Emergence of New Goalies Limits Veterans’ Options
Every year, new players break through into the NHL from the AHL and minor affiliates from across Europe and North America. Each yeah, there are camp battles, young players and goalies trying to make their mark and solidify themselves either into the record books, or a career of fighting for the spotlight through the minors. This year, there are no shortage of goaltenders doing this, making the older veterans lacking in a job come September.
The NHL is becoming progressively younger and the players are becoming better when younger as well. Anaheim has two young goalies, Frederick Andersen and John Gibson that will be holding down the fortress next season. Vancouver will have either Eddie Lack or Jakob Markstrom playing behind Ryan Miller, and Colorado has the young Reto Berra backing up Semyon Varlamov. Chicago has Antii Raanta, San Jose has Alex Stalock trying to steal Niemi’s job, and Boston has Nik Svedberg coming up next year to backup Tuukka Rask. All this upcoming talent has four older goaltenders looking for jobs: Martin Brodeur (42), Tim Thomas (40), Tomas Vokoun (38), and Ilya Bryzgalov (34). Although attracting interest at the start of free agency, many teams have filled their needs, mostly backups, leaving these four jobless.
Ilya Bryzgalov is the youngest of the core of goalies searching for a job. After being bought out of a 12-year deal by Philadelphia last year, Bryzgalov played in the ECHL briefly before splitting time between the Oilers and Wild last season. Bryzgalov appeared in the playoffs for the Wild last year before getting let to due to the goalie overhaul in Minnesota. He posted a .911 SV% and 2.12 GAA with the Wild last year.
Tomas Vokoun is also searching after not playing a single game for Pittsburgh last season. Vokoun suffered issues with blood clots which forced him out of action last year, and forced Jeff Zatkoff to pick up backup duties. Thomas Greiss was then taken in by Rutherford this offseason putting Vokoun out of a job. Vokoun posted a .919 SV% and 2.45 GAA with Pittsburgh in 2012-2013.
Tim Thomas is another option for teams. Thomas won the Cup with Boston in 2011 and then proceeded to take a year off from play the next season. Thomas played for both Dallas and Florida last season, and posted a .909 SV% with Dallas and a .902 SV% with Florida, with 2.87 and 2.97 GAA respectively on each team.
Martin Brodeur may be the best option if a team is looking for a goalie. The 42-year old is testing free agency after 21 years with New Jersey, where he posted a .901 SV% and 2.51 GAA last year. Brodeur, although not the superstar with great numbers he once was, is still a great pickup for any team, as I outlined in my pre-free agency post ‘Marty Go Round’
At the end of the day, maybe one of these goalies will get a job, two if lucky. Bryzgalov has his homeland of the Russia and the KHL to fall back on, whereas Vokoun’s health may hinder him and Thomas may just not find a North American job. The chance that one of these four men finds a job soon is also slim due to Toronto’s James Reimer being on the market, which also may work out for them in the end as it would possibly open a job for one of them, despite Dave Nonis’ ridiculous demands. You may see a couple of veteran goalies overseas next season, especially with all the young goaltending talent set to hit the NHL next season and for the next years to come.