The NHL went through a big head coaching carousel last offseason and for the most part, it worked out great for a number of teams. Three of the final four teams in the conference finals have new coaches. And while the coaching carousel was a big topic of conversation and brought a lot of excitement, this offseason the NHL is in store for a massive goalie carousel instead.
With the salary cap still not rising a lot, certain teams heading in a different direction, and more impactful free agent goalies available, many teams are going to look a lot different in net for better or for worse. We are going to explore all the goaltenders that could be switching teams this offseason and how it will impact the teams making the change and the teams around them.
Goalies Set to Change Teams
Backup goalies switch more often than starters. Since they have less of an impact, the focus here will be on which big named starters could be playing for a new team next season. There are at least 10 teams that have a goalie that is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) or a goalie with 1-2 years left on their deal that could very well have a different sweater on in 2023-24. This is where it gets tricky.
Some teams have a starter that they might be parting ways with this offseason, but not all teams that are looking to bring in a starter are losing an important goalie. For example, the Vegas Golden Knights’ former starter Robin Lehner might miss another season and Logan Thompson can’t be trusted to stay healthy. With Adin Hill, Laurent Brossoit, and Jonathan Quick all set to become UFAs, the need for a starter is there (from “How the Golden Knights deftly avoided a potential goalie disaster this season”, The Athletic, May 18, 2023).
First, let’s identify all the starting goaltenders that could be changing teams:
- John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
- Joonas Korpisalo, Los Angeles Kings (UFA)
- James Reimer, San Jose Sharks (UFA, fringe starter)
- Karel Vejmelka, Arizona Coyotes
- Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
- Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes (UFA)
- Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers
- Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins (UFA)
- Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins
- Cam Talbot, Ottawa Senators (UFA)
Now there might be some other names moving around, but there’s little evidence or reason for goalies like Ilya Samsonov, Jack Campbell, Elvis Merzlikins, and Sergei Bobrovsky to be on the move for various reasons.
Now I already revealed Vegas as a team that will be looking for a starter, but not necessarily getting rid of one. Other teams in a similar boat could be the Buffalo Sabres, Detroit Red Wings, and Chicago Blackhawks. All three teams are on the rise and need an upgrade in net. The Sabres have three young goalies that likely won’t take them to the playoffs next season, the Red Wings can’t fully trust Ville Husso as a starter and need to get him some help, and the Blackhawks’ plans have changed now that they have won the draft lottery, making it so they will be buying instead of selling.
UFA Goalies in Question
The five teams that have their starter set to become a UFA are all in similar positions other than the Sharks. As stated above, Reimer should already be listed as a fringe starter at best. He could have been a backup on many teams but started the majority of the games in the past two seasons for San Jose. They are rebuilding and will likely be looking for a younger goalie with potential.
As for the Kings, Hurricanes, Penguins, and Senators, all either qualified for the postseason or just missed. All four of them also expect to make it next season, so if they are losing their starters, they will be in the market for another one who is available.
Looking at the four teams individually, the Kings either aren’t sure about moving forward with Korpisalo or he could just choose to test free agency. A deal hasn’t been struck yet and their season has been over for a couple of weeks now. Andersen could very well return to the Hurricanes since he’s proving right now that he’s the goalie they paid for. He is in the back half of his career and the team also has to make a decision on Antti Raanta who is a UFA as well. The Penguins are looking to change things up after missing the playoffs for the first time in a long time. Jarry’s numbers weren’t overly impressive and if a contract was going to be given out, one would have already. Talbot and the Senators couldn’t agree on term as the Senators only wanted to sign their starter for one year while he wanted at least two.
Related: Top 10 Underpaid Goalies in the NHL in 2022-23
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While the Kings might be looking to acquire a goaltender for the long term, the Hurricanes have Pyotr Kochetkov signed to a budget-friendly contract for four years, the Penguins’ window to win won’t be open for too much longer, and the Senators are just looking for someone to hold down their net while their young goalies finish developing. This means that the Penguins, Hurricanes, and Senators might be in the market for one of the goalies who could be traded with one to two years left on their contract.
This brings us to the goalies who may very well be traded. The starters on three of the five teams are on rebuilding franchises. It just doesn’t make much sense for Gibson, Vejmelka, or Hart to stick around on their teams. Gibson is the only one who isn’t underpaid and will fetch a great return, but he is the only one of the three who has proven he is an elite talent. Each team has at least one young goaltender looking to get more playing time and it would benefit the teams in the long run by moving in that direction. Plus the established starters will win the team games, and that’s not what rebuilders want.
The other two goalies are Hellebuyck and Ullmark, both goalies up for the Vezina Trophy this season. This is very much situational as both teams made the playoffs, but have to go through a change in their roster. The Bruins are working with a small amount of cap space and a number of players to sign. This will likely force them to trade one or more members of the team and Ullmark is on that list. With his contract of $5 million average annual value (AAV), the fact that he had a career year that will be very improbable to repeat, and with Jeremy Swayman ready to take the starter role and in line for a raise, a trade makes sense.
Hellebuyck on the other hand is on a Jets team that is in need of a change. It appears as though they are heading toward a rebuild with most of their regulars under contract for two or fewer years. Their franchise goalie and former Vezina Trophy winner has just one year left on his deal and isn’t interested in a rebuild. He hasn’t won a Stanley Cup yet and at the top of his game, will be looking to go somewhere to get the chance.
In recent memory, first-year coaches are more likely to spark their new team and get the most out of them while sometimes first-year starters can struggle because of the pressure they put on themselves. Jacob Markstrom, Jack Campbell, and Philipp Grubauer are great examples of this over the past few years, but then goalies like Marc-Andre Fleury with the Golden Knights and Alexandar Georgiev with the Colorado Avalanche had the opposite effect. It would definitely make for a very interesting offseason if all or most of these goaltenders end up on the move. The draft is the first stop where we could see some big trades.