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Breaking Down Buyers and Sellers in the Suddenly Hot NHL Goalie Market



Calgary Flames

Dec. 28 has come and gone, and the NHL Trade Freeze has been officially lifted. With the year 2024 getting on its feet and the NHL season closing in on the halfway mark, we’re beginning to see the ground shifting in the goalie market.  

With business back up and running, the rumor mill also has turned its lights back on and unlocked its doors to professionals and armchair GMs alike. Elliotte Friedman pointed out a shift in the goaltending market during a Dec. 29 episode of 32 Thoughts: The Podcast. 

“The goalie market is hot. Everybody knows who’s got goalies and everybody knows who’s available. And there’s a lot of teams looking.” 

A hot goalie market means several things. For an organization such as the Calgary Flames – General Manager Craig Conroy may be excited about the potential for a better return for one of his goalies. The rookie GM has had an awkward netminder triangle this season between Jacob Markstrom, Daniel Vladar, and blue-chip puck-saving prospect Dustin Wolf.  

Despite Wolf winning his second consecutive Baz Bastien Award for best goaltender in the AHL and his first Les Cunningham Award for AHL MVP last season, the 22-year-old hasn’t managed to steal a spot on the big team.

His record in the AHL through 19 games this season stands at 13-5-1, with three wins being shutouts. He sports a .924 save percentage and a 2.50 goals against average. In four NHL starts, the 6-foot-0 netminder has a 1-2-1 record, a .897 Sv%, and a 2.80 goals against average.

Wolf also served as relief goaltender during the second period of a Dec. 5, 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild and saved 11 of 13. Daniel Vladar had been given the rest of the night off after allowing two quick goals within 45 seconds of each other.  

Blemishes exist in the 2020 seventh-round pick’s game at the NHL level, for example, a troubling .625 save percentage at 5v5 on high-danger shots. It’s also important to note that a smaller sample size can lead to extremes in percentage statistics.  

The schedule also plays a factor. Wolf’s first start this season came at the tail end of a back-to-back (vs. Ottawa) where the team in front of him (with the exception of Blake Coleman and Martin Pospisil) didn’t do much to help him out on either end of the ice.  

Meanwhile, Jacob Markstrom and Daniel Vladar have held their own this season. Discounting a miserable October for all parties involved, Markstrom is 9-5-1 and has a .910 save percentage and a 2.54 GAA. Using the same parameters, Vladar is 4-3-2, .895 and 3.14. Not perfect – but par for the course for a team struggling to climb past a .500 points percentage. 

So exists a goaltending surplus in Calgary. Conroy can find somewhere where Daniel Vladar can transition to number one on a depth chart, and the Flames can pick up an asset or two on the way. Win-win – just the way Craig likes his trades. 

We also have a scorching-hot goalie market that may pony up for a quality goaltender, whereas during the summer, there wasn’t much hope for a significant return.  

For example, MacKenzie Blackwood had such similar stats to Vladar last season that he used Vladar’s two-year, $4,400,000 contract as an industry comparable and received a two-year, $4,700,000 deal.

Sharks GM Mike Grier only had to pony up a 6th-round pick to acquire the 27-year-old from the Devils.   

Alright, where is this demand suddenly coming from on the goalie market?

Elliotte Friedman claims, “Everybody knows who’s got goalies and everybody knows who’s available.” but does the public? Let’s look at who is potentially buying and selling in what appears to be a unique goalie market in 2024. 

The 2024 Goalie Market

Potential Buyers

Ottawa Senators  

Expectations were sky-high for Jonas Korpisalo after signing a five-year, $20,000,000 deal last summer as a UFA. The now 29-year-old Finn was coming off a career season where he proved he can keep a bad Columbus team at .500 (11-11-3, .913) and make a good team better in LA (7-3-1, .921). 

This season hasn’t been great for Korpisalo or the Senators. A respectable 5-5-0 in the first two months has spiraled into 7-12-0 after a brutal 2-7-0 December. Backup Anton Forsberg held his ground last month, going 3-2-0 with a .903 save percentage, but with the long-term solution looking more like a long-term problem, Ottawa may need to add one more spin to the goaltending carousel before it’s all said and done.  

Joonas Korpisalo

Since Nov. 24, the Senators rank second last in team defence (3.83 goals against per game) and second last in points ahead of only San Jose. While a dominant goaltending addition won’t solve the majority of the group’s on-ice issues, it may provide the stability needed to get the team moving in the right direction. 

Detroit Red Wings  

The Red Wings are a watered-down Ottawa Senators when it comes to mid-season struggles. They, too, are having issues keeping the puck out of their net. A team defence of 4.27 goals against per game in December has Detroit progressively sliding away from the playoff picture.

Ville Husso is injured and was 2-1-1, .893 in December before leaving the lineup. James Reimer is .862 and 1-4-0 on the month. Alex Lyon just returned to the rotation after missing two weeks and has two wins under his belt. With the prospect of Lyon’s upper-body injury returning to plant the kiss of death on Detroit’s season, how safe does Steve Yzerman feel with this current goaltending platoon? 

Toronto Maple Leafs 

Former Calgary Hitmen goaltender Martin Jones is better than he gets credit for. A .926 save percentage and 2.37 goals against average through nine appearances this season lends merit to that notion. Two shutouts in those nine games is impressive as well.   

The only issue with Jones in Toronto is that Toronto is Toronto. The market eats up promising goalies. While the media squabbles over who next gets to dunk on Ilya Samsonov’s dwindling sense of belonging, Jones will likely continue to quietly hold his own.  

Any stumble or slow streak and the 33-year-old veteran will have his nerve subjected to the ultimate test for goaltenders at the NHL level. Even when he’s doing everything right, you can find narratives such as that his prime ended five years ago or that he’s not able to steal a win.   

Brad Treliving has spent more than enough time trying out stopgap solutions in net during his tenure in Calgary. What are the odds that he will do something bold to end that cycle?

Edmonton Oilers   

Speaking of media circuses, Stuart Skinner has finally navigated his way out of one – for now. The Oilers are 7-3-0 in their last ten, McDavid is back to being a human cheat code, and Skinner has put four games of separation from a .773 loss to Tampa, where the media went off about how the loss was his fault. Stuart admitted that as well – but lost somewhere is that the team in front of him didn’t do much to help him.   

Edmonton has a very Flavor of the Week media market. All it takes is a rough stretch for the media and, eventually, the organization to start questioning your place on the team. Currently, Evander Kane, despite being on pace for a career-high in goals and assists, is having a “concerning season.” It wouldn’t be an Oilers analytics piece without the obligatory shot at Connor Brown.

All of that said, Skinner looked good in December. With Jack Campbell now passed by Oliver Rodrigue on the depth chart, Edmonton may refer to O-Rod if Skinner should fall out of fortune again. It’s also possible that the Oilers make a move for someone with more NHL experience on the goalie market. Say, Jusse Saros.

LA Kings 

On paper, LA appears to have a good thing going in net. Cam Talbot has a sparkling 14-8-3 record, a .925 save percentage, and a 2.10 goals against average over 25 appearances in 2023-2024. Backup Pheonix Copley is injured, but David Rittich appears to be having a renaissance season, going 2-0-0 with the Kings after a game-finding journey in the AHL.  

The only question is whether Rittich can keep it going. Fans in Calgary will remember two eras of David Rittich. Pre-Stick Flip and Post-Stick Flip. 

The flipped stick was a celebration following beating the Oilers in a shootout on Jan. 30, 2020. Including that night, Rittich had a 55-27-13 record with the Flames. He had a .910 save percentage and a 2.73 goals against average over 104 appearances.  

Whether it was injury, confidence, or both, Rittich’s game fell off after that night. 8-12-2 in 22 more starts with the Flames and 24-24-8 total since that night.  

How confident is Kings management that Former Flames David Rittich and Cam Talbot are the tandem that will get them past Edmonton this postseason? Friedman has since reported that the Kings are in the market for a goalie.  

New Jersey 

The Devils don’t seem to know what their plan is regarding their netminding personnel. Akira Schmid played the hero in the last playoffs but has been demoted after sporting a tough stat line of 2-3-0, .874, and a 3.62 GAA. Nico Daws put up a strong performance against Ottawa on Dec. 29, his only start of the season. Then again, who hasn’t put up a strong performance against the Senators lately?   

Despite playing the most this season, it appears the Devils are least confident in Vitek Vanacek.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in Jersey, but importing a veteran has been a circulating rumor this season.  

Potential Sellers 

Calgary Flames 

While the conditions may be approaching “ideal” to make a trade, Friedman lists Calgary as “not yet.” Whether that is a negotiating tactic by Craig Conroy or the organization wants to take one last kick at the can in terms of a playoff push is uncertain. Calgary is 4-2-0 since Markstrom’s return from a fractured finger on Dec. 18. 

Nashville Predators 

A Nov. 9, 32 Thoughts column from Elliotte Friedman entertained the notion that All Star goaltender Jusse Saros may be available for the right price:

“Watching Juuse Saros almost single-handedly beat the Flames on Tuesday reminds that he’s the true prize, but in addition to any return, it might cost the team an 18-wheeler full of Alberta crude and media-meal perogies.”  

With 11th overall pick in 2020, Jaroslav Askarov, pushing hard for minutes in Nashville, the Preds can afford to make a move without being affected too seriously in the win column. 

Montreal Canadiens 

Marc Dumont of Montreal Hockey Now did a fantastic job breaking down Montreal’s in the goaltender market this season. Suffice it to say that it’s a little complicated.

Anaheim Ducks 

John Gibson must have spent at least five of nine years over his NHL career hearing chatter of being sent off to the highest bidder. Three and a half more seasons at $6,400,000 per remains an obstacle for potential suitors, but established starters able to produce consistent results don’t grow on trees.  

Will John Gibson find his way off of the NHL goalie market this season?

Alex Stalock, who managed to post a .908 save percentage last season on the last-place Chicago Blackhawks, holds down the starter position in AHL San Diego and could fill in as a veteran presence for Lukas Dostal if Gibson were to be traded mid-season.  

Chicago Blackhawks  

Much like Alex Stalock in 2022-2023, Petr Mrázek has managed to maintain a solid save percentage despite playing for a basement team. .904 certainly looks better than his goals against average of 3.24. 

Mrazek will likely depart the organization as a UFA this summer, and given Kyle Davidson’s fervent acquisition of draft picks, it would be no surprise to see Mrázek and his $3,800,000 annual cap hit being a commonly discussed name within the NHL goalie market.  

San Jose Sharks 

With Kaapo Kähkönen an unrestricted free agent next July and Mackenzie Blackwood a UFA the summer after that, Sharks General Manager Mike Grier would be wise to recoup assets from the two 27-year-olds. The two have undoubtedly been subjected to baptism by fire this season, playing on the worst defensive team in the NHL. For the sake of their respective stat lines, surely either would embrace a change of scenery. 

Kähkönen, in particular, has been bringing a solid product to the ice of late. The 6-foot-2 fourth-round pick in 2014 stopped 47 of 50 shots in back-to-back appearances against Colorado and Edmonton to finish out 2023 and has a .909 save percentage in 10 games since Dec. 1.