Best of The Rest: Free Agent Goaltenders

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.

  • lj

    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).

  • lj

    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.

  • lj

    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….

  • lj

    @ 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.

  • lj

    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.

  • lj

    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~

  • lj

    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.