The Back-up Goalie Market

UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 13: Antero Niittymaki #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New York Islanders on February 13, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The Isles defeated the Lightning 5-4. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)


The surprising Halak to St. Louis trade yesterday was marginally relevant to the Flames in that another team now has a solidified starter heading into next season. Jobs will therefore be even harder come by for this year’s UFA goalie crop as a result, which should result in more than a couple of quality puck stoppers looking for work later in the summer.

This should play in Calgary’s favor. The Flames will be looking for someone competent to back-up Miika Kiprusoff next year, something the club has lacked since Roman Turek took his ball and went home.

There are currently 25 NHL caliber goalies set to become free agents on July 1. Scratch Vesa Toskala, whom Sutter recently admitted isn’t in the Flames plans, and that leaves 20 names. From that list, you can likely delete Evgeni Nabokov, Jose Theodore, Marty Turco and Chris Mason, all of whom are established starters and will be looking for an opportunity to win the #1 role on whatever club they land with.

Other guys you can likely omit based on a number of factors are Patric Lalime (old, terrible), Johan Backlund (unproven), Joey McDonald (AHLer), Stephen Valiquette (failed as Lundqvists back-up) and Matt Climie (who?). I’d wager Sebastion Caron, Mike Brodeur and Yann Danis aren’t on the Flames roster as well.

That leaves Dany Sabourin, Curtis Sanford, Wade Dubielewicz, Dan Ellis, Andrew Raycroft, Johan Hedberg, Martin Biron, Antero Niittymaki, Micheal Leighton, Alex Auld and (depending on his health) Ray Emery. There’s also pending RFA Josh Harding who is rumored to be available as well.

That’s a lot of veteran back-ups. Some are clearly better than others (I’d grade Ellis, Biron, Harding and Niittymaki at the top of this class), but given Calgary’s cap issues and the fact that Kipper’s presnce is a solid deterrent against signing with the Flames (assuming the goalie in question wants to play more than 10 times to 15 times a year), Sutter may just have to wait until late August and scoop up whoever’s the "best of the rest" for cheap. Looking at the sheer number of goalies who are looking for work this off-season, that shouldn’t be aq problem.

  • Austin

    Bad HTML I guess:

    1. less than 1mil contract. We’re currently 10th in the league in cap hit for goalies, and lacking an entire goalie. 5 of those ten teams ahead of us have two goalies signed, so we’re not in bad shape. If we can get someone for around 750k, we will come in at ~6.58, probably good for around just above league average (12th-14th). Not bad considering we get well above league average goaltending from Miikka.

    2. A back-up who has played 100+ nhl games. We went through the ‘newbie’ scenario with McL, and it doesn’t work. Curtis needed to see more action to build confidence, technique and most importantly composure. No one will get ‘more action’ playing behind Kipper…so we need someone who has experience, who no matter how good he is, is actually ready to go when he needs to be.

    3.Someone who is consistent. This may be the hardest to ensure, but we need a back-up who is tranquilo. No one is going to compete for Kipper’s job, so we don’t need that. We just need consistently decent goaltending so that the team knows what to expect when the number 2 is in there. Just simply reliable, not spectacular…just good enough. A .915 ev sv% back-up is fine, they don’t have to be Tukka Rask. In otherwords, we don’t want the goalie’s equivalent of a streaky scorer. We just need a ’16-goal-guy’ type of goalie, who chips in once every 5 games.