We’re at the point in the summer where most contracts we’re going to see are for depth players or restricted free agents inking their extensions.
Most of the big names are off the board, with Vladimir Tarasenko and Matt Dumba among the top remaining UFAs. Almost all the top goaltenders are off the board, too, leaving older backups looking for gigs before the start of training camp in September.
There are some familiar goalies still available as we near the two-week mark of free agency. Here’s a look at the top five remaining UFA goalies, with contract projections from AFP Analytics:
AFP Projection: One Year, $1,723,440
Let’s be real: even though he had one of his best seasons in a while last year in Seattle, Jones’ overall numbers over the past few years have been rough. Of goalies with at least 70 games played over the past three years, Jones’ .906 save percentage at 5-on-5 is 47th out of 50, and his minus-25.08 goals saved above average is the second worst. Granted, Philipp Grubauer, Jones’ goalie partner, is right near the bottom with him, but it’s still ugly. There’s still the concern of “needing to score five to offset four” with Jones.
Jones is far from a starter these days, but after recording a 27-13-3 record with three shutouts last year, he can still perform. He’s also younger than most other available options, which helps. Jones was bought out in 2021 before signing a pair of $2M, one-year deals with Philadelphia and Seattle over the past two years. At this rate, somewhere in the $1.5M-1.7M range would make sense.
AFP Projection: One Year, $1,139,576
After Stalock missed all of 2020-21 with a heart condition, it looked like his career was over. He returned to limited duty between the NHL and AHL for 2021-22, but the results were rough. The long-time backup then signed a league minimum deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, where he managed to save his career and become a finalist for the Masterton Trophy. He backstopped the team to a 9-15-2 record with two shutouts and a .908 save percentage – hardly inspiring numbers, but it was hard to do much more on one of the absolute worst teams in the league.
Stalock could be a cheap backup option for a team needing some depth. On some teams, maybe he’s a No. 3 that sticks with the club all year long. He had a great opportunity in Chicago but likely wasn’t getting that anywhere else. At this age, with an up-and-down career, there’s only so much Stalock can do. But at around $1M, he’d be a solid pickup. You could definitely do worse.
AFP Projection: One Year, $1,104,983
His glory days with Montreal and St. Louis are long past gone, but he has made a career out of being a solid backup. But even those days are fleeting, and at 38, he might have just another year left in the tank. Halak hasn’t had a save percentage above .905 since his second year in Boston in 2019-20 but is a decent stopgap who can play around 20 games and typically win more than he loses. If you’ve got a powerhouse No. 1, that’s all you can ask for.
Halak’s agent, Allan Walsh, confirmed late last month that the veteran plans to keep going. He’s sitting at 295 career wins, and he could become the fifth active goaltender to break the 300-win mark quite quickly on a competitive team. Not too shabby for a ninth-round pick.
AFP Projection: One Year, $775,000
After once being one of the best backups in the league, Greiss is coming off of a pair of rough seasons with Detroit and St. Louis. Granted, neither team was very good, and there’s only so much you can do behind a brutal blueline. There were a few standout single-game performances during the year, highlighted by a 47-save performance against Washington. In a vacuum, he can still get the job done. But the numbers don’t lie: his play continues to fall, and there’s no defeating Father Time. So it’ll be interesting to see if a team’s willing to take on a player that has had more lows than highs over the past half-decade.
AFP Projection: One Year, $775,000
For the past two years, Elliott had one of the best gigs among veterans in the NHL: backing up Andrei Vasilevskiy. And then, when Elliott was called upon, he had Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev helping out. Unfortunately, Elliott didn’t join the Tampa Bay Lightning in time to indulge in the Stanley Cup celebrations, but he did put up some respectable numbers during his time there.
Elliott’s name has been linked to the rumor mill the past few days, namely involving Toronto. If Elliott does indeed return to the NHL, it will be a nice swan song for a keeper who led the league in save percentage twice in his career. If he’s a backup, Elliott can still play 20 games somewhere. If he’s a third goalie, that’s a good veteran presence to have in case of injury. Regardless, Elliott is another ninth-round success story, with his 279 wins putting him seventh among active NHLers.