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.