As the old saying goes, a hockey team is built from the goalie out. So who will Las Vegas general manager George McPhee have as his goalies next year? The Las Vegas goalie options appear limited in expansion. However, there are a number of good choices in next year’s free agent class.
Las Vegas Goalie Options
What’s Bubbling in Pittsburgh?
When analyzing what goalies will be exposed in the upcoming expansion draft first one must understand the situation with the Pittsburgh Penguins. All NHL teams can only protect one goalie in the expansion draft. Currently, the Penguins have Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray as their netminders.
Since Murray is almost ten years younger than Fleury, has more upside, is less of a cap hit, and has more controllable years it’s a no-brainer who the Penguins should protect. But wait a minute Fleury has a limited no-movement clause, so he must be protected right?
Pierre Lebrun has reported that, in the near future, the NHL and the NHLPA will nail down definitively how the situation regarding players with mixed no-move/no-trade clauses (ie a no-move clause for the purposes of sending a player to the AHL, that also includes a limited number of teams that they can be traded to). The league and union must agree on whether or not they have to be protected for the expansion draft. This situation effects Fleury, who has such a clause.
If Fleury has to be protected you can take it to the bank, Pittsburgh will move him before this year’s trade deadline. Fleury has a limited no-trade clause (it’s been reported he can be traded to 18 teams). Almost impossible to see a scenario where Las Vegas can select Murray in the expansion draft.
No assurances Marc-Andre Fleury will be dealt https://t.co/1bFdftVkYR
— Rotoworld Hockey (@Rotoworld_HK) October 30, 2016
Rest of Expansion
After the Penguins, the best that expansion will have to offer regarding goaltenders is not great. Between teams, free agents to be, as well as their lack of depth between the pipes, McPhee’s expansion choices in net have a lot to be desired.
Believe it or not, as of now, Las Vegas best goalie options in expansion are, Malcolm Subban (Boston Bruins), the goaltender the Colorado Avalanche do not protect (either Semyon Varlamov or Calvin Pickard), or Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings).
Subban, the former first-round pick in 2012, has yet to show if he can make it in the NHL. If Colorado protects their number one goaltender Varlamov, it will be very tempting for Las Vegas to use one of their three mandatory goalie selections on Pickard. Pickard has the best upside of all the potential available goalies, a low cap number, and will only be 25 in April.
Howard’s best years appear to be behind him. Howard turns 33 in March and is signed for another two years after this season with a cap hit of $5.291 million. Howard needs to have a strong year to be a consideration for Las Vegas.
Do not be surprised if Las Vegas uses one or two of their expansion selections on goaltenders who will spend most of next season in the AHL. This would maximize cap space for Las Vegas and allow them to attack the goalie free agent market.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 30, 2016
While there is not a lot of quality in expansion for goaltenders, it’s a complete 180 when it comes to this year’s unrestricted free agent class for net minders. This list includes Ben Bishop, Brian Elliott, Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth, Thomas Greiss, and Al Montoya.
It’s unlikely the Tampa Bay Lightning will be re-signing Bishop. That was clear when general manager Steve Yzerman signed Andrei Vasilevskiy last summer. Elliott’s performance this year will dictate if the Calgary Flames try to re-sign him. The Philadelphia Flyers in all likelihood will only be able to re-sign either Mason or Neuvirth.
Greiss opened a lot of eyes in last year’s playoff run for the New York Islanders. Remember McPhee was part of the Islanders front office staff last year, so he saw Greiss’s play up close. Montoya would be an ideal fit as Las Vegas backup goalie.
A lot of interesting options and items to chew on for Las Vegas regarding their future goaltending situation.
WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 18: T.J. Oshie #77 of the Washington Capitals moves the puck behind goalie Semyon Varlamov #1 of the Colorado Avalanche in the second period at Verizon Center on October 18, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)