Commentary

A look at the top free-agent goaltenders

Updated: June 27, 2008, 12:27 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

This summer represents a conundrum for NHL GMs because the free-agent talent pool, compared to the past two summers, is thin -- especially in net. Still, some veteran netminders are out there for the taking.

Here's a look at the top goaltenders who could be available July 1:

Cristobal Huet
Teams looking for top-notch goaltending help on the market are going to find the cupboard all but bare. Thus, Huet might end up resisting efforts from Washington to get him under contract in order to see just what kind of payday might await him. It's a risky move for both the Caps and Huet. It's hard to imagine a better place for a goaltender than with an emerging Washington team that looks like it could quickly become a Cup contender. True, coach Bruce Boudreau's style puts a lot of pressure on a netminder, but that's half the fun, isn't it? Huet played well for Washington after coming over at the trade deadline, posting an 11-2 record with a 1.63 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. He struggled somewhat in the playoffs, but remains the Caps' best option heading into next season. Los Angeles, Huet's former team back in the day, needs a front-line goalie; Tampa Bay may or may not have solved its long-standing goaltending woes by acquiring Mike Smith from Dallas at the deadline as part of the Brad Richards trade.

Jose Theodore
Colorado GM Francois Giguere is in the same boat as his counterpart in Washington, George McPhee: He faces the prospect of losing his starting netminder and having little to turn to for Plan B. During the second half of last season, Theodore rediscovered some of the magic that made him a Hart and Vezina Trophy winner with Montreal back in 2002. He was sensational in the Avs' first-round upset of Northwest Division winner Minnesota, but he may have hurt his market value with a tepid performance against Detroit in the West semifinals. The Avs would love to have Theodore back, given that Peter Budaj apparently is unready to be a starter and there are few options outside Huet on the market. Depending on circumstances, Washington could be interested, and there are questions about Martin Gerber in Ottawa and whether he's got the goods to lead the Senators deep into the playoffs.

Patrick Lalime
Lalime probably doesn't have enough left in the tank to warrant a starter's job, but he did turn in some nice work in relief of Nikolai Khabibulin last season in Chicago. Would the Sens return to Lalime, who was once their goalie of the future? He might be a nice mentor for young Carey Price in Montreal if the Canadiens choose to go with a veteran backup (which is what GM Bob Gainey should have done last season heading into the playoffs instead of relying entirely on Price and Jaroslav Halak, who had no NHL playoff experience).

Ray Emery
Speaking of former Ottawa netminders … someone will likely take a chance on Emery, who in the spring of 2007 took the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup finals, but was recently bought out of his contract because he had become a pariah. If you're GM Dean Lombardi in Los Angeles, why not take a chance that Emery can get his life together? Colorado had good luck rehabilitating Theodore; if Theodore leaves, maybe Emery could pick up the pieces there. Detroit, too, will be looking for help for Chris Osgood, and Emery will be relatively cheap given his battered reputation.

Olaf Kolzig
The face of the Washington Capitals for many years is now looking for somewhere else to close out a stellar career because he lost his starting job to Huet after the trade deadline. He'd be a nice complement to Price in Montreal. Detroit will likely also take a look.

Ty Conklin
In many ways, Conklin helped save the Pittsburgh Penguins' season when starter Marc-Andre Fleury went down with a high-ankle sprain and then captain Sidney Crosby missed time with a similar injury. Conklin was sensational and kept the Penguins near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. He didn't play in the playoffs, but he's been a positive, calming influence in the dressing room. If he can't re-up in Pittsburgh, Detroit would be a nice landing spot.

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.

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