One of the things most talked about in the hockey world as we approach the draft and free agency is the game of musical chairs that awaits many of the league’s goaltenders. Braden Holtby, Robin Lehner, Jacob Markstrom, Anton Khudobin, Cam Talbot, the list of goalies headed to unrestricted free agency is almost endless. Trade rumors about many more have surfaced, with Frederik Andersen, Matt Murray, James Reimer, and Marc-Andre Fleury all potentially on the market.
In Fleury’s case specifically, the veteran goaltender has expressed a desire to remain with the Vegas Golden Knights even if Lehner is re-signed. Speaking to Jesse Granger of The Athletic, Fleury made it clear that he is not asking for a trade, even if he has seemingly lost the starting role. Vegas means a lot to him and Fleury has meant a lot to the Golden Knights in their first three years of existence. It’s just that his salary makes him an exceedingly expensive option as a backup goaltender.
Fleury’s $7MM cap hit may be too rich for the Golden Knights to keep around as a backup, but make no mistake there will be an increased emphasis on the goaltending position this offseason. Even those teams with outstanding starters will be looking for legitimate backup options as we head towards the condensed 2020-21 season. It may not even end up needing the “2020” part, given the regular season is now not expected to start until January.
If that’s the case and the league continues to remain steadfast on playing the full 82-game schedule, next season will be extremely difficult on starting goaltenders. Back-to-back situations will come up much more frequently, with three-in-four-nights often also becoming the norm. Even the league’s most durable goaltenders won’t be able to play the same number of games that they’re used to, meaning a capable backup will be more valuable than ever.