- Scott Burnside, NHL
- 0 Shares
The top free-agent goalies and where they might go after the market opens July 1:
If there were any doubts about the mercurial Belfour's ability to still play at the NHL level at age 41, they were dispelled by his often-sensational play with the Panthers, who fell just short in a late-season bid to make the playoffs.
Burnside's top free agents
With free agency opening up on Sunday, ESPN.com's Scott Burnside previews the top players that will likely hit the market.
The Panthers acquired Tomas Vokoun from Nashville the day before the NHL draft, which all but ends Belfour's one-year run in Florida. The problem for the future Hall of Famer is that his 27-17-10 record will be balanced by GMs against his propensity for manic behavior. He refused to talk to local reporters for weeks at a time in South Florida and was arrested after an early-morning altercation at a South Florida bar after the season ended.
It wasn't the first such tilt for Belfour. If Tampa Bay could get rid of the Marc Denis millstone, we'd love to see Belfour playing for John Tortorella. Belfour has a relationship with Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky in Phoenix, but it's hard to imagine he'd be enough of an upgrade over Curtis Joseph to warrant a shot there. Los Angeles needs someone, but since the Kings are unlikely to challenge for a playoff berth, it's hard to imagine that being attractive to Belfour.
At one point, it looked like the popular former Toronto Maple Leaf, who lives just north of the city, might be a good fit as a backup to Andrew Raycroft in Toronto. But that went out the window with the Leafs' acquisition of Vesa Toskala from San Jose during draft weekend. Joseph is fifth all-time in wins and trails Terry Sawchuk by one win for fourth overall. The 40-year-old Joseph is the perfect tutor/mentor for a young netminder, and if Pittsburgh doesn't re-sign Jocelyn Thibault, Joseph would be a nice fit behind Marc-Andre Fleury. If Anaheim moved Ilya Bryzgalov, there might be an opening in Anaheim behind Jean-Sebastien Giguere. At some point, New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello will have to find a backup for Martin Brodeur, and in the absence of a viable in-house No. 2, Joseph could fit the bill there.
The Swiss-born Aebischer has failed to nab the starting assignment in either Colorado or Montreal despite opportunities in both markets. Now, the 29-year-old has joined a long list of B-grade goalies who will be hoping to catch on with a team as a backup or a tandem situation at the very best. Among the teams looking for a No. 1 goalie to present himself: Phoenix, Boston and Los Angeles.
Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.
13hESPN Stats & Information