Taking a look back into last year and the seasons before we have seen some night and day goaltenders, but im taking a close look into team build and how the goaltender has progressed over thier careers. Here is my list ...
1. Tim Thomas - Boston Bruins - $5 million cap hit - 37 years old
08-09 he posted great numbers while splitting duties with Manny Fernandez, in the end he became the #1 guy with 54 games played and posting 36 victories, and a Vezina Trophy. 09-10 season his performance fell due to injuries and being outplayed by Tuuka Rask, he still posted a .915 save percentage and 5 shutouts in only 17 wins and 43 games played, this was showing he was still in his prime. Last season he regained his true Vezina form and in 57 games he posted 35 victories and NHL records in Goals Against Average of 2.00 and Save Percentage of .938. Along with 9 shutouts to boot. But that wasn't the end of his fantastic year, he went into the playoffs with one thing on his mind; winning the Stanley Cup...In his 25 playoff games, recorded 16wins, 9 losses a GAA of 1.98 and a SV% of .940....he got what he wanted in the end....A Stanley Cup, a Conn Smithe Trophy for playoff MVP and another Vezina Trophy. He stands above the rest and even with his late NHL career start, he might be a great hall of fame candidate if he continues his ways.
2. Pekka Rinne - Nashville Predators - $3.4 million cap hit - 28 years old
08-09 he became the #1 starter in Nashville posting 29 wins and only 15 losses with a offensively weak team, he had a respectable 2.37 GAA and a .913 SV%. 09-10 was the same story but he got better, starting in 54 games he won 32 games; GAA and SV% were a little higher but still great for a second year net minder with the team on his shoulders. Last Season he raised the bar as high as Tim Thomas and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, posting 33 wins, a GAA of 2.12 and SV% of .930. In the playoffs he was the difference maker in the 1st round and led the Preds to the 2nd rd vs the Canucks were even his stellar play weren't enough to advance. Predators management dont feel the need to improve there team with free agents and rather build from within, they are a couple players away from a finals type team, with Rinne going into this season, he will have to carry the team again, hopefully they help him out in the run to the cup.
3. Henrik Lunqvist - New York Rangers - $6.875 million cap hit - 29 years old
Never given enough credit for the job he has done with the Rangers, his pay is higher than the #1 and #2 goaltenders in this piece but does deserve every penny. He has backstopped the Rangers to 30 wins or more in every yr since the lockout, that's 213 wins over 6 seasons, never having a GAA over 2.44 and a SV% lower than .912...these numbers are very consistent and with the addition of 11 shutout wins last season, he's just getting into his prime. Rangers have flirted with the playoff every year only because on Henrik Lundqvist. With the addition of Brad Richards and the resigning of Callahan and Dubinsky, the Rangers might be tops in their division all season.
4. Carey Price - Montreal Canadiens - $2.75 million cap hit - 23 years old
After starting the preseason basically not giving a s***, he smartened up after hearing the boooo's and figured it would be a long yr if he didn't; he played extremely well posting 38 wins in 70 games, he was over worked and was called upon to carry the team when the goals stop coming, he never backed down to a challenge and did his best. Having a career yr and making the playoffs was his goal and he reached that goal while posting a 2.35 GAA and a .923 SV%. This season he will have to match his last season totals and get into the playoffs. The team added Eric Cole which will help in the goal department and it creates another weapon on the PP, along with Markov making a full recovery, look for the Canadiens to compete with B-Town for tops in division.
5. Marc-Andre Fleury - Pittsburgh Penguins - $5 million cap hit - 26 years old
Was not given the credit he deserved when playing behind Crosby and Malkin, but showed last season when both went down that he was a key contributor in their Stanley Cup Victory a couple years ago. Last season after Crosby went down Fleury posted a 18-9-3 record with a GAA of 2.10. This is absoluetly amazing to think that with no goal scoring that they could play so well, he proved he was the difference maker. The Pens loaded up on d-men the off season before with Michalek and Martin, they were a better defensive team. This season with the return of Crosby and Malkin along with the addition of Steve Sullivan, look for them to be at the top of the conference.
6. Roberto Luongo - Vancouver Canucks - $5.33 million cap hit - 32 years old
Out of his prime but still able to the job well, his days in Florida were his best, not statistically but he also had a chip on his shoulder, that earned him his 10 yr contract on a stacked team. Last season Corey Schneider gave Luongo a run for his money, basically forcing him to play well; he had stretches of glory and Schneider was able to give his rest here and there. He posted career bests with a 2.11 GAA and a .930 SV%, also was a candidate for the Vezina. He stepped up going into the playoffs showing his true form in the 3rd and 4th rounds on the way to the game 7 loss to Boston. This season he will have to be more consistent and will probably see less time between the pipes with Schneider still on the roster, Canucks have a huge trade chip with both net minders, after this season, one will have to go.
7. Ryan Miller - Buffalo Sabres - $6.25 million cap hit - 31 years old
Known for his big saves when the game is on the line and incredible agility to make the 2nd and 3rd saves on every scoring chance, he has the ability to change the momentum of a game in his teams favor. Not the best statistics in the league with a career 2.57 GAA, but his consistant work between the pipes and in big deciding games, he comes up on top most of the time. Will get some help upfront with the addition of Leino and help on the blue line with Regehr and Ehroff. Sabres might not be as good as people might project them, but will battle for the eighth spot.
8. Tomas Vokoun - Washington Capitals - $1.5 million cap hit - 35 years old
Another previous Florida net minder on the list and again they have an opportunity to move onto a stacked team and earn themselves a big contract. At 35 years old, Vokoun might just do that, willing to take a large pay cut to join the caps shows that he knows a big payday will be in his future if he succeeds and will receive what ever he lost this season in the upcoming years. Will split time with Neuvirth which will benefit the team in the long run, i dont see a goalie controversy come playoff time and Vokoun will put up better numbers than when he was in Florida (2.55GAA, .922 SV%, and 6 Shutouts) which will be astounding when the season comes to an end.
9. Ilya Bryzgalov - Philadelphia Flyers - $5.667 million cap hit - 31 years old
Could be higher if i believed the Flyers "offseason rebuilding" process will be successful. He will have to be as stellar as he's been in Phoenix to make it into the playoffs. Will need help from Chris Pronger, Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux to keep the winning ways in Philly going, but i can't see a complete reorder of the team be successful in this situation. Bryz will be the difference in my theory and i hope he does well. If he's a bust after one season, look for the Flyers to give him a second chance, unlike the "BOB" situation last season, hope he gets dealt to a team with a heart.
10. Dwayne Roloson - Tampa Bay Lightning - $3.5 million cap hit - 41 years old
Had an amazing playoffs last season and only played 34 games for the Lightning after coming over from the Isles, with a full season ahead of him and a solid back up goaltender in Mathieu Garon, he will get lots of rest and will be able to play like he did in last seasons playoffs all the time with little worry of wear and tear. Will lead the Lightning deep into the playoffs and post career numbers while doing so. Might be old but will put up numbers similar to Carey Price when the season comes to an end.
You cant help but disagree with some of these selections being a certain fan of a certain team, but with me being a Leafs fan and goaltender on my days off, i truly believe this list will mimic others, and we gotta have a honorable mention for 5 guys who came in a close tie for 10th spot on the list, which are:
Cam Ward - Carolina Hurricanes
Martin Brodeur - New Jersey Devils
Jimmy Howard - Detroit Red Wings
Johnathan Quick - Los Angeles Kings
Mikka Kiprusoff - Calgary Flames