Quite simply, there's no position more important than goaltender in the NHL. Though not as marketable as a high scoring forward or a flashy defenceman, goaltenders stand as the last line of defense for a team and serve as the backbone of their respective team. If the goaltender is having a rough night, it's more than likely that your team is going to lose the game. On the flip side, if your goalie is standing on his head, your chances increase exponentially. Due to this fact, teams with a question mark in net often make it their top priority to find a suitable starting goalie. As an example, let's look at the Edmonton Oilers and the moves they've made to try and find a solution. They drafted Devan Dubnyk and traded him before he matured. They traded for Ben Scrivens who they no longer believe in and they also traded for Viktor Fasth as another stop gap, but he's gone back to the KHL after a terrible stint. Hell, at one point, they even brought in Ilya Bryzgalov. This past summer, in their latest attempt to stabilize the position, they traded for Cam Talbot, who looked great in New York last year.
On this list, we'll see a mix of the elite, average and simply overpaid goalies. Too many teams have overcompensated in their search for stability in net and are paying for it dearly now. While others were lucky enough to have locked in their top shelf goalies in their formative years, as they'd now be worth double what they're making on the free agent market.
*All figures were taken from Spotrac.com and look at the cap hits for the goalies.
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15 Mike Smith, $5.7 Million
It seems like it's been an eternity since Mike Smith was selected to represent Canada at the 2014 Olympic Games, though he never saw any action behind Carey Price and Roberto Luongo. Last year was a complete write off for Smith, as he lost a league high 42 games and ended the season with a horrific .904 save percentage. In fairness to Smith, the Coyotes were fielding an AHL roster for most of the season and, as they rebuild, they'll likely be able to depend on Smith to produce for the next 3-4 years.
14 Marc-Andre Fleury, $5.75 Million
Everyone's favorite whipping boy, Marc-Andre Fleury, is likely underrated at this point in his career, considering how much people like to unfairly bash him for his playoff performances. Fleury was terrific last year for the Pens, with a 2.32 GAA and 10 shutouts on the year. He was also terrific in the first round against the Rangers as well, posting a 2.12 GAA, though they lost in five games. The team was in shambles at that point due to injuries, but Fleury managed to keep them in most of the games, though he was weak on the series-clinching goal from Carl Hagelin.
13 Jonathan Quick, $5.8 Million
This is the first case of highway robbery on our list and it was perpetrated by the team for this one. Jonathan Quick, a two-time Stanley Cup winner at the age of 29, is locked into a team friendly at a measly cap hit of $5.8 million over the next eight years. With the salary cap likely to continue increasing, it's highly likely that Quick will be beaten on this list in the near future, though he's arguably one of the top five goalies in the world today. While he has long-time security, it's likely that Quick is kicking himself for signing this deal.
12 T11. Semyon Varlamov, $5.9 Million
A Vezina finalist in 2013/14, Semyon Varlamov came back to Earth last year, as did the rest of his teammates in Colorado. There wasn't a sharp decrease in most of his stats, except for wins, where he went from 41 to 28. Colorado will likely bounce back next season and their young stud goalie will have to be a catalyst for that to happen. Locked in for the next four years at $5.9 million per, the Avalanche have a building block in nets at a reasonable price.
11 T11. Kari Lehtonen, $5.9 Million
The goaltender situation in Dallas is a little muddled at the moment, as they recently signed Antti Niemi to a three year deal, worth million $4.5 per season. The problem is that Dallas also has Kari Lehtonen on the roster, who's making $5.9 million per season. So, in total, the Stars are paying $10.4 million for their goaltenders and still don't have an elite option in net. Niemi has fallen along way since 2013 and Lehtonen is one of the more inconsistent goaltenders in the league. While the Stars have been shrewd in acquiring players like Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp, their goaltending situation leaves plenty to be desired.
10 Ben Bishop, $5.95 Million
One of the largest goaltenders in league history, Ben Bishop has become an elite goaltender in the NHL over the last couple of years. The Lightning acquired Bishop from the Sens in 2013 for Cory Conacher and fourth round pick, in one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory. Conacher played only 15 games last year with a single goal while Ben Bishop had the Bolts in the Stanley Cup Finals. Bishop will be a free agent in the summer of 2017 and if the Lightning don't resign him, he'll be a hot commodity on the free agent market.
9 T7. Cory Schneider, $6 Million
After backing up Roberto Luongo for three years in Vancouver, Cory Schneider was finally given a chance to be a starter in the NHL when he was traded to the Devils. Unfortunately for Schneider, his acquisition was at the start of a re-building phase in New Jersey. However, despite the team being pitiful in front of him, Schneider has put up impressive stats, which prove that he's entirely worthy of being a starting goalie. Last year, even though he lost 31 games, he had a .925 save percentage and 2.26 GAA. If the Devils can get a bit more quality in front of him, Schneider can definitely lead them to the playoffs.
8 T7. Corey Crawford, $6 Million
This entry could've been a lot different for Corey Crawford if it was written during the first round of the playoffs. Crawford was awful in that series against the Predators and even briefly lost his starting spot to Scott Darling. Luckily for Crawford, Darling wasn't much better and Joel Quenneville decided to keep his faith in Crawford. The result was Crawford being exceptional over the next three rounds and the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup for the third time in six years. Well played Joel.
7 T7. Ryan Miller, $6 Million
It was a bit of a head scratcher when the Vancouver Canucks signed Ryan Miller to a three-year, $18 million contract last summer. After all, he was terrible for the Blues the year before and they have one of the best blue lines in the league. Instead, Miller turned back the clock and helped the Canucks get back into the playoffs by posting 29 wins and a GAA of 2.53. At 34 years old, Miller might not have many years left as an elite option in nets, but he can definitely help the Canucks over the next two years.
6 Cam Ward, $ 6.3 Million
It's hard to blame the Hurricanes for giving Ward this contract back in 2010, as he had already won them a Stanley Cup, but he definitely hasn't lived up to the expectations that go with his hefty salary. The Hurricanes haven't been relevant for the last few years and that can't be fully blamed on Cam Ward, but his injury issues and inconsistency in nets is one of the major reasons behind. This is his last year under contract and he'll be looking to have a monster year in order to get another sizable contract. He's only 30 years old and can still turn his sinking ship around.
5 Carey Price, $6.5 Million
Even though he's the fifth highest paid goalie in the league, Carey Price is still criminally underpaid. The Canadiens wisely signed Price to this contract in 2012 and they'll have him at this discount price until 2018. At that point, they're most likely going to need to make him the highest paid goalie in the entire league. Carey Price was majestic last year, winning every possible trophy that the NHL could award him. If the Habs win their 25th Stanley Cup in the near future, it'll likely be because of Carey Price.
4 T3. Tuukka Rask, $7 Million
Remember when Toronto traded Tuukka Rask to the Leafs for Andrew Raycroft back in 2006? Well, Andrew Raycroft is out of the league now while Tuukka Rask is a Vezina winner and one of the best in the world at his position. In fairness to Toronto, Rask will still a prospect at the time, while Raycroft was a Calder trophy winner. After winning the Vezina in 2013/14, the Bruins experienced a slight decline, but Rask absolutely did not. If the Bruins are to re-emerge in the East, Rask will be a big reason why.
3 T3. Pekka Rinne, $7 Million
Only one goalie was better than Pekka Rinne in 2014/15 and that was Carey Price. If Carey Price wasn't Superman last year and if Rinne didn't miss a chunk of time during the year, Rinne would've likely won a Vezina trophy for his work in nets. Rinne is widely considered one of the absolute best at the position and though he hasn't won a Vezina yet, he's been a finalist on three separate occasions. As the young Predators continue to grow, Rinne will keep them in contention. Don't be surprised to see them contending in the West again next year.
2 Sergei Bobrovsky, $7.425 Million
One of the more under-appreciated goalies in the league, Sergei Bobrovsky would likely be considered elite if he was able to stay healthy for an entire year. After winning the Vezina in 2012/13 during the lock-out shortened season, Bobrovsky hasn't been able to stay healthy the next two years. When he's out on the ice, he's put up stellar numbers for the Blue Jackets and must have the management in Philadelphia kicking themselves for letting him go. While they're stuck with Steve Mason, the Blue Jackets seem to be on the upswing with Bobrovsky in nets.
1 Henrik Lundqvist, $8.5 Million
Though he's not considered the top goalie in the league, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't consider Henrik Lundqvist one of the top five goalies in the world. Lundqvist has been the face of the Rangers for the last few years and won a Vezina trophy back in 2011/12. Even more impressive than his Vezina win is that he's received votes in the Vezina race every single year he's been in the league, which demonstrates his incredible consistency and why he's considered a truly elite goalie. The Rangers have one of the better rosters in the league at the moment and they'll need Lundqvist to be at the top of his game if they're to hoist Lord Stanley.
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