeljkovic (UFA) – was with the Detroit Red Wings
Antti Raanta (UFA) – was with the Carolina Hurricanes
Michael Hutchinson (UFA) – was with the Columbus Blue Jackets
Martin Jones (UFA) – was with the Seattle Kraken
Laurent Brossoit (UFA) – was with the Vegas Golden Knights
Connor Ingram (RFA) – was with the Arizona Coyotes