The top 10 NHL free-agent goalies to watch. What's the right fit and for how much? (2023)

The NHL playoff field is down to four, and for most teams the offseason to-do lists are starting to take shape.

Hire a new coach. Finish the general manager search. Which unrestricted free agents stay? Who goes?Find a starting goalie. Sign a reliable backup. Upgrade the goalie position in general.


The Athletic’sfree-agent list and trade board are already live with a few goalies making the cut — Frederik Andersen is the top-rated UFA goalie, per Dom Luszczyszyn. And like the 2023 free-agent class in general, the UFA goalies are fine. There is no superstar expected to be on the open market, but some strong players and useful depth are available.

For the purpose of today’s list, we’ve opened up the ranking to restricted free agents as well, to save us from debating whether or not a team should sign Cam Talbot or James Reimer.

So, let’s take a look at which free-agent goalies could be available this summer via free agency, trades — offersheet 👀 — and who might realistically stay put with their current team.

Note: The Athletic’s trade board lists Connor Hellebuyck as one of the top trade candidates of the summer. Given he is not a free agent (yet) he is not on this list. But you can read more about that here:

NHL offseason trade board: What we’re hearing about Jets stars, Leafs’ Core 4 and other targets

First of our continuous updated Trade Board, from ⁦@eduhatschek⁩ and me

— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) May 15, 2023

Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins (UFA)

Current cap hit: $3.5 million

Jarry has been a source of unpredictability in Pittsburgh over the last few seasons.

Jarry was fine in 2020-21 during the regular season — his first year not backing up Matt Murray — and, uh, not very goodin the playoffs as the Penguins lost in six games to the Islanders. Then, last season, Jarry was excellent, with a bigger workload (58 games) and a .919 save percentage … and then he missed the first six games of the playoffs because of a broken foot en route to another early exit for the Penguins.

This season, he had a bad start, by his own admission, because he was dealing with an injury. Jarry started to heat up through November and December before he got hurt at the Winter Classic and missed the next three weeks. He came back for two games, got hurt again, and missed another month.

You get the point. Jarry gets hurt. But he’s also been — at the very least — a solid starter for the Penguins. What that means for his upcoming contract is interesting.

Do the lack of true starting goalies on the open market give him more leverage than he might have given his history? Or does the price stay low because he can’t stay healthy?

The Penguins face a difficult decision here, too. Do you bet on Jarry and sign him to the kind of long-term deal he’s likely after? Do you try to sign him to a two-year “prove it” contract, and hope that no other team is going to beat your offer? Do you just let him walk and find a goalie on the open market or via trade?

The Penguins are a win-now team that needs a No. 1 goalie and Jarry might be the best option they have — or one of the top goalies on the open market, injury history or not.

Frederik Andersen, Carolina Hurricanes (UFA)

Current cap hit: $4.5 million

Andersen has spent the playoffs bouncing back from an injury-prone regular season and showing why he could be one of the top UFA goalies on the market this summer. The reason to be concerned about a long-term big ticket for Andersen is that he has struggled to stay healthy — and that he’s played behind a strong Carolina team the last two years.

He only played 34 games this season and his numbers were modest (.903 save percentage) compared to last year (.922 in 52 games). But, he’s been great in the postseason with a .936 save percentage and saving 6.8 goals above expected. That should help his value, along with a pretty soft goalie market and multiple teams looking for upgrades at the position.

Filip Gustavsson, Minnesota Wild (RFA)

Current deal: $787,500

Re-signing Gustavsson is one of the top priorities for the Wild this offseason. He went 22-9-7 in the regular season and finished second in goals-against average (2.10) and save percentage (.931) in a breakout year for the 24-year-old. He also set a franchise record with 51 saves in a double-overtime win in Game 1 against the Stars this postseason.


The Wild’s cap constraints have been well documented byThe Athletic’s Michael Russo and Joe Smith. SparkNotes: Minnesota has around $9 million, per CapFriendly, to re-sign Gustavsson, Brandon Duhaime, Calen Addison and potentially make meaningful upgrades on the roster.

The crew in Minnesota recently looked at the numbers and found that a three-year deal in the $3 million-plus range could make sense for Gustavsson, given his closest comps and the Wild’s cap situation. How much Gustavsson will make on a new deal and how that impacts the Wilds’ other roster moves remains to be seen. But it will be something to keep an eye on as the offseason moves along.

Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (RFA)

Current cap hit: $925,000

Swayman just posted another solid season with the Bruins — a 24-6-4 record and a .920 save percentage with four shutouts — but what comes next?

The Bruins are in a cap crisis with around $6 million in space and only 14 players signed for 2023-24, thanks in part to the $4.5 million bonus overages on the books. Naturally, the ideal cap dumps would be players like Mike Reilly or Derek Forbort. But what if the market isn’t there? Could the Bruins be pushed to trade one of half of the league’s best goalie tandem this past season?

Perhaps Swayman — a restricted free agent with arbitration rights — signs this summer for two years, setting himself up for a bigger payday when the cap presumably rises and Linus Ullmark’s contract ends in 2025. That would be the ideal situation for the Bruins.

The nightmare scenario: Swayman is looking to cash in.

He’s a young (24 years old) goalie with an excellent track record in the early stages of his career. In 88 NHL games, Swayman has a .920 save percentage and nine shutouts. He’s due for a raise on his entry-level deal — his statistical profile is comparable to Jake Oettinger’s before his three-year $12 million deal — but the purse strings are tight in Boston. And there are certainly teams that would give up a haul for a blue-chip goalie like Swayman. He could also be a prime candidate for the dreaded offer sheet by a team looking for a goalie with more money to spend than Boston, but I’ll believe an offer sheet is going to happenwhen I see it


The bold move for Boston would be trading Ullmark, who is the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy for his stellar season. He turns 30 this summer and has two years left at $5 million annually. That would clear cap space and allow the Bruins to keep the younger goalie. Of course, the ideal scenario would be to keep the Jennings winning duo together, but we know change is coming in Boston — GM Don Sweeney has said as much — so it’s fair to wonder if that will come in the crease.

Antti Raanta, Carolina Hurricanes (UFA)

Current cap hit: $2 million

Raanta has been effective for Carolina over the last two seasons, winning the Jennings Trophy with Andersen in 2021-22 and posting solid results (19-3-3 record and .910 save percentage) this year. Raanta was a big reason why Andersen’s injuries and drop from last year didn’t hurt the Canes midseason — along with the play of Pyotr Kochetkov. With Andersen out through November to mid-January, Raanta went 7-2-2 in a support role with the 23-year-old Kochetkov running away with the opportunity before he cooled off in January. Raanta also went 3-2 with a .906 save percentage in the first five games of the first round against the New York Islanders while Andersen was unavailable for Games 2, 3, and 4 because of an illness and minor injury.

Raanta is 35 and has spent the last few seasons in a goalie-friendly system which opens up fair questions about if he could be relied upon to start more for a different team, but he’s proven to be a good guy to have around with a young goalie and take on a backup role.

In some ways it makes sense for him to return to Carolina. Both Andersen and Raanta are UFAs and the club knows that Raanta can work in their system and particularly in tandem with Kochetkov. He’d also likely come cheaper than Andersen this summer. But there would also likely be a market for someone like Raanta on the open market.

Semyon Varlamov, New York Islanders (UFA)

Current cap hit: $5 million

It’s easy to imagine Varlamov being high on teams’ internal UFA boards. He has been consistent for the Islanders over the course of his four-year contract. He only started 23 games this season playing behind Vezina finalist Ilya Sorokin, but Varlamov has proven himself to be a capable No. 2 and should be capable of handling a bigger workload if that’s what a team is looking for — for reference he played in 36 games in 2020-21 and posted a .929 save percentage.


Of course, we need to account for the Islanders’ defensive system helping his numbers — and the fact that Varlamov is 35 years old now — but in 14 years as an NHL goalie, Varlamov has only once posted a sub .900 season.

According toThe Athletic’sKevin Kurz, there would be multiple teams interested in Varlamov should he hit the open market. Now, he has said multiple times that he’d like to remain with the Islanders, but he might draw better offers on the open market than what the Islanders can realistically afford. The team has around $5.3 million in cap space, per CapFriendly, with meaningful upgrades to be made on the roster.

Could Varlamov take a pay cut to stick on Long Island? Or is he bound for a team in need of a veteran goalie?

What we’re hearing about the Islanders: Lamoriello, Varlamov, more ⤵️

— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) May 17, 2023

Joonas Korpisalo, Los Angeles Kings (UFA)

Current cap hit: $1.3 million

Korpisalo’s game has been trending in a nice direction since recovering from hip surgery that ended his 2021-22 season. In Columbus — behind one of the worst teams in the league — Korpisalo had a .913 save percentage, saving 10 goals above expected. And behind a stronger team in L.A., his numbers improved going 7-3-1 down the stretch with a .921 save percentage. He looked like “2020 Bubble Playoff Korpisalo” (where he had a 1.91 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in nine games with Columbus) through the first three games of the Kings’ first-round series against Edmonton, making 111 saves and a .934 save percentage, but ultimately lost the final three games of the series.

Korpisalo is 29 now, and did have several seasons in Columbus with a sub .900 save percentage, which should caution a team for going big on term and dollar this summer. But, he likely set himself up nicely for the open market, assuming the L.A. Kings prioritize locking in Vladislav Gavrikov with their open cap space.

Ilya Samsonov, Toronto Maple Leafs (RFA)

Current cap hit: $1.8 million

Samsonov was a pleasant surprise in Toronto this season. Given his stumbles in Washington and that he wasn’t qualified by the team that drafted him in the 2015 first round, few thought his transition under the microscope in Toronto would have gone as smoothly as it did. The Leafs took a flier on a guy in free agency and it worked.

And to be fair, Samsonov was never short on talent. Consistency was a question though.

This year, only during March, did his save percentage dip below .900. Otherwise, Samsonov consistently logged a .913 or high in every other calendar month. He was the starter in the playoffs, before a neck injury in Round 2 and seems primed to be Toronto’s No. 1 next season along with Joseph Woll … finding a way out of Matt Murray’s contract notwithstanding.

Samsonov is an RFA with arbitration rights this summer. Evolving Hockey’s projection – a four year deal with a $5.1 million AAV – seems high for a goalie with Samsonov’s track record. But he’s said he wants to stay in Toronto and may not have a ton of leverage to ask for a long-term deal at this stage. He will be a priority on the Leafs lengthy to-do list this summer.

An extension for Auston Matthews, a star trade, a new deal for Ilya Samsonov, a new coach (or not): The 10 biggest priorities for the next GM of the Leafs:

— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) May 22, 2023

Mackenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils (RFA)

Current cap hit: $2.8 million

Is Blackwood one of the top 10 goalies on the market this year based on performance? Probably not, given he only started 22 games, had a .893 save percentage and battled MCL and groin injuries over the course of the season and playoffs. But Blackwood had made his way onto the list because he is interesting.

He’s still fairly young (26) and showed some promise in New Jersey — he finished sixth in Calder voting in 2019-20 after a .915 season — but injuries have stopped Blackwood from making meaningful progress. And now it’s fair to wonder if he fits in the Devils’ plans.

The team has Vitek Vanecek locked in for two more seasons, and Akira Schmid — who was impressive in the first round against the Rangers — is on his entry-level contract. Blackwood, a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, is the only one without a contract. When asked about his future on locker cleanout day, Blackwood said:

“Obviously, I’ve been here for my entire NHL career so far. I love the team, and I love all the guys, so it would be hard to leave that. At the end of the day, though, you want to go where the opportunity is.”

Could Blackwood be a trade candidate this summer? He did crack the trade board last week. Or will he end up hitting the open market?

To retain Blackwood’s rights, the Devils have to sign him to a $3.36 million qualifying offer, according to CapFriendly’s QO calculator. It’s not prohibitive, and wouldn’t necessarily be the number they lock in at, not to mention the Devils have around $34 million in cap space right now, but have some big RFA deals (Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier) to sort out this summer. If the Devils cannot find a trade partner, will they simply not qualify him? That would make Blackwood an unrestricted free agent come July 1, and give him a chance to get things on track.

Adin Hill, Vegas Golden Knights (UFA)

Current cap hit: $2.175 million

As of this writing, Hill is 5-1 in the playoffs with a .930 save percentage and nearly seven goals saved above expected — which ranks third among goalies in the postseason — since taking over the No. 1 spot in Vegas due to injuries up and down the goalie depth chart.

Let’s keep in mind that all five goalies who have started a game for Vegas this season have posted good results behind the Golden Knights defense, and despite his postseason numbers, Hill hasn’t quite proven to be a starter at this point in his career — The 27 games he played this season is a new career high. Hill is a big goalie (6-foot-4), moves fairly well for his size and would be a nice addition to a team’s goalie tandem.

I wanted to mention Laurent Brossoit, another UFA goalie with Vegas, briefly here as well. He began the season coming off hip surgery, cleared waivers and was sent to the AHL for an LTIR conditioning stint. Brossoit was excellent down the stretch for the Golden Knights — 7-0-3 and .927 — before leaving Game 3 against Edmonton with an injury. After how hard he worked to come back from surgery, you hope it’s not serious and he can get himself back in the market this summer.

(Photo of Frederik Andersen: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)


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