Last week, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said that acquiring an experienced goaltender to back up incumbent starter Braden Holtby was among his offseason priorities.
The Capitals are one of nine teams with potential goaltending openings throughout the NHL as free agency begins next Tuesday (with the five-day interview period beginning Wednesday).
This summer's available goaltenders range from established starters looking for another opportunity to do so (Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller) to serviceable backups (Justin Peters, Ray Emery, Al Montoya). Below are four options that are among the best suited for the role that MacLellan is looking to fill.
Johnson played behind Vezina Trophy finalist Tuukka Rask last season, but had an incredibly impressive season despite limited work. The 28-year-old had a .934 save percentage at even strength last season, second-best among free-agent goaltenders with at least 21 games played.
With Boston signing prospect Niklas Svedberg to a one-year contract Monday, Johnson confirmed that he will not return to the Bruins. Granted, Johnson will not receive the same help defensively as he did in Boston, but his addition to the Capitals' rotation certainly would not hurt.
Among goaltenders with at least 2,000 minutes played since the 2011-12 season, Greiss's .933 even-strength save percentage is second only to Rask's (via Japers' Rink). His .938 even-strength save percentage last season was the best among free-agents-to-be as well.
Greiss, who has 69 games of NHL experience spread over five seasons, likely has no delusions of grandeur when it comes to his role. The German is an effective goaltender when called upon, which is all a team can ask for from a backup.
The 37-year-old former Capitals goaltender is "100 percent committed" to playing in the NHL next season after missing all of last season with debilitating blood clots. In his last game action, Vokoun appeared in 11 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, finishing with a 2.01 goals against average and .933 save percentage.
A return to Washington would make sense for a healthy Vokoun, who would be reunited with coach Barry Trotz and goaltending coach Mitch Korn. Vokoun played under Trotz and Korn for eight seasons with the Nashville Predators.
Unlike the others, Budaj is not a pending free agent. Yet it seems unlikely that he will return to Montreal next season after the emergence of Dustin Tokarski, who filled in for an injured Carey Price admirably during the Eastern Conference final.
The 31-year-old almost perfectly fits the profile of the kind of goaltender that the Capitals are seeking: an experienced hand who has accepted his role as a backup and can spell Holtby for 25-30 games. With the trade market expected to be active in the coming weeks, Washington could probably wrangle Budaj from Montreal without parting with significant assets.
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