Ranking the NHL's top 10 pending UFA goalies
The 2019-20 NHL campaign remains on pause, but it's never too early to look ahead to the offseason. With that in mind, theScore's hockey editors are evaluating the best players who could be available in unrestricted free agency, whenever that occurs.
1. Robin Lehner
Current team: Vegas Golden Knights
2019-20 cap hit: $5 million
Lehner presents an interesting case. He was brought into Vegas in a surprise move to be a capable secondary option down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs alongside Marc-Andre Fleury. Lehner's numbers this season have been better than Fleury's, and it's feasible to envision a scenario in which the new guy outperforms his predecessor and takes over the net for a deep postseason run.
That said, Fleury has two more seasons on his contract at $7 million per year, and retaining Lehner, who has signed three consecutive one-year deals with three different teams, won't come cheap for cap-strapped Vegas. It will be tricky for the Golden Knights to retain both star goaltenders, and if Lehner winds up hitting the open market, he'll easily be the top option available for teams in need of a new starter.
2. Jacob Markstrom
Current team: Vancouver Canucks
2019-20 cap hit: $3.66 million
Canucks general manager Jim Benning expressed his desire to ink Markstrom to an extension numerous times throughout the season, and it's no wonder why. The 30-year-old Swede has emerged into a bona fide No. 1 goaltender, and was the rock of a young Vancouver team.
Markstrom will be coming off a knee injury if and when the season resumes, and if he can carry the Canucks to a playoff series win or two, he'll further bolster what's already a tremendous case for a raise on his current deal.
3. Braden Holtby
Current team: Washington Capitals
2019-20 cap hit: $6.1 million
After eight seasons as the Captials' No. 1, it looks as though the writing may be on the wall for Holtby in Washington. Perhaps the pressure of performing in a contract year got to him, but Holtby's numbers this season were terrible, and the Caps have a younger, cheaper option in Ilya Samsonov ready to take over if they let Holtby walk.
Despite such a down year, Holtby is still the biggest name on this list. The Stanley Cup champion and Vezina Trophy winner has a career .916 save percentage across 468 regular-season games to go with a sterling .928 clip in 89 playoff contests. He'll undoubtedly have plenty of suitors - likely on short-term deals - should he test the open waters in the eventual offseason.
4. Corey Crawford
Current team: Chicago Blackhawks
2019-20 cap hit: $6 million
After dealing Lehner at the deadline, Chicago's best bet in goal for the immediate future might be keeping Crawford. At 35, the veteran netminder is unlikely to fetch a long-term commitment from any team, and the Blackhawks should be comfortable sticking with a familiar face who previously led them to two Stanley Cups.
Injuries have been a persistent issue throughout Crawford's career, but he's proven to be reliable when healthy - even on a Chicago team that struggled defensively this season.
5. Anton Khudobin
Current team: Dallas Stars
2019-20 cap hit: $2.5 million
Khudobin has never carved out a No. 1 role throughout his NHL career, so he's not about to cash in on the open market, but in his defense, he's been one of the league's best safety nets over the past two years with the Stars.
Dallas very well might want to keep its potent one-two punch with Ben Bishop, but if the two sides fail to agree on a new contract, Khudobin could be an attractive asset to many teams looking to strengthen their options between the pipes.
6. Thomas Greiss
Current team: New York Islanders
2019-20 cap hit: $3.33 million
Greiss has operated in a platoon system with the Islanders over the last few seasons, but ultimately fell behind Semyon Varlamov on New York's depth chart in 2019-20. At one point, Greiss had won eight consecutive appearances, but a 7-8-4 run to follow it up hurt his chances of earning consistent starts under head coach Barry Trotz.
At 34, Greiss isn't going to sign anywhere to become a starter, but he's dependable enough to find a No. 2 role on a team in need. Over the past five seasons, he's posted a .915 save percentage in 193 games.
7. Cam Talbot
Current team: Calgary Flames
2019-20 cap hit: $2.75 million
Talbot is another guy who will likely have to settle for a backup job, but he at least boosted his stock with a strong bounce-back season with the Flames. After posting a combined .892 save percentage a year ago between stints with the Oilers and Flyers, Talbot boosted his numbers significantly in 2019-20. Whether he can keep that up remains to be seen, but chances are he bought himself another opportunity in free agency to prove it.
8. Mike Smith
Current team: Edmonton Oilers
2019-20 cap hit: $2 million
As one of the oldest goaltenders in the NHL, how much does Smith have left to give? The 14-year veteran has seen his numbers dip drastically over the past two seasons, but he offers experience and can provide leadership to a club in need. Smith's market of suitors likely won't be expansive, but if he has another full season in him, he's likely to find a match.
9. Aaron Dell
Current team: San Jose Sharks
2019-20 cap hit: $1.9 million
Dell is the youngest option in the bottom half of this list, but a small sample size of only 89 NHL starts makes his situation murky. He looked like he may be one of the league's premier backups with a .931 save percentage in 2016-17, but hasn't come close to matching that form since; he's owned negative goals saved above average numbers in each of the past two seasons. The Sharks are desperate for a shakeup in net, and perhaps a change of scenery will benefit Dell.
10. Brian Elliott
Current team: Philadelphia Flyers
2019-20 cap hit: $2 million
It's Carter Hart's time to shine in Philly, meaning Elliott will have to re-sign as a backup or try to find work elsewhere. Much like Smith's situation in Edmonton, Elliott is likely to decide his own fate. He owns a .912 career save percentage over 13 years in the NHL, and will need the right fit in order to suit up for another season. If a match isn't there, he may lean toward retirement.