With nearly two weeks of free agency on the books, the NHL’s goaltending landscape is starting to take shape for the 2023-24 season. After all the turnover we’ve seen in the net, let’s break down each team’s goaltending situation. In part 2 of this series: the Pacific Division.
Anaheim Ducks: John Gibson and Lukas Dostal
Reason to be happy: After three seasons of quality play in the AHL, Dostal is ready to make his full-time jump to the NHL. The 2018 third-round pick will be 23 at the start of the season, and with 23 NHL games already played, the transition should be smooth.
Reason for hope: Gibson wants to leave Anaheim, and that’s probably a good thing for the franchise. The Ducks haven’t been strong past Gibson, but he shouldn’t get a bye. His body language is poor and his acting has become stale. Dostal looks and plays like a modern goalkeeper, that’s why I’m optimistic about the Czech keeper.
Reason to be nervous: If Anaheim failed to ice a competitive team again, it would put Dostal in a very tough spot. And I think Anaheim still needs a capable No. 3 goaltender. With just four goaltenders under NHL contract at the time of this writing — two of whom are only 21 — depth is a real concern.
Calgary Flames: Jacob Markstrom, Daniel Vladar and Dustin Wolf
Reason to be happy: The Flames have options in net. Markstrom has been there before. Vladar wins matches. And Wolf was the NHL’s best absentee goaltender for two consecutive seasons.
Reason for hope: There’s no way the Flames will send Wolf to the AHL for a third year. He has nothing left to prove in the minors and his cap is incredibly high. Yes, Markstrom is coming off a dwindling 2022-23 campaign. But he bounced back earlier in his career. And Vladar was stable last season.
Reason to be nervous: Chances are one of the three goalies won’t be a Flame to start the season, and Vladar seems like the odd one out. Markstrom has a no-move clause in his contract and Calgary can’t afford to lose a prospect like Wolf. Trading Vladar would be a tough pill to swallow as he was the team’s best goalkeeper last year.
Edmonton Oilers: Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner
Reason to be happy: Skinner established himself as a quality goaltender in the NHL during the 2022-23 season, and he has a friendly contract with the team for the next three years.
Reason for hope: Skinner’s performance in the Stanley Cup playoffs leaves something to be desired, but the experience has been invaluable. He should be better for that. With the Oilers’ firepower, Edmonton just needs a proper goaltender to win the Stanley Cup. By the end of the 2023-24 season, Skinner should be able to provide that.
Reason to be nervous: Campbell did nothing to improve his reputation as an incredibly striated goaltender in the 2022-23 season: there were some very bad moments. What if Skinner plateaued in his development? The goalkeeper is still a big question mark.
Los Angeles Kings: Cam Talbot, Pheonix Copley and David Rittich
Reason to be happy: The Kings, Copley’s postponement aside, have a whole new look in the crease.
Reason for hope: The goalie had become a big deal for Los Angeles until Copley came to the rescue midway through the 2022-23 season. The veteran goaltender was recalled from the AHL and put the Kings square in the running for the Stanley Cup. This season, Copley is paired with Talbot, who has been winning almost everywhere during his ten-year NHL career. David Rittich is also in the mix as insurance.
Reason to be nervous: Talbot’s underlying numbers aren’t great and he’s been hurt enough: a scary combo for a 36-year-old. Copley has only one full NHL season under his belt: 2018-19 with the Washington Capitals. And Rittich is on his fifth NHL team in three years. In the end, the Kings rolled the dice and went cheap between the pipes. Bold move.
San Jose Sharks: Kaapo Kahkonen and Mackenzie Blackwood
Reason to be happy: Turns out the Sharks didn’t need Jacob Middleton anyway.
Reason for hope: Midway through the 2022-23 season, Kahkonen began implementing stylistic changes meant to streamline his game. He tightened his stance and began limiting his time on white ice. And Blackwood has something to prove after the New Jersey Devils let him down.
Reason to be nervous: While the changes should eventually help Kahkonen, they didn’t make much of a difference last year. And Blackwood has a long injury history coupled with erratic performances. It’s hard to believe the Sharks have over $5 million in cap space dedicated to the two guards.
Seattle Kraken: Philipp Grubauer, Joey Daccord and Chris Driedger
Reason to be happy: Grubauer looked like a younger, better version of himself in the latter part of the 2022-23 season, including a strong run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And Daccord led the AHL-affiliated Kraken Coachella Valley Firebirds to Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals.
Reason for hope: See above. The Kraken are having all sorts of good times right now after breaking through the weight in the 2022-23 season. And Grubauer has always done well with a quality team in front of him. I really like Daccord’s trajectory. His two-year deal could end up being a steal at just $1.2 million against the cap per season.
Reason to be nervous: Will the real Philipp Grubauer stand up? The Kraken will need the best version of the German goaltender if they want to get past the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Vancouver Canucks: Thatcher Demko, Artur Silovs and Spencer Martin
Reason to be happy: Demko finished the 2022-23 season very well, winning 10 of his last 16 starts. And Latvian prospect Arturs Silovs is ready to push for the No. 2 role in Vancouver.
Reason for hope: Head coach Rick Tocchet has a history of coaching teams that can play tight defensively, which should help Demko more than anything. And despite a terrible start to the 2022-23 Canucks season, Demko still managed to push his save percentage above .900 by the end of the year. Pretty impressive.
Reason to be nervous: Behind Demko hides a big question mark. Does Silovs take the next step after being named 2023 IIHF World Championship MVP? He was phenomenal for Latvia, earning his native country its first IIHF medal (a bronze medal). But he’s only 22 and has only one full season of AHL hockey under his belt. Martin is still in the running, but last season didn’t go well for him in Vancouver. The Canucks have a lot of uncertainty, goalie included.
Vegas Golden Knights: Adin Hill and Logan Thompson
Reason to be happy: Vegas just won the Stanley Cup with Hill. And Thompson was an All-Star for the Golden Knights before injuries derailed his rookie season.
Reason for hope: The more often Hill played, the better he was. And once he got back into the fold in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he took another step forward in his young NHL career. Thompson, who at one point looked like the surefire goaltender of the future for Vegas, forms a very strong pair with Hill. Especially under head coach Bruce Cassidy’s lockdown defensive system.
Reason to be nervous: Hill has never played more than 27 games in an NHL season. Can he carry the mail? How will Thompson react after an injury and facing less playing time than last year? Both goalkeepers are talented. But both were injured for a significant part of the 2022-23 season. I think depth is a concern for the Golden Knights.
Previous entries of Musical Goalie Chairs
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