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.

  • I don’t understand why Kiprusoff “should” be limited to 60 games.

    It’s either 70+ starts (if he’s actually good, I have doubts) or zero starts (if he’s no good as I suspect, in which case it’d be nice to try and use him to acquire a good player).

    I mean we pay the guy enough to be a difference-maker, he better damn well be making a difference. I haven’t seen any evidence one way or the other that minutes played or games played does anything to SV% that is outside the realm of good old-fashioned luck.

    I mean it’s just tending nets, compared to any of the skating positions it’s a damn walk in the park.

    • Graham

      Random internet stat and I am to lazy to validate it. However, apparently only 5 goalies in history have every brought their team a Stanley Cup after playing more then 65 regular season games.

      I think a case can be made to trade Kipper (though I don’t agree). However, I don’t think you should go into the season expecting to play him 70+ games.

    • I think Kipper should be playing 65-70 games (rough number). And we do pay him alot to be the difference maker. But that’s why some people get upset. Why should he always be relied upon to be the difference maker? As for the part of “It’s just tending nets”. Go play 80 NHL games as a goaltender, complete with facing 30+ shots a night, acrobatic manouvers, on your feet for 3 straight periods while the other skaters get to sit between shifts, and don’t forget to factor in travel and practice times. Once you’ve done that…get back to us!!

  • Kiprusoff should be limited to 60 games at most. So there’s 22 games at minimum for the backup to play. I’d prefer to see Kipper play 55-60 range.

    Ellis made $2,000,000 last year. That might be too rich for Calgary.