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NHL Free Agency: Top goaltenders to watch

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

There aren't a ton of options for Ryan Miller and other goalies. (Getty Images)
There aren't a ton of options for Ryan Miller and other goalies. (Getty Images)

More NHL Offseason: NHL rumors | Rumor mill | Trade Tracker | 2014-15 preseason odds

Like some goaltenders themselves, the goalie free-agent market can sure be a fickle beast. It's to the point that the market barely even exists in today's NHL with franchise goalies being inked to long deals all across the league.

There aren't any teams in the market for a starting goaltender. Sure, there are a few that could perhaps stand to go with a different No. 1 but right now every team has one, leaving some former all-stars and one of the game's most decorated players with dwindling options for next season.

Even the backup market has thinned considerably. There are teams who will need a second goaltender, which is about the most free-agent goalies can ask for. But in recent years, especially last season after the lockout, we saw a pretty popular trend across the league; cheap, inexperienced backups. Guys like Chad Johnson, Cam Talbot, Alex Stalock and Jeff Zatkoff among others were thrust into those roles and did very well, perhaps giving teams incentive to keep on the cheap.

None of that bodes very well for goaltenders looking for new contracts.

There are a couple of big chips -- in name as much as anything else at this point -- that will fall into place this summer among goalies and there truly are some decent options available, but given the nature of the market, goalies will almost feel like an afterthought. Still, here are the intriguing names available (plus some).

Players are in order of highest previous salary cap hit (via Cap Geek).

Top goaltenders
Ryan Miller
StatsBreakdownPossible fits
Age: 33 (34 on July 17)
Last cap hit: $6.25M
2013-14 record: 25-30-4
Save Percentage: .918
GAA: 2.64
The top goalie this summer, Miller is fresh off an up-and-down season between Buffalo and St. Louis. Still, he's the only true No. 1. He was expensive on his past deal but should see a decrease and while he's getting up there in age, he still has plenty to offer.For Miller's services, there are few fits. What teams need a No. 1 goalie? The only one that seems to be a legit possibility are the Canucks, who he reportedly visited with this week. If it doesn't work out there you have to wonder where it could; Winnipeg?
Martin Brodeur
StatsBreakdownPossible fits
Age: 42 (43 next May)
Last cap hit: $4.5M
2013-14 record: 19-14-6
Save Percentage: .901
GAA: 2.51
It's still hard to believe but Martin Brodeur is moving on from New Jersey. He is far removed from his best days and though he wants a good role with a contender, that's not going to be available. Even with a bad last few seasons, his name will attract.Brodeur's not going to be able to fulfill his wish list so he'll have to look at smaller roles. Already there is rumored interest with the Leafs, Penguins and Blackhawks, though we'll wait to see on some of those.
Jonas Hiller
StatsBreakdownPossible fits
Age: 32 (33 next Feb.)
Last cap hit: $4.5M
2013-14 record: 29-13-7
Save Percentage: .911
GAA: 2.48
Hiller had a rough second half to the season in Anaheim, losing his job a couple of times to rookies and admitting his confidence was shaken. All in all his season didn't look bad but it ended horribly and the Ducks just let him walk. At this point he's a risk.Like Miller, there are few places that seem to be fits for Hiller right now, especially if he's hoping to have a chance at being a No. 1. If Miller doesn't fit with the Canucks, perhaps they will take a look at the Swiss goalie.
Tomas Vokoun
StatsBreakdownPossible fits
Age: 37 (38 on July 2)
Last cap hit: $2M
2012-13 record: 13-4-0
Save Percentage: .919
GAA: 2.45
Don't forget about Vokoun, who has expressed interest in playing another season after sitting out all of 2013-14 with a blood clot issue. There's a risk with how he will look following a year off at his age but he has quite the track recordWho knows how much of a market there will be but if he's back to the form he had when last playing, he's a heck of a safety blanket. Could he possibly return to the Capitals to backup Braden Holtby again? It's one idea.
Thomas Greiss
StatsBreakdownPossible fits
Age: 28 (29 next Jan.)
Last cap hit: $750K
2013-14 record: 10-8-5
Save Percentage: .920
GAA: 2.29
Greiss is coming off his most extensive work in the NHL as a backup and proved to be adept behind Mike Smith in Arizona. He's an interesting play as a cheap No. 2 who shouldn't command a bigger role.As you would expect given his solid season as a backup, there is reportedly lots of interest in Greiss as a reported eight teams have reached out to the German goaltender and his camp.
Al Montoya
StatsBreakdownPossible fits
Age: 29 (30 next Feb.)
Last cap hit: $601K
2013-14 record: 13-8-3
Save Percentage: .920
GAA: 2.30
One of the more experienced backups, Montoya finished up a solid second season in Winnipeg, outperforming Ondrej Pavelec in the stats department. He's another backup worth taking a flyer on for many teams in the market.Don't close the door on the Jets yet but a deal doesn't seem to be close and reportedly there has been no shortage of interest in Montoya across the league, presumably from the same group of teams interested in the other goalies here.
Chad Johnson
StatsBreakdownPossible fits
Age: 28 (29 next June)
Last cap hit: $600K
2013-14 record: 17-4-3
Save Percentage: .925
GAA: 2.10
Of the backups, it was Johnson that had the best numbers of all. He had the benefit of playing behind the Bruins but still paid off for the B's in their gamble on the inexperienced Johnson. It should be enough to earn him a spot somewhere.With Peters and Greiss, Johnson should be atop the lists for backup goalies across the league. One possible fit is an old franchise of his, the Coyotes, as are a number of teams looking for backups.
Justin Peters
StatsBreakdownPossible fits
Age: 27 (28 in Aug.)
Last cap hit: $537,500
2013-14 record: 7-9-4
Save Percentage: .919
GAA: 2.50
Peters has been waiting in Carolina but his true shot hasn't come with Cam Ward and now Anton Khudobin. He performed well this past season but Carolina has no room for him in the NHL, where he should be. What's missing for him is consistency.Another strong contender in the backup market, there seems to be a good amount of interest in Peters, too. One team he's already been linked to is the Islanders, one of a few teams according to his agent.

If none of those goalies strike your fancy, there are other options available, too. There won't be room for everybody to find a job in the NHL next season.

Evgeni Nabokov, 38: 15-14-8, .905 Sv%, 2.74 GAA

Tim Thomas, 40: 18-24-4, .908 Sv%, 2.88 GAA

Anders Lindback, 26: 8-12-2, .891 Sv%, 2.90 GAA

Ray Emery, 31: 9-12-2, .903 Sv%, 2.96 GAA

Ilya Bryzgalov, 34: 12-9-8, .909 Sv%, 2.68 GAA

Devan Dubnyk, 28: 11-18-3, .891 Sv%, 3.43 GAA

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