Published On: Sun, Jun 17th, 2018

Ranking the top UFA goaltenders

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Few things can overly excite a fan base like the potential addition of a talented unrestricted free agent. Should that player be one that resides in the blue paint, that buzz seemingly amps up a few notches.

And while the top crop of netminders set to become UFAs this summer isn’t exactly a list of future Hall of Famers, there are a few names that will assuredly have front-office executives picking up the phone to gauge costs.

With July 1 rapidly approaching, we rank the best UFA goalies set to hit the open market best based on past track record, age, and skill.

5. Jaroslav Halak

2017-18 stats:

GP Record SO GAA SV%
54 20-26-6 1 3.19 .908

Buried in the seemingly bottomless pit of goaltending in New York over the last few seasons, Halak has struggled to recapture his 38-win form from 2014-15 when he posted six shutouts and carried the Islanders to a playoff berth.

The veteran netminder hasn’t exactly been gifted with a strong supporting cast in front of him, as New York has built a reputation as a squad that opposing teams pad their offensive stats against, allowing a league high in shots-against per game, goals-against per game, and total goals allowed in 2017-18.

So his recent performance must be viewed through the correct lens to properly see what he still has to offer.

Despite the porous defense in front of him and the less-than-stellar numbers, Halak still has what it takes to contribute as a serviceable backup who fills in for 20 or 30 games as a quality No. 2. The 33-year-old’s streaky nature and tendency to elevate his game in the clutch should be enough to suppress any potential injury concerns.

4. Cam Ward

2017-18 stats:

GP Record SO GAA SV%
43 23-14-4 2 2.73 .906

In a season when he was supposed to play backup and mentor newly appointed No. 1 Scott Darling, Ward was the far more consistent goalie in the Hurricanes‘ blue paint.

There is no denying that Ward’s best days are behind him. And at 34 years old, he is undoubtedly best suited for holding down a backup role. However, as last season proved, Ward is more than capable of still turning in game-stealing performances.

He has the ability to win games while also bringing an element of veteran stability to the table; essential characteristics for any successful goalie. Expect Ward to slot nicely into a roster in need of an experienced netminder.

3. Kari Lehtonen

GP Record SO GAA SV%
37 15-14-3 1 2.56 .912

Another ‘tender that hasn’t exactly been blessed with a strong defensive core in front of him, Lehtonen remains an intriguing goalie for teams in need of a relatively cheap option who can still get the job done.

Lehtonen had a massive bounce-back campaign in 2017-18 for the Dallas Stars despite playing second fiddle to offseason acquisition Ben Bishop. While Bishop struggled and spent time on the treatment table, Lehtonen used the opportunity to reclaim some of the respect he’d lost over the past few seasons of poor showings, posting a respectable 2.56 GAA and .912 save percentage across 30 starts.

A history of injuries and recent inconsistency won’t exactly have GMs lined up to sign him, but Lehtonen’s size and comfort handling the biscuit should land him at least a few contract offers.

2. Anton Khudobin

GP Record SO GAA SV%
31 16-6-7 1 2.56 .913

Khudobin was rock-solid this year in relief of Boston Bruins starter Tuukka Rask, posting 16 wins and a save percentage north of .910 – two very good numbers for teams to get out of their backup netminder.

The 32-year-old Russian makes up for his relatively small frame (5-foot-11) with his lightning-quick agility, a trait that allows him to cover a lot of the net despite his limited length.

Regardless of his past injury issues, Khudobin is the prototypical backup goalie who’s proven he can steal a game when his team needs it most. His potential to be a No. 1 in a pinch is the clinching factor in having Khudobin holding down the second spot on our list.

1. Carter Hutton

GP Record SO GAA SV%
32 17-7-3 3 2.09 .931

Three seasons of sitting behind one of the league’s greatest goalies in Pekka Rinne in Nashville started to pay off in spades for Hutton in 2017-18. He turned in the best campaign of his career while temporarily stealing the crease away from starter Jake Allen midway through the year, turning in a 9-1-1 record from Dec. 29 to Feb. 3.

That stretch of lights-out play and an overall solid season turned enough heads around the NHL that he will undoubtedly be the most sought-after UFA goalie on the market.

Hutton has already indicated to the Blues that he’ll be looking to test the free-agent waters, which could start an interesting trickle-down effect on the rest of the netminders on the list, as Hutton’s contract would surely become the benchmark for offseason signings.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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