Best of The Rest: Free Agent Goaltenders

Jonathan Willis
August 05 2009 01:11PM

It’s early August, and the NHL is about as far off of the radar as it could possibly be. Free agency has cooled down, the draft is far in the rear-view mirror and the fact of the matter is that there aren’t a lot of stories to cover (side point: how stupid is it that the draft and free agency both get jammed together at the end of June/very start of July?).

However - there remain teams with holes (most of them) and players capable of filling those holes. We’ll start by considering free agent goaltenders.

Capgeek.com lists ten free agent goaltenders still looking for a home. Here they are (with career AHL’ers like Taylor Dakers and Loic Lacasse omitted), in order of possible interest to NHL clubs:

  • Manny Fernandez - When healthy, Manny Fernandez has been a remarkably good NHL goalie (since the lockout he’s put up .926, .921 and .928 even-strength save percentages). He’s a perfect option for a team looking for a reliable backup, and at this point the jobs are so scarce that he has virtually no leverage – despite his excellent record the last few years. Whoever grabs him is getting a superb bargain.
  • Kevin Weekes - It’s a tough year for goaltenders, and despite coming off his best post-lockout season (highlighted by a .920 SV%) Kevin Weekes has yet to find a home. He could be a decent bargain-priced backup, but (and I’m just speculating here) it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him in the KHL next year.
  • Joey MacDonald - The Islanders’ starter last season, Joey MacDonald wasn’t bad (his .901 SV% was quite close to Miikka Kiprusoff’s .903) but is the goaltending equivalent of a tweener – somewhere between #2 and #3 on an NHL team’s depth chart.
  • Manny Legace – A miserable season may have finished off Legace’s NHL career; he’s likely bound for Europe.
  • Marc Denis - An NHL starter for five seasons around the middle of the decade, Marc Denis has had a pair of very decent AHL seasons and will probably find work somewhere as an organizations #3 guy.
  • Marek Schwarz - The Oilers were criticized for selecting Devan Dubnyk ahead of Schwarz in 2004 (most scouting services viewed Schwarz as the best available goaltender – some even made comparisons to Hasek) but he’s been middling (at best) in the AHL for two years running and I would guess is done in North America.
  • Olaf Kolzig – A very good career now seems all but certain to end; Kolzig himself is said to be leaning towards retirement.
  • Curtis Joseph - His best save percentage since the lockout has been .906, and last season he sank to a Raycroftian .869. He’s 42 years old and it seems pretty clear that he’s finished.

Personally, there isn’t a lot on this list that interests me outside of Fernandez. That said, any team with questions in the starting position (age, health, declining performance) wouldn’t do badly to bring in a backup like Fernandez who can push their starter.

Other than Fernandez, guys like Weekes, MacDonald and Legace could surprise and be useful at the NHL level, but none are likely to rise above #2 on the depth chart.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#51 Ogden Brother
August 05 2009, 05:27PM
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Chris wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: Also, it says nothing about Tambs analysis, he attemted to turn over roughly 20% of the roster. I don’t think Tambellini is ready to stand pat. He has to ACT like he’s happy with the current roster… I’m quessing he isn’t.

Either do I, I would expect at least 1/2 more minor moves at very least.

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#52 Archaeologuy
August 05 2009, 05:33PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

Oh brother, theirs no way this team is worse on paper then last years. Also, it says nothing about Tambs analysis, he attemted to turn over roughly 20% of the roster.

So explain how losing Kotalik and Brodziak while adding nothing DOESNT make them worse.

He added a goalie to replace the one that the Oilers lost. Likely an upgrade though not one that will tip the scales of Oiler fortunes.

He attempted? Does he get points for TRYING to add a player but failing? Does he get less points because in doing so he let the names of the players get out and made the Oilers look like a desperate group begging at the knees of one of the league's biggest Prima Donnas?

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#53 Jonathan Willis
August 05 2009, 05:35PM
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B.C.B. wrote:

If we could only get you to stop beating the NHL goaltending horse. Seriously how many post have you had on goaltending since the Oilers signed the Bulin Wall?

I'll be doing forwards and defensemen in this series as well.

Also, I see most haven't picked up on the fact that a) this article also runs on FlamesNation and CanucksArmy and b) I didn't directly reference (though I hinted at) the Oilers.

Frankly, I see everything I've said in the article above (re: Fernandez) as being at least as applicable to Calgary, a team that really suffered with Kipper/McElhinney last season.

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#54 Ogden Brother
August 05 2009, 05:41PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: Oh brother, theirs no way this team is worse on paper then last years. Also, it says nothing about Tambs analysis, he attemted to turn over roughly 20% of the roster. So explain how losing Kotalik and Brodziak while adding nothing DOESNT make them worse. He added a goalie to replace the one that the Oilers lost. Likely an upgrade though not one that will tip the scales of Oiler fortunes. He attempted? Does he get points for TRYING to add a player but failing? Does he get less points because in doing so he let the names of the players get out and made the Oilers look like a desperate group begging at the knees of one of the league’s biggest Prima Donnas?

Your twisting the two points together.

Kotalik was around for 20 games, I didn't break the #'s down, but I'd expect that our winning % was worse with him then without. He's got some nice complementary skils, but he's hardly a guy to worry about. Same story with Brodziak, I'm pretty sure you could take the 4th line C off any team in the league without much complaints.

Point 2 was Tambs view of the coaching in relation to the moves he made. When using the amount of turnover (or lack of) as proof to what his thoughts were on the coaching results vs attempts is irrelavant. He tried to make major moves, that's all the proof you need that he felt the roster needed change.

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#55 Archaeologuy
August 05 2009, 05:53PM
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@ Ogden Brother: I think it's crazy to believe that losing 1 of only 2 20 goal scoring forwards on the club is nothing to worry about, or that losing the 2nd best faceoff man on the team is no biggie.

We already went through this with Reasoner. Everyone underestimated what losing a faceoff winning penalty killer would do if he wasnt replaced. Now the Oilers have done it 2 years running.

And how quiet were Oiler fans when the 4th liner Glencross was lost? Not very.

Tambi tried to make 1 major change. He didnt try to change up the core of the team minus maybe Cogliano (but there are plenty of people who dont see him as a core guy). Sorry. He obviously doesnt think much else needs to change, or he would have addressed it.

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#56 Chris
August 05 2009, 06:41PM
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@ Archaeologuy:

It's not like Tambellini can waive a magic wand and make a trade happen. Heatley killed one deal... how many other teams have been involved in high profile trades this offseason? As for UFA's... for all we know every single UFA available was approached and rejected the idea of playing in Edmonton... Or, more likely: Tambellini simply doesn't want new contracts arriving without old ones leaving... We simply don't know.

I'm still on board with Tambellini. I thought it was obvious that a coaching change was needed; and he made one. I was worried about Roli's expiration date... and a change was made. I liked the attempted Heatley deal (it's not like he didn't do EVERYTHING possible to land that top line L.W)...

It's still possible that Tambellini is playing chicken with a few remaining UFA's. It's also possible that teams over the cap will unload some assets for next to nothing in the coming weeks. It's also possible no moves will be made untill camp is in progress; Players may be signed, others released, and so on... I quess I'm saying: let's wait and see.

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#57 oilFan
August 05 2009, 06:44PM
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Depends what paper your smoking ? A healthy defense, upgraded tender, patty-o instead of Cole(we will miss his hitting)patty should get more points then cole did for us, vet coaching staff(won WJHC with Renney younge team) healthy Pisani (shut down king). Way better roster !!

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#58 viss.99
August 05 2009, 06:53PM
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@ Archaeologuy: You pretty simple if you sum it up they drop the ball again and refuse to admit it, they did up grade in goal, but they did not improved the team in all the areas which they desperately need to if they want to compete this season, give them credit for trying to get a top sniper in that whiner Heatly but did they not have a plan B incase he did not ended up here. Where they scared to get shot down again by another free agent in the same off season? I can't understand what Tambi's speech was when he fired Mac T last season, Saying "We need to be bigger, grittier, and the Oil needs to have an identity," and then doing a 180 on Friday by saying the team we have now is a playoff contender. Maybe Lowe is still pulling the strings behind the scenes, and still thinks the players he signed from the last 3 yrs can still do the job. I just don't get it.

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#59 cableguy
August 05 2009, 07:13PM
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oilFan wrote:

Depends what paper your smoking ? A healthy defense, upgraded tender, patty-o instead of Cole(we will miss his hitting)patty should get more points then cole did for us, vet coaching staff(won WJHC with Renney younge team) healthy Pisani (shut down king). Way better roster !!

better yes.

playoffs no.

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#60 Ogden Brother
August 05 2009, 07:38PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: I think it’s crazy to believe that losing 1 of only 2 20 goal scoring forwards on the club is nothing to worry about, or that losing the 2nd best faceoff man on the team is no biggie. We already went through this with Reasoner. Everyone underestimated what losing a faceoff winning penalty killer would do if he wasnt replaced. Now the Oilers have done it 2 years running. And how quiet were Oiler fans when the 4th liner Glencross was lost? Not very. Tambi tried to make 1 major change. He didnt try to change up the core of the team minus maybe Cogliano (but there are plenty of people who dont see him as a core guy). Sorry. He obviously doesnt think much else needs to change, or he would have addressed it.

He moved 2 guys out, he attempted to move 5 Archaeologuy wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: I think it’s crazy to believe that losing 1 of only 2 20 goal scoring forwards on the club is nothing to worry about, or that losing the 2nd best faceoff man on the team is no biggie. We already went through this with Reasoner. Everyone underestimated what losing a faceoff winning penalty killer would do if he wasnt replaced. Now the Oilers have done it 2 years running. And how quiet were Oiler fans when the 4th liner Glencross was lost? Not very. Tambi tried to make 1 major change. He didnt try to change up the core of the team minus maybe Cogliano (but there are plenty of people who dont see him as a core guy). Sorry. He obviously doesnt think much else needs to change, or he would have addressed it.

He moved out 2 and tried to move out 5. 25% of your starting roster is pretty significant.

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#61 Ogden Brother
August 05 2009, 07:40PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

@ Ogden Brother:

Well that was a mess

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#62 Ogden Brother
August 05 2009, 07:42PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: I think it’s crazy to believe that losing 1 of only 2 20 goal scoring forwards on the club is nothing to worry about, or that losing the 2nd best faceoff man on the team is no biggie. We already went through this with Reasoner. Everyone underestimated what losing a faceoff winning penalty killer would do if he wasnt replaced. Now the Oilers have done it 2 years running. And how quiet were Oiler fans when the 4th liner Glencross was lost? Not very. Tambi tried to make 1 major change. He didnt try to change up the core of the team minus maybe Cogliano (but there are plenty of people who dont see him as a core guy). Sorry. He obviously doesnt think much else needs to change, or he would have addressed it.

A third liner and a fourth liner, things need to be in perspective. You're simply laying the groundwork for your excuse for when the team is within 5/6 points (either way) of this past year.

A Malhotra signing and this roster would already be better then the one that finished last year.

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#63 Word
August 05 2009, 07:55PM
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JW:

This is totally off topic, but I read the following Brian Burke quote courtesy of Bob McCown (hxxp://sports.sympatico.msn.ca/Fadoo/ContentPosting_bob?newsitemid=http%3a%2f%2fwww.fadoo.ca%2fblog%2fdisplay%2fthe-burke-system-270&feedname=sports_fadoo_blog_mccown&show=False&number=0&showbyline=False&subtitle=&detect=&abc=abc&date=False&pagenumber=1) [Sorry about the insanely long link...]

"I have a system of rating players, "he said, "particularly defensemen. I rate them from one to six, six being the elite defenseman." He went on to explain that his objective is that of the six primary defensive positions on his team, he wants one from each point category. He claims that if you have one "six," one "five," one "four," etc., you'll have a team capable of competing at the highest level. If you add the numbers together (6+5+4+3+2+1) you wind up with 21 and that is your objective.

"Now understand," Burke continued, "there aren't enough ?sixes' to go around, but that's okay. If I have two ?fives' and two ?twos' I still get where I want to be (21)."

With that in mind, how would you rate the Oilers defense on Burke's rather subjective 21-point scale?

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#64 oilFan
August 05 2009, 07:58PM
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We will make the playoffs down the stretch. With a big deal at the deadline. Not a cup team but a playoff team You can beat the farm on that. Look at the division we are in. Van = no changes Flames = defense team only they lost Cammy and bert probably 55 goals Wild = havlet ( hurt after 30 games) Col = come on need I say We can a good chance at first in the North West Division IMO

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#65 Word
August 05 2009, 08:01PM
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Further to above, I'd probably lean towards:

Vish - 5 Souray - 4 Gilbert - 3 Grebs - 3 Smid - 2 (or 1, see how much he improves this year) Staois - 2 (or 1, see if he slows down even more this year)

Anywhere from a 17 to a 19, or am I way off?

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#66 Archaeologuy
August 05 2009, 08:12PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

A third liner and a fourth liner, things need to be in perspective. You’re simply laying the groundwork for your excuse for when the team is within 5/6 points (either way) of this past year.

It's not an excuse, its a prediction. Unless there are 3 prominent players with breakout/comeback seasons the Oilers are poised to be very similar to this past season.

Sure, if everyone wants to pretend that O'Sullivan is an upgrade to Cole and forget the uninspired part of the season that Patio already played for the Oilers then i guess i could play along and say that could be better. I could also pretend that goaltending was a problem for the Oilers and say that Bulin will propel the Oilers to certain dominance. I could even say that Kotalik only played part of the season so his loss wont be that big a deal. Or that losing another faceoff winning penalty killer wont hurt the Oilers' already dismal penalty killing...but I'd be lying.

Lets face it. Plan B is to wait and see how the team ages. The team is NOT better today than it was at the end of the year from a player perspective. Coaching will be infinitely better, guys will be older, the players will have clean slates to work from. But as of August 05 2009 8:11 pm the Oilers have less NHL talent than they did prior to the Draft.

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#67 cableguy
August 05 2009, 09:07PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Coaching will be infinitely better

im not at all sold on that.

time will tell

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#68 Archaeologuy
August 05 2009, 09:19PM
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@ cableguy: Really? Because from my perpective a monkey with a learning disability and a spastic colon would be an improvement.

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#69 cableguy
August 05 2009, 09:24PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ cableguy: Really? Because from my perpective a monkey with a learning disability and a spastic colon would be an improvement.

putting a rose in a pile of sh1t still leaves you with the same pile of sh1t.

in our case, the pile is the oilers roster.

scotty bowman behind the bench of the oilers last season doesnt, IMO, make a difference in the outcome.

the oilers have done NOTHING to address the on ice issues from last year.

I agree 110% the coach needed to be changed. I just dont see it as being that huge of a difference maker with the roster the oilers have

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#70 Archaeologuy
August 05 2009, 09:36PM
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@ cableguy: I agree about on ice, but i DO think that changing the coach will make a significant difference in attitude and expectations. I just think it's a lot to ask for 3-4 players to break out at the same time and then hope that AHL players can be effective 3rd-4th line defensively reliable guys.

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#71 Jason Gregor
August 05 2009, 10:02PM
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jeff wrote:

From capgeek we are at what 47? And that is with 4 RFA’s that aren’t signed. I don’t see us picking up 3 more players. Buyouts are probably not much of an option for us as we do have the room this year.

Cap geek doesn't have them at 47 it has them at 43, but that includes Hrabel who they have bought out. They are at 42. But Eberle, Rajala and Kytnar will be playing in junior so their contracts won't count, so they are realistically at 39...if you think Eberle shocks everyone and makes it then they are at 40...lots of room to sign, Smid, Brule, Schremp, Stone maybe a Spurgeon. Young has already signed an AHL contract which doesn't count against the 50.

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#72 B.C.B.
August 05 2009, 10:05PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Jonathan Willis wrote:

I’ll be doing forwards and defensemen in this series as well. Also, I see most haven’t picked up on the fact that a) this article also runs on FlamesNation and CanucksArmy and b) I didn’t directly reference (though I hinted at) the Oilers. Frankly, I see everything I’ve said in the article above (re: Fernandez) as being at least as applicable to Calgary, a team that really suffered with Kipper/McElhinney last season.

Sorry JW, I love your work, I was just in a bad mood and I got another article about Goaltending.

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#73 Jonathan Willis
August 05 2009, 10:13PM
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@ B.C.B.:

No worries; if saying intemperate things were a crime I'd have been locked up long ago ;)

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#74 Jonathan Willis
August 05 2009, 10:15PM
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@ Word:

From my July 9 article:

Using Burke's method here's how I see the current top-six: Lubomir Visnovsky: 5 Sheldon Souray: 5 Tom Gilbert: 4 Denis Grebeshkov: 3 Ladislav Smid: 2 Steve Staios: 2

It was an excellent McCown article.

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#75 Heatly
August 05 2009, 11:15PM
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We are not getting rid of JDD. The Oilers will give him a shot and we will either sign him if he does well or waive him next year.

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#76 Ogden Brother
August 05 2009, 11:19PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: A third liner and a fourth liner, things need to be in perspective. You’re simply laying the groundwork for your excuse for when the team is within 5/6 points (either way) of this past year. It’s not an excuse, its a prediction. Unless there are 3 prominent players with breakout/comeback seasons the Oilers are poised to be very similar to this past season. Sure, if everyone wants to pretend that O’Sullivan is an upgrade to Cole and forget the uninspired part of the season that Patio already played for the Oilers then i guess i could play along and say that could be better. I could also pretend that goaltending was a problem for the Oilers and say that Bulin will propel the Oilers to certain dominance. I could even say that Kotalik only played part of the season so his loss wont be that big a deal. Or that losing another faceoff winning penalty killer wont hurt the Oilers’ already dismal penalty killing…but I’d be lying. Lets face it. Plan B is to wait and see how the team ages. The team is NOT better today than it was at the end of the year from a player perspective. Coaching will be infinitely better, guys will be older, the players will have clean slates to work from. But as of August 05 2009 8:11 pm the Oilers have less NHL talent than they did prior to the Draft.

For a guy that preaches the importance of coaching this is pretty hypocritical. Basically you are saying that upgrading an incompetent coach to an all world coach can't make up for the loss of a 3rd and fourth liner (especially when we have others that fill every strengths that 3rd liner brings).

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#77 Ogden Brother
August 05 2009, 11:20PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ cableguy: Really? Because from my perpective a monkey with a learning disability and a spastic colon would be an improvement.

Ah, case in point. Unbelievable.

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#78 Ogden Brother
August 05 2009, 11:42PM
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Just to put a little more context behind the impact of Ales Kotalik

With Kotalik Buff averaged 1.11 points/game (91 over season)

Without Kotalik Buff averaged 1.11 points/game (91 over a season)

With Kotalik Edm averaged .9 points/game (74 over a season)

Without Kotalik Edm averaged 1.08 points/game (89 over a season)

If upgrading a monkey with a learning disability with the guy with the 5th most wins in NHL can't over come that impressive impact....

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#79 Archaeologuy
August 06 2009, 08:28AM
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@ Ogden Brother: I think you are giving too much credit to Kotalik for the dismal last quarter of the season. And you keep calling him a 3rd liner despite the fact that he played on the 1st line. If Pisani left i wouldnt care too much. Except he didnt. The guy occupying the 1 LW spot left, and the 2nd best faceoff guy on the team who happened to kill penalties also left.

Keep calling our 1st liners "3rd liners" though, it makes your arguments seem more plausible.

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#80 Ogden Brother
August 06 2009, 08:34AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: I think you are giving too much credit to Kotalik for the dismal last quarter of the season. And you keep calling him a 3rd liner despite the fact that he played on the 1st line. If Pisani left i wouldnt care too much. Except he didnt. The guy occupying the 1 LW spot left, and the 2nd best faceoff guy on the team who happened to kill penalties also left. Keep calling our 1st liners “3rd liners” though, it makes your arguments seem more plausible.

You've seen his 5 on 5 numbers. He's a 3rd... maybe even 4th liner 5 on 5 with a high end PP skil (big shot)which we happen to have an abundance of.

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#81 Archaeologuy
August 06 2009, 08:58AM
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@ Ogden Brother: If that makes you feel better.

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#82 Ogden Brother
August 06 2009, 10:11AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: If that makes you feel better.

This is what makes me feel better:

03/04 PPG

With Kotalik: .97 (79 over 82)

Without Kotalik: 1.26 (104 over 82)

O5/06 - played the whole year

06/07

With Kotalik: 1.38 (113 over 82

Without Kotalik: 1.37 (113 over 82)

07/08 - only missed 3 games

08/09 Oilers

With Kotalik: .9 (74 over a season)

Without Kotalik: 1.08 (89 over a season)

08/09 Buff

With Kotalik: 1.11 (91 over season)

Without Kotalik: 1.11 (91 over a season)

So their isn't one example where a team was better with him then without him.

~Quinn has his work cut out for him improving on that 85 point season~

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#83 Samwise
August 06 2009, 12:17PM
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When we're back to arguing about our #2 goaltender, you know it is a slow day in Oilerville...

What is it now... one month to rookie physicals and mini camps?

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#84 oilFan
August 06 2009, 09:44PM
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You tlk like brodz was the best faceoff guy we have ever had. He was not that good I.E being traded. The oilers probably have four centers trying to make the team. I'm sure at least two of those centers could win just as many faceoffs. Brodz give nothing on offense and let's face it, the oilers PK sucked and he was on it. I don't think I have ever seen him give a hit. Kotalik would be a 3rd line guy on any team. I know we are asking a lot for the kids to have break out years. Guess what we have too. I'm a season ticket holder for the last 4 years and last year Rexall was probably the most boring it was ever been. We are the fans going to get into the game and cheer these kids on. We have a new GM, new Coach and getting a new barn what else do you guys need ? Hemmer will help Penner prove who he is. Power forwards always take longer to hit their peak. Willis may be do an article on Power Forwars Neely, Bert ect and check the stats on how long it took them. GO OIL GO playoffs and a magical three way deal (Tambo last year) and a cup in the horizon. Let's go Oilers Let's go Come on guys its our team these think positive for once. Tambo has done every thing he can.

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