There is no doubt that the Toronto Maple Leafs are calling other teams about their goaltenders right now.
Jack Campbell is about to hit the open market, while 2021 offseason signing Petr Mrazek was dreadful last season. The only question is whether they need one goaltender or two; they could be looking for both a starter and a backup. While the free-agent market would allow them to acquire a player without giving up assets, the trade route typically leads to options with a lower cap hit.
I recently previewed the free agent goaltending market here, and since Scott Wedgewood already signed, there are now just eight options available who posted a save percentage over .900 last season. Even if the Leafs like a certain free agent, all it takes is for one team to make a huge bid to take them out of consideration. The trade route seems likely, especially if they end up acquiring two goaltenders instead of one.
This article will go through just about all of the possible options to find the best fit.
Let’s dive in.
Anaheim Ducks Goaltenders
John Gibson (5 x $6.4M)
2021-2022 Statistics: 56 GP, .904 sv%, -5.5 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 86 GP, .904 sv%, -13.6 GSAx.
For the first three seasons of Auston Matthews’ career, Gibson led the league in terms of GSAx by a wide margin. He’s had three consecutive down seasons since then, but he’s still only 28, so there’s certainly a chance that he rebounds to his previous form. The big question here: How much of his $6.4 million cap hit is Anaheim willing to retain?
He’s had some pretty terrible teams in front of him, but Anthony Stolarz certainly didn’t have trouble putting up good numbers on the Ducks this season. Ultimately, acquiring Gibson would be a high-risk, high-reward type of move. If he bounces back, you could have one of the best goalies in the league for a bargain price. If he doesn’t, you have five years of a disastrous contract.
I wouldn’t trade for Gibson unless there’s significant salary retention. If a team like the Oilers will take him for about $1 million per season of retention, the Ducks likely move him. If not, I think they keep him and let him rebuild some value. I think it’s a long shot that he ends up in Toronto. If he puts up a sub .900 save percentage for the fourth straight season, you’re going to really struggle to get out of the last four years of his deal.
Anthony Stolarz (1 x $0.95M)
2021-2022 Statistics: 28 GP, .917 sv%, 3.83 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 9 GP, .928 sv%, 3.03 GSAx.
The Leafs are in the market for a good young goaltender on a bargain contract. Acquiring one would allow them to spend more in other areas (including another goalie). The Ducks have boatloads of cap space and an expensive goalie in Gibson. While they may think about extending Stolarz and keeping him around as part of their future, it’s worth noting that he’s only six months younger than Gibson.
The Ducks aren’t in a position to fully capitalize on Stolarz’s bargain contract. They’re still in rebuilding mode and are miles away from the salary cap. They could always trade him as a rental at the deadline, but if they get a good offer now, why would they wait? In theory, they could trade Stolarz for future assets now, sign someone else, and flip them at the deadline to fetch even more assets.
The 6’6″ Stolarz was Marner’s goalie in his first years in London. He was one of the AHL’s best goaltenders in 2019-20 and played great in his eight-game NHL tryout in 2020-21. Assuming they trade a goalie, the Ducks are in an ideal situation to take on Mrazek’s contract. The Leafs could send picks and prospects their way in exchange. Stolarz has been one of my top targets for a while now.
San Jose Goaltenders
Adin Hill (1 x $2.175M)
2021-2022 Statistics: 25 GP, .906 sv%, -6.6 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 32 GP, .915 sv%, -0.5 GSAx.
James Reimer (1 x $2.25M)
2021-2022 Statistics: 48 GP, .911 sv%, 4.8 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 47 GP, .910 sv%, 4.2 GSAx.
Kaapo Kahkonen (RFA)
2021-2022 Statistics: 37 GP, .912 sv%, 2.4 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 29 GP, .904 sv%, -19.5 GSAx.
The Sharks have three NHL goaltenders in Hill, Reimer, and Kaapo Kahkonen. Surely, someone is getting moved. The 25-year-old Kahkonen is the youngest of the three, and given that they just traded for him at the deadline, it looks like one of Hill or Reimer will be moved elsewhere. Neither player is good enough to be penciled in as a clear #1 starter on a contender, but they’re both capable 1B options who can provide some stability.
Hill was traded ahead of last year’s expansion draft along with a seventh-round pick for prospect Joseph Korenar and a second-round pick. He struggled with a lower-body injury and only played in 25 games with the Sharks; plus, he was rather mediocre when he did play. He’s still rather unproven — this year’s 25 games were a career-high. Hill is 6’6″, so if you like your goalies massive, he might be your guy.
Reimer signed a two-year deal last offseason and ended up impressing while getting the bulk of playing time with the Sharks. His numbers from his previous two seasons back in Carolina are nearly identical to his numbers with San Jose. Given that both Reimer and Hill both have just one year until free agency, expect them to take the best offer available.
Kahkonen was acquired at the deadline for a few months of Jacob Middleton’s services and a fifth-round pick. He struggled greatly as a rookie, but he put up respectable numbers between San Jose and Minnesota this season. I think he’s the least likely of the three to be moved, but the Sharks didn’t give up a ton for him, so I suppose it’s possible that the Leafs could get him for a bigger offer.
The Sharks have some good underrated forwards (I’m the President of the Rudolph Balcers fan club), so I wonder if there’s a bigger deal with Alex Kerfoot or Ondrej Kase that could make sense. Many rebuilding teams won’t want to give up assets for one year of a “1B” type and many contenders already have their two goaltenders for next year. Teams like Colorado and Edmonton have a good “1B” option but are probably looking for a starter rather than Hill or Reimer. If the Leafs move Mrazek, these two are great bets to be his replacement.
Calgary Flames Goaltenders
Dan Vladar (1 x $0.75M, expires RFA)
2021-2022 Statistics: 23 GP, .906 sv%, -3.6 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 5 GP.
Vladar is a 6’5″ goaltender who will turn 25 in August. Jakob Markstrom was a Vezina finalist this season, but he won’t reach free agency until 2026, so he’s clearly the number-one option there. While it will take a good offer to acquire him, the Flames could strongly consider any move that helps their team in other areas. If the Leafs think he can be the next Jack Campbell, they can certainly put together a strong offer that the Flames would consider.
I’m convinced Vladar was better than his numbers suggest this season. Having watched every goal he allowed, it sure seemed like he got more than his fair share of perfect shots and bad bounces. He’s posted good numbers at the AHL level in the past.
The big question: Do the Leafs see him as a good young goaltender who is about to have a breakout season? If so, acquiring him and his $750k cap hit would allow them to spend more in other areas. However, if they see him as more of a backup, they probably won’t offer enough for Calgary to part ways with him.
The Flames are set for the future with both Jakob Markstrom and top prospect Dustin Wolf, so Vladar is likely expendable. He’ll be a restricted free agent next season, so if he performs well, he could be a long-term option rather than a one-year rental.
Dustin Wolf (2 x $0.813M, expires RFA)
2021-2022 Statistics (AHL): 47 GP, .924 sv%.
Wolf just turned 21 in April and has yet to play a NHL game. However, he’s one of the top goaltending prospects in the league and the Flames already have Markstrom and Vladar. For a Flames team that is looking to contend over the next few seasons, he’d be one of their best trade chips.
His save percentage by season in the WHL: .928, .936, .935, .940. He put up a .924 save percentage in 47 games as an AHL rookie this season and followed that up with a .929 in 13 playoff games. He’s only 6’0″ and perhaps his success won’t translate to the NHL level, but he’s been awfully impressive thus far. The Leafs could certainly use a legitimate goaltender of the future rather than a stopgap option.
Carolina Hurricanes Goaltenders
Antti Raanta (1 x $2M)
2021-2022 Statistics: 28 GP, .912 sv%, 7.8 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 45 GP, .917 sv%, 4.2 GSAx.
Raanta is coming off a strong season, especially when we add in his .922 save percentage across 13 playoff games. He’s been incredibly underrated his entire career; he ranks sixth in save percentage since he entered the league behind only Ben Bishop, Jusse Saros, Corey Crawford, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Tuukka Rask. If we look at GSAx on a per-game basis, he’s been the best goaltender in the NHL over that stretch among 64 qualified goaltenders with 5,000 shot attempts against. However, Frederik Andersen was a Vezina candidate this season and Pyotr Kochetkov looks NHL-ready.
Raanta’s biggest problem has been staying healthy, as he played just 12 games in both the 2018-19 and 2020-21 seasons. He’s still only 33 and did manage to play in 41 games between the regular season and playoffs this year, so perhaps those concerns are behind him.
It’s not clear if Ethan Bear or Tony DeAngelo will return to the Hurricanes next season, which could mean they might have interest in Justin Holl. Vincent Trocheck, Nino Niederreiter, and Max Domi are all pending free agents, so they could have interest in Alex Kerfoot as well. You’ll want to have a good backup plan in case Raanta gets hurt, but he’s usually quite dependable when healthy.
Pyotr Kochetkov (1 x $2M)
2021-2022 Statistics: 28 GP, .912 sv%, 7.8 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 45 GP, .917 sv%, 4.2 GSAx.
Kochetkov was the 36th overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft — the second goalie selected behind Spencer Knight. He’s lived up to his draft status thus far, posting a .926 save percentage in 26 KHL games this season before putting up a .921 save percentage in 15 AHL games. He struggled in four playoff games with the Hurricanes before returning to the Chicago Wolves to win the Calder Cup.
The Hurricanes could certainly use Kochetkov with both Andersen and Raanta set to hit free agency next offseason, although he’s also one of their best trade pieces. I think Raanta is more likely to be traded, but Kochetkov could certainly be a more permanent solution.
Washington Capitals Goaltenders
Vitek Vanecek (RFA)
Vanecek’s 2021-2022 Statistics: 42 GP, .908 sv%, -3.1 GSAx.
Vanecek’s Previous Season: 37 GP, .908 sv%, -8.4 GSAx.
Ilya Samsonov (RFA)
Samsonov’s 2021-2022 Statistics: 44 GP, .896 sv%, -10.9 GSAx.
Samsonov’s Previous Two Seasons: 45 GP, .908 sv%, -6.8 GSAx.
Ovechkin is 36, Oshie is 35, Backstrom is 34, Carlson is 32, and Kuznetsov and Orlov are 30. After suffering from mediocre goaltending last season, the time to go all-in is now for Washington. It looks like the Capitals have one or two more good seasons left before a full rebuild, so they should probably go out and acquire a true #1 starter.
If the Capitals do add a goaltender like I expect them to, one or both of Vanecek and Samsonov will be moved. Both could make sense as a “1B” type, and they’re young enough to convince a team that there’s some untapped upside left. Vanecek had better numbers this season, but Samsonov got the bulk of the minutes at playoff time.
Samsonov was a first-round pick in the 2015 draft, while Vanecek went 39th overall back in 2014. Goaltenders tend to peak later than forwards or defensemen, so perhaps the Leafs will think one of them could break out late in their career a la Jack Campbell. However, my guess is that one or both of them will end up on a rebuilding team.
Semyon Varlamov (1 x $5M)
2021-2022 Statistics: 31 GP, .911 sv%, 3.2 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 81 GP, .921 sv%, 10.6 GSAx.
Varlamov was one of the league’s best goaltenders in his first two seasons with the Islanders. While his numbers remained respectable this year, the 26-year old Ilya Sorokin blossomed into a star and became the number-one option. While the Islanders could keep Varlamov to be the league’s best backup, there is a good chance that they look to improve their team elsewhere while freeing up $5 million of cap space.
Varlamov will be 35 by the time next year’s playoffs roll around, but it’s only a one-year commitment, and he’s been quite consistent over the past five seasons. While plenty of teams could have interest, he carries a 16-team no-trade list, giving him plenty of say in where he plays. Teams with clear #1 options like the Rangers, Lightning, Flames, Stars, Predators, Jets, and Hurricanes aren’t going to trade for him. They might not want to move him to a division rival like the Penguins or Devils. If he makes his no-trade list strategically, he can limit his destinations to a handful of teams.
The Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers also seem like good fits for Varlamov. A team like the Blues could potentially get involved as well. The Leafs could offer picks and/or prospects, plus Alex Kerfoot could be of interest to New York. Varlamov’s actual salary for next season is $4 million, so if the Leafs want to pay a third-team for 50% salary retention, the cost would be a little bit less than if his contract was back-loaded. The number one question is if the Leafs are comfortable with him from an off-ice perspective.
Connor Ingram (1 x $0.733M)
2021-2022 Statistics (AHL): 54 GP, .915 sv%.
Juuse Saros, signed for the next three seasons, is widely regarded as one of the league’s best goaltenders. He played in 67 games last season, so while the Predators could keep Ingram as a cheap backup, they’re not planning on playing him much. Trading the 25-year-old Ingram would allow them to improve in other areas.
Ingram, 25, played a ton of hockey this season in his own right. In the regular season, he played in 54 AHL games and three NHL games. In the playoffs, he played in four NHL games and four AHL games. While he likely wouldn’t start as the number one option on a contender, it sure seems like he could handle the workload if he ever won the job.
He was one of the WHL’s best goaltenders in his final two seasons with the Kamloops Blazers. He’s been one of the AHL’s best goaltenders ever since, and his low cap hit would certainly appeal to a team like the Leafs. He had a few flashes of brilliance against the Avalanche in the playoffs, and I’m sure plenty of teams came away impressed.
Many of the contenders are already set in net. While plenty of rebuilding teams will be willing to take a chance on his potential, they won’t benefit from his low cap hit as much as the Leafs would. I think he’ll be on Toronto’s shortlist.
Cam Talbot (1 x $3.67M)
2021-2022 Statistics: 49 GP, .911 sv%, -16.1 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 59 GP, .917 sv%, -4.7 GSAx.
The Minnesota Wild are about to enter a major cap crunch. It seems like the only way Talbot returns is if he’s their starter. Given that they traded for Marc-Andre Fleury at the deadline, they may want to go in a different direction. Talbot is more of a “1B” type than a true number one option, but he’s posted a save percentage over .910 in three consecutive seasons.
Talbot probably doesn’t have much trade value at his current cap hit. However, his actual salary is just $3 million for next season and the Leafs could pay a third team to retain salary. It’s tough to know what to make of Talbot; GSAx isn’t a huge fan of him, but he’s a 6’4″ goaltender with a .915 save percentage in 397 career games.
Jonathan Quick (1 x $5.8M)
2021-2022 Statistics: 46 GP, .910 sv%, 12.7 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 64 GP, .902 sv%, -10.9 GSAx.
Quick had a nice bounce-back season at the age of 36 after struggling greatly in the previous three. Trading for him would be a bet that he’s back to his old self as he approaches 37 years of age. He only has one year of term left, so there’s not exactly a ton of risk here.
He doesn’t have any type of no-trade protection, and he’s owed just $2.5 million in actual salary for next season. It wouldn’t cost a third team all that much to retain 50% of his salary, and the Kings could free up $5.8 million in cap space by moving him. Calvin Petersen is signed for three more seasons at a $5 million cap hit, but he put up an .895 save percentage in 37 games last season. Petersen will be tough to move, so if the Kings want to acquire their new goalie of the future, a Quick trade is a real possibility.
MacKenzie Blackwood (1 x $2.8M, expires RFA)
2021-2022 Statistics: 25 GP, .892 sv%, -15.2 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 82 GP, .909 sv%, -12.1 GSAx.
Blackwood dealt with a heel injury this season, but he was completely dreadful when he did play. He struggled in the previous season as well, so you’d be banking on him getting back to the form that he showed in his first two seasons. He’s 6’4″ and only 25; I’m sure that there’s a team out there that will be eager to bet on his potential.
Unless their scouts absolutely love him, I don’t think he makes a ton of sense for a contending team like Toronto. He’ll be too expensive to be a true backup, and it’s tough to count on him as a starter given his recent struggles. Maybe you can make him a 1B type who can earn more playing time, but he probably makes more sense for a rebuilding team.
Alexandar Georgiev (RFA)
2021-2022 Statistics: 33 GP, .898 sv%, -5 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 53 GP, .908 sv%, -0.7 GSAx.
Georgiev carries a career .909 save percentage in 131 career games, but his last two seasons haven’t lived up to his previous standards. This season was his worst by a fairly significant margin, but he’s still only 26, so it’s easy to see him bouncing back.
He shouldn’t cost a ton in a trade; his qualifying offer is $2.65 million, and he’s only a season away from hitting the open market. However, the Rangers have seemingly heavily overvalued him in the past. Who knows what they’ll do?
The Rangers could simply decide to keep him, but I’m sure he won’t be thrilled about playing behind Igor Shesterkin during his contract year. Many of the contending teams, including the Rangers, may opt for a cheaper backup in order to spend more elsewhere. While he could certainly get the bulk of minutes for a rebuilding team, how much would they be willing to give up for just one year of term?
His best fit is as a “1B” type on a good team that doesn’t have a superstar goalie. The Leafs could certainly have interest in him if they trade Mrazek, but his cap hit won’t be all that much less than Mrazek’s and it’s not like he was much better than him last season.
Jake Allen (1 x $2.875M)
2021-2022 Statistics: 35 GP, .905 sv%, 1.6 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 53 GP, .916 sv%, 4.1 GSAx.
The rebuilding Habs would be wise to trade Allen for a young asset that can help them in the future. His contract is back-loaded, so he’ll make $3.75 million in actual salary next season, which will turn away quite a few teams. The Habs could also retain salary in exchange for a better pick or prospect, which would certainly be of interest to the Leafs given their cap situation.
Allen hasn’t been the most consistent goaltender in the world, but he had some big seasons back when he was with the Blues, and he owns a .911 save percentage in over 350 career games played. If I’m the Habs, I trade Allen early this offseason and then sign another goalie to potentially flip at the deadline.
Matt Murray (2 x $6.25M)
2021-2022 Statistics: 20 GP, .906 sv%, -0.5 GSAx.
Previous Two Seasons: 65 GP, .896 sv%, -30.4 GSAx.
The Ottawa Senators, who also have Anton Forsberg and Filip Gustavsson, would certainly like to avoid paying Murray $15 million in actual salary over the final two years of his deal. I don’t think the Leafs will trade for him — even if there’s 50% retention – but he could be a potential backup if he’s bought out. Ottawa could save $5 million by buying him out; we shouldn’t rule that out completely, either.
Murray was one of the league’s best goaltenders back in Matthews’ rookie season and was quite effective in the 2018-19 season as well. Like John Gibson, he’s had three straight down seasons, making it tough to know if he’ll ever bounce back to his old form.
He’s struggled with injuries, and perhaps he wasn’t 100% for some of his rough performances. Even though he’s a former Soo Greyhound, it’s tough to see the Leafs acquiring him unless it’s for league minimum after he’s bought out. Even then, they probably want more durability and recent success.
Stuart Skinner (RFA)
2021-2022 Statistics (AHL): 35 GP, .920 sv%.
2021-2022 Statistics (NHL): 13 GP, .913 sv%, 0.84 GSAx.
The 23-year-old Oilers prospect will no longer be waiver-exempt next season, and the team figures to acquire another goaltender to play alongside Mike Smith. He performed well at both levels this season and was effective in the AHL last season as well. He’s 6’4″, so if you like bigger goaltenders, he might be your guy.
With 14 games of NHL experience to his name, you wouldn’t be counting on him to be anything more than a backup. The asking price likely won’t be anything crazy, and the Oilers have made plenty of questionable trades over the last decade, so perhaps they can get him for a good deal. He’s young enough to stick around for a few years if he does play well.
The Long Shots
Connor Hellebuyck, Ilya Sorokin, and Juuse Saros are all great goaltenders who play for mediocre teams. However, they’re not likely to move and there will be a major bidding war if they are available. The Leafs have the picks and prospects to get involved if this is the case, but I’m not exactly holding my breath here. The same can be said for Elvis Merzlikins and Thatcher Demko.
Anton Forsberg was great for the Sens this season — and Ottawa has three goaltenders — but I don’t see them moving him before his extension even starts. Alex Nedeljkovic and Cal Petersen are both coming off of weak seasons. I’m not sure that the Leafs will be overly excited about either of them.