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Final In-Depth Look at The 2021 UFA Market

There are no less than 93 forwards, 68 defenders, and 21 goalies (182 players total) that will be subject to In-Season UFA Negotiations or offseason free agency.

This is the third of three articles looking at all the upcoming UFA's in BEARD Hockey.

There are only 21 goalies in the group pending UFA's this season. And only 12 of those are pro goalies, even though looking at OV you could think one belonged in the farm. We will tell you why that is not the case.

Given the fact that netminders, even good backups are crucial to your success in the league, we will have a closer look at the top twelve, leaving the remaining nine to you to scout on your own.

As said before the rank is based on primary stats alone, since its unknown/confidential how important secondary stats are in comparison. And to be honest, usually the guy with the best primary stats would still be ranked the highest even if we considered the secondary.

Instead of splitting them up by division this time we simply present them in ranking order. Enjoy!

Anton Khudobin (87.7) After a rocky start, Khudobin has gotten his game together and his importance for the much expected Tampa Bay success this season is of course great. Due to the rocky start his save percentage (PCT) is merely 89.3 with a GAA as high as 3.16. But expect those numbers to change.

Sharing the third spot overall in primary stats with Alexei Vasilevsky, Khudobin would be a great acquisition for any team. So GM Tyler Hetherington better hope he can re-sign him in season as cheap as possible. If Khudobin reaches free agency his salary will be way over what the Tampa cap space (350K!) will allow, especially considering the team would also want to resign pending UFA's Blake Wheeler, Adam Lowry, and Reilly Smith while at the same time resigning RFA's Athanasiou and Blackwood.

Tricky situation for Hetherington to handle while the drawling hyenas wait impatiently in the bushes…

Antti Raanta (82.0) With secondary stats exactly as high as Khudobin, the Calgary keeper is way behind on the primary stats though. Still he’s putting up better numbers than Khudobin so far with 2.90 GAA and 91.0 PCT, playing a big part in the somewhat surprising success so far in Calgary.

He doesn’t seem to perform well on home ice though, so maybe a trade and a permanent change to ”away” could make him even better? While he would be an excellent back up on many teams Calgary for sure want to re-sign him as a starter. Should he decline in season talks we expect GM Theo Pepper to try to package him in a deal looking for another/better starter as the gap behind Antti Raanta is huge.

Pepper is also one of the GM's crossing his fingers for Khudobin to go to free agency. He has the cap space, and the reason, to do almost anything for a better keeper.

Philipp Grubauer (82.0) Slightly worse secondary stats puts Grubauer in third place in the presentation, but his primary stats are just the same as Raanta’s. The Florida keeper has seven out of twelve wins so far with 90.0 PCT and 3.24 GAA.

Even though backup Laurent Brossoit actually has better PCT right now, he will not be a starter ever. So GM Trevor Cook should be looking to re-sign Grubauer. If he declines, FLA will be in the potential race for Khudobin...but could also be happy with bringing Grubauer back even in the offseason.

David Rittich (81.0) Well, as we speak Rittich is sitting on the Buffalo roster. The way GM Thomas Gidlow has juggled netminders around so far (Lehner, Greiss, Rinne, Price, Hutton), he might very well be elsewhere though when this article is printed.

Buffalo risk losing both their pro goalies to free agency and even though they have the space to take part in the bidding for better goalies, we guess they will invite Rittich to in-season talks. Rittich has put up only one win in Buffalo with 89.8 PCT and 3.25 GAA, but he has also proven that with a decent set of defenders in front of him he can perform better. Before being traded from LAK, his numbers where 92.5 PCT and 2.24 GAA.

Corey Crawford (81,0) Not off to a great start after the move to Vegas (87.1 PCT / 4.50 GAA). Crawford is still an interesting keeper to watch, should he reach free agency. Vegas does not have the cap space to accept much of a raise, especially not since they also have five more pending UFA skaters to worry about. Question is who would dare/want to pick up the 36 year old at that cost.

Cam Talbot (80.7) The second Buffalo goalie that might become UFA. Talbot actually performed better after the four goalie trade with Vegas. In BUF he has won his only game so far with 94.7 PCT and 2.00 GAA. BUF will try to re-sign him, but should he hit free agency they would probably go looking for an even better backup/starter. So with the league overall rank of 25 in primary stats, he might be available and interesting as a good backup or even decent starter for a team in need.

Petr Mrazek (80.7) Being the starter in the overall best team so far of course makes Mrazek interesting to follow. Especially sine we mentioned before that Washington have no less than ten pending UFA's. But even though backup Craig Anderson actually is undefeated so far with four wins, GM Shawn Davis will most likely want to keep Mrazek, hoping in-season talks wont be more expensive than around the minimum 4.6 M/Y.

If he moves on to free agency, Davis will have to decide how much he’s prepared to spend on re-signing his entire blue line, leaving him with limited space to regain Mrazek off the free agency.

Casey DeSmith (78.7) Here he is, the farm starter that is actually an absolutely brilliant backup in pro! DeSmith ranks 31st in primary stats in the entire league, putting him higher than names like Rinne, Bobrovsky, Holtby, Ullmark, Gibson, Merzlikins, Korpisalo and others – at the cost of $1,000,000! Talk about a bargain!

With some luck, GM Colin Small will be able to re-sign him within season for a raise of 150 K, so yes he will try that. If he chooses to try free agency, he should be very attractive to teams with little cap space in need of a decent back up.

Jack Campbell (77.7) Quickly descending in level we find this Carolina backup at place nine. The interesting thing with this guy is that he actually has better primary stats than starter Sergei Bobrovsky and ranks exactly the same adding the secondary stats to the equation.

Wether Bobrovsky is a poor starter or Campbell a good back up – or both! - we leave to others to judge. Either way, he should be interesting to watch should he decide to try free agency. Think Bobrovsky, but three million cheaper and you might find he’s the backup for you.

James Reimer (77.0) Reimer did his debut on Ottawa in the game against Montreal in game eight of the season. Jacob Markstrom allowed four goals on 13 shots and was replaced with Reimer who then saved 19 out of 20. Despite that it took one more loss for Markstrom before Reimer got to take the ice from start. He then helped forcing Colorado to a shootout, bringing home at least one point.

He then got to replace Markstrom again against Tampa and got his only second start of the season the game after. His PCT is 90.2 with 2.63 GAA. GM Mike Bell has no more important contract to renew than this one, so he will try to. If Reimer becomes a free agent, he could be a decent back up to a team tight against the cap.

Carter Hutton (76.0) Minnesota acquired their starter for a seventh pick from Los Angeles. With that said, we suspect he’s on the roster only to give Thatcher Demko another season to develop before definitely taking over as the number one. Problem is that if Minnesota have any ambition to contend the next three years, they need to get a better starter.

We don’t expect Demko to move, so as GM Josh Rose’s patience runs out, we expect Hutton to be offered the minimum raise or passed on to free agency as Rose will be looking to acquire another netminder.

Braden Holtby (75.7) The rare no less than 50 goaltenders in the league with better primary stats than the Edmonton starter. 50. And there are 57 with better secondary stats than him. 57. Weighing the two together, Holtby ranks 51st overall. But like the bumblebee that doesn’t know it shouldn’t be able to fly, Holtby flies anyway.

With Elvis Merzlikins breathing down his neck, he has put up four wins in seven games, 91.9 PCT and 2.66 GAA taking his team to a second place in the Pacific Division. GM Dean Richter has the space and the reason to re-sign him. Should he decline and move on to free agency, he will cost you more than the 4.1 M Edmonton already has offered in-season.

Honorable mentioning

Anthony Stolarz, WSH - #1 in size (90) with 6’5” and 230 lb. If you feel size matters and you want them big, this is your farm starter!

Richard Bachman, BOS - #1 in leadership (87)

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