In less than one week the 2016-17 NHL regular season will begin, and there are already plenty of question marks surrounding some of the league's starting goaltenders. The competitive level has never been higher to not only earn a roster spot as a starting goalie in the NHL, but ensure that a netminder can also hold onto his number one role with a club.
Injuries, players contracts and even an upcoming NHL Expansion Draft will impact almost half of the league's teams and their current situation between the pipes. The goalie setting in the NHL has evolved into more of a tandem theme, rather then a majority of the league's teams relying on one netminder to play in 70-plus games a season. The ongoing trend in the crease has gone as far as becoming popular in the Stanley Cup Playoffs too; if one goalie struggles in a best of seven playoff series, coaches no longer hesitate to throw in the club's number two goalie on the depth chart.
In fact, the term backup goalie has slowly diminished due to the increase in talent level at netminding. While that is a positive trait, there are 15 starting goalies who should be concerned when the puck officially drops for the 2016-17 campaign.
Here are 15 NHL starting goalies who will lose their jobs in 2016-17.
15 Eddie Lack - Carolina Hurricanes
While the Carolina Hurricanes failed to make an appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for seventh straight season, the Canes showed promising signs for what the future may hold in Raleigh, North Carolina. Yet, it was apparent Carolina's goaltending was one of, if not the, weakest point on the team.
14 Steve Mason - Philadelphia Flyers
Yes, I know the Philadelphia Flyers relied on both goaltenders Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth last season to carry the club into the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Mason was labeled as the primary starter. Neuvirth eventually relieved Mason of his playing duties in the first-round of the playoffs last spring, and the Broad Street Bullies appeared more than comfortable with the Czech Republic native in the blue paint during back-to-back games, or more.
13 John Gibson - Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks traded away the other half of their goaltending tandem during the offseason when Anaheim sent Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for two future draft-picks, which left the other netminder to take over the goaltending reigns in Southern California.
12 Craig Anderson - Ottawa Senators
Craig Anderson first made his NHL debut back in the 2002-03 season with the Chicago Blackhawks. Yes, the 34-year-old has been in the NHL for that long, but the late bloomer found success down the road for his professional career. The former third round draft pick (1999) has posted three seasons where he's won 30 or more games, yet Anderson has never done so in back-to-back campaigns.
11 Ryan Miller - Vancouver Canucks
It's not Miller Time, anymore. At some point during the 2016-17 regular season Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller will lose his starting role in Western Canada. It has been a great career for Miller, and one that was enjoyable to watch no matter which team's colors NHL fans donned in the past. Still, in the last year of his contract and at the age of 35 it would be hard to imagine that the former Buffalo Sabre great will remain the team's starter.
10 Frederik Andersen - Toronto Maple Leafs
It would be an interesting story if the Toronto Maple Leafs' newly acquired and expected starting goaltender Frederik Andersen would lose his starting role, while his former teammate John Gibson of the Ducks did too. While it sounds like an interesting theory, it may not stand as just a theory in a matter of months.
9 Jaroslav Halak - New York Islanders
New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak is fresh off of an impressive World Cup Of Hockey 2016 performance for the Cinderella story Team Europe, but that doesn't guarantee that the Slovakian netminder will do wonders in Brooklyn this season. Halak has had some injury troubles as of late, and there were times last season when the orange and blue fan base were calling for a trade and for the club to acquire another starting caliber goalie.
8 Devan Dubnyk - Minnesota Wild
Last season, for the first time in his NHL career Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk started in over 60 games. After a Vezina Trophy worthy season in 2015, Dubnyk had his fair share of troubles in 2016 with the Wild.
7 Semyon Varlamov - Colorado Avalanche
After a career season under newly (then) appointed head coach Patrick Roy in 2013-14, Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov has been snake bitten by injuries and his numbers have taken a step backwards too. The Avalanche have failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the past two seasons, and the biggest reason why Colorado finished first in the Central Division during 2014 was due to the Russian native's phenomenal play in net.
6 Petr Mrazek - Detroit Red Wings
Czech Republic goaltender Petr Mrazek burst onto the scene for the Detroit Red Wings during the 2014-15 campaign, and from there Mrazek essentially stole netminder Jimmy Howard's starting position. However, while it was all smiles on Mrazek's end at first, there still appears to be a goalie controversy in Hockeytown.
5 Ondrej Pavelec - Winnipeg Jets
Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec's playing days with the Winnipeg Jets organization date back to when the club was based in Atlanta as the Thrashers. The club doesn't have too many notable highlights, especially during the Atlanta days, but Pavelec has been both a solid and underrated goalie since 2008.
4 Mike Smith - Arizona Coyotes
Another Western Conference and veteran goalie who will most likely be riding the pine more than he'd like to this season is Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith. The one-time Olympic netminder has some new and tough competition out in the desert between the pipes, with Louis Domingue.
3 Tuukka Rask - Boston Bruins
A breakup between the Boston Bruins and Finnish goaltender Tuukka Rask is bound to happen sooner then later. And, with prospect Malcolm Subban nearing his time to join the NHL club, Rask might be on the verge of losing his starting role with the Bruins.
2 Roberto Luongo - Florida Panthers
One of the most well-known faces, even behind a mask, around the NHL could be on the verge of losing his starting spot in South Florida. Florida Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo underwent hip surgery during the 2016 offseason, and keep in mind Luongo has never suffered a serious injury before. Plus, one can imagine a surgery such as the one mentioned above is no easy task to recover from at the age of 37.
1 Marc-Andre Fleury - Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins and their goalie situation has been brewing drama since rookie Matt Murray helped lead the Penguins to the club's fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history this past June.
While Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford made it clear that goalie Marc-Andre Fleury would not be traded during the 2016 offseason, it appears that it makes the most sense for the Steel City to part ways with its' former first overall draft pick (2003). Whether Rutherford wants to make the move or not, the business side will factor into this decision and the fact that Murray's potential play has enough upside to end the Fleury era in Pittsburgh too.
With the NHL Expansion Draft less than a year away the Penguins could potentially lose Murray or Fleury due to the regulations of the draft. The Pens can still have a solid goalie start in net for them but at a cheaper price if Pittsburgh picks Murray over Fleury.
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