We as fans love to speculate where players are going to end up. It is our own version of being a General Manager or President of Operations. The fans of specific fan bases want the top names to land in their respective team's lap. Look at the 2018 MLB free agency class. Fans are already speculating where stars like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are going to end up. Don't forget about the big trade that can alter a franchise as well, look at Giancarlo Stanton. He is a name bound to be shipped during this current offseason. This happens in all sports. But one sport that is particularly interesting in free agency/ trades is the NHL.
In the NHL, there are a lot more free agency signings that occur, but you never know when the big trade can happen. The Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens pulled off a blockbuster trade last year, with P.K. Subban heading to Nashville and Shea Weber going to Montreal. The position that doesn't really get talked about a lot in the NHL for free agency is goaltenders.
Goalies are essentially the backbone of a good team. You can ride or die with a good goaltender. Braden Holtby is one of the best goalies in the world, which is one of the main reasons why the Washington Capitals make it to the playoffs every season. But where will some goalies be taking their services next season? This list takes a look at where some of these men will go. They are as bold as can be, so take them from what they are worth. Let's examine where these 15 NHL goalies could be playing next season.
15 Chad Johnson - Pittsburgh Penguins
The first name on our list for bold predictions comes out of Buffalo where he had a fairly average season for the Buffalo Sabres, went to the Calgary Flames a year later, and then returned to Buffalo this past season. Chad Johnson has certainly bounced around from team to team from the time he arrived in the NHL. Johnson has found himself between the pipes for the Rangers, Coyotes, Bruins, Islanders, Flames, and Sabres. He shows off a 69-47-13 record with a 2.49 GAA. It certainly isn't the greatest, but it certainly could be a lot worse compared to some of the other goalies in the league.
With Johnson, I am going to say he signs with Pittsburgh and here is why. He wants to win just like everyone does and why not go to the team that has set themselves up for the next 5-7 years? He is used to splitting time almost everywhere else he has played, so he would probably know Matt Murray will be the number one starter. Johnson has not played in more than 45 games in a season and he played 45 games in a season only once. The Penguins may go out and get someone else, but do not be surprised if they call Johnson up to be a serviceable backup to help take some heat off Murray when he needs a night off.
14 Antti Niemi - Vegas Golden Knights
Speaking of the Penguins, that is where our next goalie currently resides. He is serving the role as Matt Murray's backup and right now is lucky if he will be getting one out of every three games. Antti Niemi was one a star goalie in the NHL, playing for the Blackhawks, Sharks, Stars, and now the Penguins. Yes, Niemi does have a great team in front of him when he gets his starts in the crease. But that is just the thing, he doesn't play that much. Pittsburgh will probably get rid of Niemi and not re-sign him which will leave him looking for work.
Look for the Vegas Golden Knights to be inquiring about his services. Marc-Andre Fleury is currently the starter, but I get the feeling he only is happy to play there because he'll spend the season proving he can be a starter somewhere else. Essentially, this is a bridge year for Fleury and then he will be gone. If/when he does leave, look for Niemi to see Vegas as an enticing option. He will probably get the majority of starts unless Malcolm Subban can give him a run for his money, which he hasn't really done yet. If Niemi wants to go back to getting a majority of the reps, Las Vegas would be ideal for him.
13 Marc-Andre Fleury - Arizona Coyotes
Like we mentioned before, the Golden Knights have a lot of work to do in their franchise to come even close to sniffing the Stanley Cup playoffs. Unfortunately, they probably won't be doing it without this man at the helm for very long. Marc-Andre Fleury had a lot of good years with the Pittsburgh Penguins before being picked up by the Golden Knights in their expansion draft. My guess is, Fleury will sign with the Arizona Coyotes.
The Coyotes are a dumpster fire of a team right now. They have reason for fans cheer for them. Fleury would at least give them a recognizable name. Fleury could be using this year in Las Vegas to prove he can still be a starting goaltender in this league and get another rich contract. Arizona works out great for him because if he flourishes in Vegas, he will look very appealing to Arizona. If he doesn't do the job, Arizona will probably be able to get him cheap.
12 Antti Raanta - Montreal Canadiens
We already talked about one Antti, now let's talk about another one. This one is a bit younger and seems to have more of a future in this league than the other Antti. Antti Raanta has been in the league for five years now playing for the Blackhawks, Rangers, and now the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes are a bottom of the barrel Western Conference team that doesn't seem to be having any signs of life coming soon. With that in mind, Raanta is coming into his free agency year and will have to look around for a play to lace up his pads. For Raanta, he will sign with the Canadiens.
Carey Price has been a big question mark because of his past health issues and struggles to start this season. The Canadiens could try to get rid of him and get a big trade package in return before Price's extension kicks in, thus opening up a starting goalie spot. Raanta is 47-24 in his career with a 2.34 GAA. If he can perform like that with guys like Weber and Max Pacioretty in front of him, it would be a great signing for both sides.
11 Cam Ward - New Jersey Devils
The Carolina Hurricanes need to figure out a way to be contenders, just like during their Stanley Cup run in 2006. This is one piece that helped them achieve the ultimate goal, but also might be seeing his days in Carolina end. Cam Ward has spent his whole 13 year career playing with the Hurricanes. He has a Stanley Cup, two All-Star game appearances, and two Vezina trophies to account for a good career. He will be 34 going into free agency. One team that could aggressively pursue Ward is the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils have some pieces in place, such as Taylor Hall and goalie Cory Schneider. Schneider had a bit of an off year last year as he looks to bounce back. He could use the help of someone like Ward to take some of the heat off. Ward would be a great backup option to Schneider to form a tough 1-2 punch between the pipes.
10 Eddie Lack - Dallas Stars
The glory days of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi seem to be a thing of the past and the Dallas Stars need a change. They have a terrific duo in Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn who can put up goals in a hurry when hot. But for some reason, they aren't as big of a threat as they should be in the Western Conference. One theory could be that they need to upgrade their goaltending or at least find someone a bit younger. One name to keep a close eye on in free agency is Eddie Lack.
When it comes to numbers in his overall career, his last name describes them perfectly: lacking. Keep in mind though, he hasn't played more than 41 games in any season. He has played for the Canucks, Hurricanes, and currently the Flames. Lack is used to moving around, so doing it again in free agency should surprise nobody. Look for Lack to hopefully pick up production if he ends up signing in Dallas.
9 Ondrej Pavelec - Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights' goaltending situation is in limbo beyond this season with Marc-Andre Fleury being a UFA and he will likely want to go back to playing for a Stanley Cup contender. The Knights won't have many attractive options on the free agent market, but they could take a flyer on Pavelec, who had some success in Winnipeg before his play unravelled. Even though Pavelec battled injuries and was demoted to the Manitoba Moose in his last couple of seasons, he's only a couple of seasons removed from a .920 SV% and 2.28 GAA. Maybe Pavelec can thrive in an environment like Vegas where he wouldn't have the pressure of the traditional hockey market like Winnipeg.
If he's able to thrive in the starts he gets from Henrik Lundqvist this season, he could earn himself another decent contract.
8 Robin Lehner - Boston Bruins
The Buffalo Sabres have a star in Jack Eichel, but they need more to make a run in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Their goaltending has taken a bit of a hit with current goalie Robin Lehner at the helm. Now he is going to be a free agent after this season, and one team to keep an eye out for is the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins are a team stuck in limbo. They have a veteran core of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak but also have rookies such as Charlie McAvoy and Anders Bjork bursting onto the scene as well. Tuukka Rask is currently injured, but is the number one option when healthy. A lot of Boston fans have worried about Rask's productivity on the ice the past few seasons. So what if the Bruins signed Lehner to a short term deal and have them split time? Lehner isn't an ideal starter but he'd be a huge upgrade at the backup spot for Boston.
7 Andrew Hammond - L.A. Kings
Sometimes goalies just get a little bit lost in the shuffle and that is what has happened with this next goalie. Andrew Hammond spent four seasons of his NHL career with the Ottawa Senators. He wasn't bad as he had a 27-14 career record with a 2.31 GAA, primarily because of a 20-1 first season with the Senators. However, with Craig Anderson and Mike Condon in the mix, it didn't make sense to carry another goalie. Hammond is playing professionally in Canada and can be a free agent next season. Keep an eye out for the L.A. Kings.
The Kings have a very, very solid hockey team. With players like Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Tyler Toffoli, and Alec Martinez; the Kings are always a threat to make a deep postseason run. Goalie Jonathan Quick has been good, but has also run into a list of injury problems. Hammond would be a great signing for both starter and back-up scenarios. If Quick stays, Hammond serves as a capable back-up. If Quick leaves or gets traded, that gives Hammond a chance to be a primary starter. This move looks minor now, but could turn out to be major if the deal gets done and the Kings make another strong run at the Stanley Cup.
6 Jaroslav Halak - St. Louis Blues
The next goalie up on our list seems to have an attraction to the number four. Four years with the Canadiens, four with the Blues, four with the Islanders; you get the picture. This man is in his fourth year with the Islanders and iz splitting time with Thomas Greiss. Halak has a career 214-126 record with a 2.41 GAA, so he could be very valuable to a team that needs another goaltender. The team I think Halak ends up with next season is back with the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues have a great player in Vladimir Tarasenko along with good side pieces such as Alex Pietrangelo, Alexander Steen, and Jaden Schwartz to help him out. They need another goaltender to help out Jake Allen and Halak would be great. He is already used to the organization and he has two All-Star appearances. So this seems like a great fit for both Halak and the organization. Two good goalies are better than one and the Blues would be dumb to not take another shot with Halak and have him split time with Allen next season.
5 Jonathan Bernier - Traded to Vancouver
We have had enough with signings, haven't you? Let's spice things up a little bit and talk about a trade that could potentially go down. Jonathan Bernier is an interesting name that can get thrown around in trade talks. He has a career 110-97 record with a 2.66 GAA. Somebody will take a chance on him in this league. That team could very well be the Vancouver Canucks. This could be the last season the Sedin twins suit up for Vancouver and they want to try to go out with a bang. The Canucks could provide that spark closer to the trade deadline by acquiring Bernier from the Avalanche.
The Avalanche will probably be in sell mode, far from the playoff picture; so a move like this could bring some youth in for the foreseeable future. The Canucks can get a goalie that isn't Jacob Markstrom and perhaps be the move to get Canucks fans excited for potential playoff match-ups.
4 Jimmy Howard - Traded to Toronto
The number four goalie on our list has been with the same organization his entire NHL career, but this season could be his last. Goalie Jimmy Howard has been with the Detroit Red Wings since his first year during the 2005-06 season. During his time in Detroit, he won a Stanley Cup, and had two All-Star game appearances. He hits free agency in 2019, but the Wings simply can't keep carrying both Mrazek and Howard so they'll have to make a decision on one soon.
Toronto has a star in Auston Matthews on their hands and can only continue to build so long as the right places are put in. Frederick Andersen is the starter for now, but what if Howard came onto the scene? Surely, Jimmy Howard thinks he has something left in the tank and why not try it out in a place like Toronto. The combination of Andersen and Howard would be tough to beat and Howard could be a mentor to Andersen as professional athletes can still learn new tricks even at the end of their careers. This would be a unique and unexpected signing for sure.
3 Kari Lehtonen - New York Islanders
Niemi was splitting time with our next goalie to examine. This man has spent the last nine seasons with the Dallas Stars organization, but don't look for that to continue after this season. Lehtonen is bound to hit the free agency market after the 2017-18 season. One team that is interesting to think about as far as where Lehtonen could take his talents to is the New York Islanders.
The Islanders have been the second best hockey team in the state of New York. The Rangers have stolen the hearts of almost everybody in New York while the Islanders have been left a little bit behind. In the last 10 years, the Islanders failed to qualify for the playoffs in seven of them while the other three years resulted in first or second round exits. They need a little bit of a spark and that is what Kari Lehtonen can provide. He is a proven veteran and he can help current goalie Thomas Greiss develop more.
2 Petr Mrazek: Traded to Columbus
The Columbus Blue Jackets burst onto the scene last season seemingly out of nowhere. They had a 16 game winning streak which gave the Blue Jacket fan base a reason to get behind the team again. With guys like Nick Foligno, Cam Atkinson, and Seth Jones leading the way, the Blue Jackets could be a team of the future. They have a good goalie in Sergei Bobrovsky and could look to add another to create a tandem that would scare the rest of the league.
Enter Petr Mrazek. Mrazek could want to go to an upstart Columbus team and want to leave a Detroit team that isn't going really anywhere. Sure, he may not be starting anymore; but he will be on a team that could make the Stanley Cup Finals in a few seasons. The ultimate goal is winning, so if I'm Mrazek; I try to find a team that can win it all fairly soon. Sure, it could cost Columbus some young players. But if they can win it all, why not take the chance?
1 Carey Price: Traded to Edmonton
The boldest prediction of them all is here, folks. This could be seen as the prediction of the season or the worst of all time. Only time will tell. But one name to think about is Carey Price. Five All-Star appearances a Vezina and a Hart Trophy are the sign of an elite goaltender.
What if the Canadiens did the unthinkable and traded their star goalie? They very well could, because the team doesn't seem to be going anywhere with their core and Price is about to enter an eight year deal worth $84 million.
One team that should inquire about a potential blockbuster trade is the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers made a deep postseason run last year. They have a young roster with solid complimentary pieces. But will Cam Talbot be the long-term answer between the pipes? Probably not. Carey Price probably still has a few good years left and the Oilers have a few good years in them to win a Stanley Cup. Why not pull the trigger? McDavid is untouchable, but other than that; trade what is necessary. Go get Carey Price and bring a Stanley Cup back to Edmonton which the fans badly desire.