Although the Buffalo Sabres are not in the market for a goaltender when the NHL free agency period opens on July 1, let’s take a look at some of the top netminding talent that may be available next month.
- POSITION: Goaltender
- # OF PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT WITH SABRES: Four
- PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT: Jhonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth, Nathan Lieuwen, Andrey Makarov
- IMPENDING SABRES UFAs: none
- IMPENDING SABRES RFAs: Matt Hackett, Connor Knapp
Enroth and Neuvirth are likely locked in as the Sabres’ goaltending duo next season. Lieuwen certainly proved himself worthy of a solid spot last season and may end up being the starter down in Rochester. Makarov, who spent most of last season in the ECHL, may have earned himself a solid spot in the AHL this coming year. Other than that — well, that’s about it. Hackett and Knapp are both set to become RFAs. Knapp, if re-signed, may shuffle between the AHL and ECHL. Hackett isn’t such a clear picture; while he was the starter down in Rochester for a while, he found himself competing hard for that job at the end of the year. It’s possible that he may wind up elsewhere when October rolls around.
Even though the Sabres probably aren’t looking for any big-name free agent goaltenders this offseason, let’s give it a whirl anyways.
- Chad Johnson, 28, is the youngest player on this list. Johnson has jumped around a bit in the past few years, eventually landing with the Boston Bruins this season. He’s originally a 2006 5th-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but never played a game with that organization. Since 2009, Johnson has played for the New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes and the Bruins, as well as the AHL affiliates of the Rangers and Pirates. This past season, he played 27 games with Boston, accruing a 2.10 GAA and a .925 save percentage. Johnson won 17 of the games he played this year, allowing 53 goals-against on 655 shots faced.Overall, the Saskatoon native has 37 games of NHL experience — all in the regular season.
- Jonas Hiller is one goaltender who will definitely be hitting the free agent market on July 1. The Anaheim Ducks announced on June 19 that they weren’t going to be making an offer to the 32-year-old, making him a UFA in just over a week’s time. Hiller has spent his entire NHL career up until this point with the Ducks organization and has been with the team since 2007. Since then, he’s played in 326 regular season games, winning 162 of those. He has a career .916 save percentage and 2.51 GAA in over 18,000 minutes played. Hiller has limited playoff experience, accruing a .932 save percentage and 2.29 GAA in 26 career playoff games. This season, he won 29 games, had a .911 save percentage and a 2.48 GAA in the regular season. He formerly played for HC Davos of the Swiss league and also represented Switzerland in the 2010 Olympics.
- Martin Brodeur, at 42, is one of the older players on the spectrum. He’ll be entering his 22nd NHL season in the fall, having spent all of his career with the New Jersey Devils. The Montreal native was originally drafted by the Devils 20th overall in 1990. His age may be a factor in any team’s decision to sign or not sign him, but Brodeur is a seasoned veteran who may have one more season left under his belt. He’s won the Vezina Trophy four times and the William M. Jennings Trophy five times in his career and claims that this coming season may be his last in the NHL. He also has three Stanley Cup Championships (1995, 2000 and 2003), nine All-Star games and plenty of NHL records.
- Drew MacIntyre, 30, is a name that should sound plenty familiar to Sabres fans. MacIntyre, of course, used to be a part of the Sabres organization. He played two games with Buffalo in the 2011-12 season and spent 23 games that year with the AHL’s Rochester Americans. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t a spot for him in the Sabres organization, so he moved on. Since 2012, MacIntyre has been with the Maple Leafs organization. He’s spent most of his time in the AHL, this season appearing in 48 regular season games with the Marlies, and has been spectacular while doing so. In the playoffs, MacIntyre often faced 40-plus shots every night and backstopped the Marlies to victory after victory. The team was eliminated by the eventual Calder Cup Champions Texas Stars. He also played two NHL games with the Leafs this season. MacIntyre had a .917 save percentage and 2.53 GAA in the regular season. He’s seen his fair share of organizations, from Toronto to Buffalo, Grand Rapids, Vancouver, Hamilton, etc. He could end up right back in Toronto next season, if the Leafs organization is smart enough to keep him.
- Ilya Bryzgalov, 33, is perhaps the most personality-driven individual on this list. Known for his interviews, the Russian netminder may be looking for a new home in October. Bryzgalov split this season between the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild after spending last season with the Philadelphia Flyers. He’s also played for Anaheim and Phoenix — could some time in New York bring him luck? Personally, I’m not sure I could justify having Bryzgalov on the Sabres, but I’d love to think what a personality such as his could bring to the locker room. Bryzgalov began this season without a contract, eventually coming to terms with the Edmonton Oilers. He had a .908 save percentage and 3.01 GAA in 20 games with the Oilers before bieng traded to the Wild in exchange for a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft. There, he had a .911 save percentage and 2.12 GAA in 12 regular season games. He also played in nine playoff games with the Wild.
Since the Sabres don’t exactly have an opening for a goaltender right now, there’s no poll for this one — but if there WAS an opening, who would you want to see the Sabres bring in for a netminder? Let us know in the comments – and I’ll await the barrage of commenters who want Ryan Miller back in Buffalo.