Free agent goalies: Campbell to Oilers, Capitals get Kuemper, more
With names like Ville Husso and Marc-Andre Fleury being kept from the 2022 NHL Free Agency goalie market, it’s no surprise that a lot of goalies are getting signed right off the bat on Wednesday. Let’s review some of the most prominent free agent goalie signings, including Jack Campbell to the Oilers and Darcy Kuemper with the Capitals.
Oilers sign Jack Campbell: five years, $5M cap hit
Personally, I would’ve preferred that the Oilers try to stay spry. Focus on bargains and values, while keeping yourself flexible in case your moves don’t work out. Instead, the Oilers are making some considerable bets on veteran players, especially from a term perspective.
Maybe these moves will work out, maybe not.
Late on Tuesday/early on Wednesday, the Oilers signed Evander Kane after all, handing a player with a long list of “controversies and legal issues” a four-year contract with a $5.125 million cap hit.
Like Kane, Jack Campbell is 30 years old. That’s part of the equation in assessing if the Oilers made the right call in handing Jack Campbell a five-year contract with a $5M cap hit.
On one hand, it’s promising that Campbell sports a .916 save percentage, and generated 17.7 Goals Saved Above Average throughout his career. He’s also a widely beloved teammate, something you uh couldn’t always say about Evander Kane.
For a 30-year-old goalie, his resume isn’t that large, though. Campbell’s only played 135 regular-season games in the NHL. Last season was his closest to being a borderline No. 1 goalie, as he appeared in 39 contests. Otherwise, he’s played 31 games or less (sometimes far less).
So, basically, there’s a mix of good and bad with Campbell, so we’ll see if the Oilers are glad they made a significant investment (again, especially in term).
Jack Campbell, signed 5x$5M by EDM, is an inconsistent starting goaltender who Is prone to fits of brilliance followed by, well, not that. Started 21-22 looking like a Vézina winner and ended it looking like an AHLer. Hot take, but I think his skill lies somewhere in between. pic.twitter.com/lBRuH8H5hn— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 13, 2022
Capitals end offseason goalie shuffling with Darcy Kuemper signing
If you were to spotlight an issue for the Capitals in 2021-22 (besides Father Time knocking on the door), it would be goaltending. Time will tell if the Capitals actually improved enough to justify their spending, but you can’t accuse them of sitting idly by.
After trading Vitek Vanecek and letting Ilya Samsonov (more on him soon) walk, the Capitals signed the big goalie free agent fish in Darcy Kuemper. The Capitals signed Darcy Kuemper to a five-year contract with a $5.25 million cap hit.
When it comes to judging Kuemper, it’s an especially interesting case.
It’s a misconception that Kuemper and Pavel Francouz failed to give the Avalanche quality goaltending all season long. Instead, Kuemper was fantastic during the regular season. His recent track record is very, very promising.
Over the last 5 seasons there have been 48 individual G seasons of 1500+ minutes/.920+ Sv%; Kuemper has 4 of those, more than anyone else (including Vas's 3). He's 4th in Sv% over that span, behind Shesterkin, Sorokin and Bishop (and he's played more than S&S combined).— Japers’ Rink (@JapersRink) July 13, 2022
Things just got rocky in the playoffs, especially after a scary eye injury.
Really, a detail like this would make me slightly concerned. What if Kuemper can’t track the puck at the level he once did?
During the Stanley Cup playoffs, Bednar says Darcy Kuemper had to go to optometrist 2-3 times a day to "re-train his eye".— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) June 29, 2022
Val - broken foot
Burky - broken foot/thumb
Kadri - broken thump
Girard - broken sternum
Helm - abnomimal tear@Avalanche @AltitudeSR 92.5
Later on, the Capitals made another reasonably promising bet in Charlie Lindgren. Naturally, the NHL sample size is small, but it could pay off nicely since they signed him for a few years at a small clip:
Maple Leafs complete free agent goalie moves by adding Samsonov
After trading Petr Mrazek and letting Jack Campbell walk in free agency, the Maple Leafs enter 2022-23 with a goalie tandem of Matt Murray and Ilya Samsonov.
Following salary retention, Murray carries about a $4.688 million cap hit for the next two seasons. The Maple Leafs made an interesting short-term bet on Samsonov, 25, at $1.8M for 2022-23. From there, he could become a restricted free agents, and would have salary arbitration rights.
If you want, a subset of Maple Leafs fans will give you a full-bodied defense of the Matt Murray trade somewhere on social media. Personally, it still seems like a very, very dicey bet.
[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]
One of the (not especially convincing) arguments to getting Murray is that goaltending is unpredictable. It is, but wouldn’t that approach lead you to spending less in salary cap space, not well over $4.5M?
Instead, the Maple Leafs signing Samsonov adheres closer to that (defeatist and/or pragmatic?) logic. If Samsonov struggles again, it’s not a huge investment. If they find something, he’s young and cheap for at least one season. It’s a bet on potential and maybe lowered expectations.
Other NHL free agent goalie moves
Let’s run down other free agent goalie moves of note:
- Decent speculative goalie bet by the Sabres in Eric Comrie: two years, $1.8M cap hit.
- How healthy is Jaroslav Halak at this point in his career? If the answer is “reasonably,” then this is a savvy move by the Rangers.
- The Blues signing Thomas Greiss sure is a choice.
- There were quite a few goalies signed who could be third netminders (Dustin Tokarski with the Penguins) or backups on very bad teams (Alex Stalock for the Blackhawks). Honestly, if Stalock is healthy enough to play, that would be pleasant in itself.