A Vezina Trophy finalist landed in Seattle, the Hurricanes turned over their entire group, and several accomplished veterans who had their contracts bought out found new homes on a busy day for NHL goaltenders.
More than a dozen goalies changed places Wednesday, altering the landscape with moves involving everyone from Stanley Cup contenders to teams building up from the bottom.
Vezina Trophy finalist Philipp Grubauer got the most lucrative contract, leaving Colorado to sign for $35.4 million over six years with the expansion Kraken. Seattle then flipped one of the goalies they picked in the expansion draft, Vitek Vanecek, to Washington for a 2023 second-round pick to spin the carousel some more.
“It’s a really fast-moving market,” Philadelphia general manager Chuck Fletcher said after signing Martin Jones to a $2 million, one-year contract. “There’s a lot of teams looking for goaltenders. You look at as many situations as you can and find as many situations where the player has the same interest in you that you have in him, and you make a quick decision.”
The decisions happened quickly with 14 goalies agreeing to contracts totaling over $100 million in just six hours. With the return to an 82-game season, which could be condensed because of the Winter Olympics, teams put value in goaltending depth.
“The game’s so fast and there’s so many games in a row, I think the teams need two goalies that can help the team to win the games and battle for them,” said Petr Mrazek, who signed with Toronto for $11.4 million over three years. “I think that’s the reason why the goalies are moving around a little bit so the teams can have two goalies to play.”
Coming off winning the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's best regular-season team and bowing out in the second round of the playoffs, the win-now Avalanche losing Grubauer pushed them to the trade market to replace him. They finally got their goalie by trading for Darcy Kuemper from Arizona.
There were not a lot of other options after the initial frenzy.
Braden Holtby, a teammate of Grubauer’s in Washington when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup, was one of the first to get a deal done, signing for $2 million with Dallas. Like Jones with San Jose, Holtby was fresh off being bought out by Vancouver after a down year, but the 2016 Vezina Trophy winner drew interest.
“I didn’t really have much time to think,” Holtby said. “Had a pretty good grasp of the situation, what could be. Luckily, Dallas popped up and it didn’t take us long to decide.”
The Carolina Hurricanes decided to change their entire mix in net despite Mrazek, Alex Nedeljkovic and James Reimer combining for a .920 save percentage last season that ranked third in the league. After trading Nedeljkovic to Detroit for a third-round pick last week, the Hurricanes let Mrazek and Reimer leave, and signed veterans Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta.
“These guys have been on our list to go after,” GM Don Waddell said. “We think that combo of those two guys gives us the best opportunity to win hockey games and take us to where we want to get to.”
Carolina's return for Nedeljkovic also included the rights to goalie Jonathan Bernier, but he left, too, signing an $8.25 million, two-year deal with New Jersey. Reimer went to San Jose, Linus Ullmark left Buffalo for a $20 million, four-year contract with Boston, Carter Hutton got a change of scenery in Arizona, Brian Elliott became Tampa Bay's new backup and veteran Jaroslav Halak replaced Holtby with the Canucks.
After losing Hutton, the Sabres' goaltending depth is down to rookie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who went 1-3 as an emergency backup last season, and journeyman minor-leaguer Dustin Tokarksi. Losing Ullmark is a setback for GM Kevyn Adams, who elected to not deal the pending unrestricted free agent at the trade deadline in hopes of re-signing him in the offseason.
Bernier didn't expect this level of movement.
“I think most people didn’t, but obviously when you get a couple buyouts with Holtby and Jones, that kind of shuffles pretty quick and then there’s only a few seats for goalies,” he said. “So when that happens, everyone changed chairs.”
AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow and freelance reporter Denis Gorman contributed.
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