There should not be as much debate on the 2021 NHL Free Agent goalies but one never knows. With the shortened season and emphasis on having as many goaltenders as possible, salary expectations will be tempered. Also, remember the effect of the pandemic and flat cap (next two seasons) will have on deals as well.
Looking at some of these free agents makes one feel old. The quality in this class is mostly older goalies who could be argued are past or way past their prime. Let’s look at what may be under the hockey Christmas tree for general managers this summer.
NHL Unrestricted Free Agent Goalies
5. Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators)
Rinne presents as an intriguing case because he could retire honestly. Juuse Saros will likely be the starter going forward in Nashville. So, does Rinne take even less money on a one-year deal?
One has to ask if last year’s season was a fluke. In the early going of 2021, Rinne has found rocky times once again. In three starts, his save percentage is below .900. Now, it is early. On the other hand, in 35 games last season, that save percentage was .895. Also, that goals saved above average was approaching -15.
Rinne believed to have been done before just five years ago may be facing “Father Time” once again after this season.
4. Philipp Grubauer (Colorado Avalanche)
It will be a hotly contested free-agent offseason because of this one question. Do the Colorado Avalanche feel they have the right goalie in Grubauer? His early-season performance has been stupendous. Grubauer won six of his eight starts with a goals against average of 1.75 and a save percentage of .930.
He already has two shutouts and has kept Colorado afloat despite all of their injuries. The biggest test now comes with Nathan MacKinnon being out at least a week or two. If he can keep this run going, and Colorado does not extend him soon, that price will just keep going up among goalies this summer.
3. Frederik Andersen (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Now is the time for the goaltender to show everyone. Is he the guy still? The North (all Canadian) division is probably not going to be too good for any goalie’s save percentage. Unfortunately, Andersen is still struggling in the early going and that has led to more questions. After two above-average seasons, Anderen dipped to average last year.
Worse, he has enjoyed just three quality starts (37.5%) this season. Who will pay a goalie in his early 30’s top money unless he starts doing more than just win games? Toronto easily could opt to go younger after this season and it would surprise few people. Come this summer, will what is out there entice Kyle Dubas enough? Right now, it might. Consistent goalies are rough to find.
2. Jordan Binnington (St. Louis Blues)
What would the St. Louis thought process be now? Binnington has won a Stanley Cup in St. Louis but that seems more like a memory. He had a pretty solid season last year with 30 wins in 50 starts. That came with some respectable numbers. The first part of 2021 sees Binnington on a hot streak with six wins in eight starts.
The goalie turns 28 during the summer free agency period. Will the goalie get one of those huge long-term deals? Understand that the flat cap will continue for at least a season, maybe two. He burst onto the scene two years ago and seems to be back to that form. Will the Blues have the cap space?
That answer seems to be yes. It will take some maneuvering. Binnington will be highly sought after if St. Louis cannot pay him.
1. Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins)
Rask got his huge deal and is on the last year of it. The Boston goaltender expects to top 300 wins in short order. He enjoyed another career year last season — leading the league in goals saved above average (22.51) and adjusted goals-against average (2.25). The question begs itself. What kind of contract do you grant a goaltender who will turn 34 next month?
Is it a guarantee that Boston would pay $7 million or more to Rask? Most think it’s a foregone conclusion but honestly, it is not. Due to the pandemic, Boston is on its own salary cap of sorts. Will Jeremy Jacobs break the piggy bank a little? With Jaroslav Halak also an unrestricted free agent and no real prospects on the horizon, Boston may have little choice.