Pending free agent Tomas Vokoun was dealt from Washington to Pittsburgh on Monday, then signed a two-year contract, meaning that the ex-Capitals netminder won’t hit the market on July 1. That’s disappointing news for teams in the hunt for a backup goaltender.
Teams like, say, the Detroit Red Wings.
With Vokoun’s name crossed off the list of potential Jimmy Howard backups, who else might fit the bill? Here’s a look at some options:
• Dan Ellis: Ellis, who will be 32 this month, played just 10 games (and started only five) last season in Anaheim because of a torn groin muscle. But he’s shown himself to be a perfectly competent NHL goalie, holding a career mark of 72-57-15 with a 2.68 ERA. Given his health issues and age, he might be looking for a place where he can ease into the No. 2 job — and Detroit could be that fit.
• Dominik Hasek: Well, you knew his name was going to be on the list somewhere. The 47-year-old Hasek, who last played in 2010-11 in the KHL, has stated his intention to try to return to the NHL. He last played in the NHL for, of course, the Red Wings during the 2007-08 Stanley Cup season. If Howard can stay healthy and with Joey MacDonald as a safety net, the Wings don’t need a guy to play 60-plus games next season. Hasek, in a 15- or 20-game role, might be able to handle the load.
• Brent Johnson: Vokoun's arrival in Pittsburgh means that the Penguins don't have much need for Johnson anymore. And the 35-year-old Farmington native might jump at the chance to play for his hometown team. Johnson was 6-7-2 last season with a 3.11 GAA and miserable .883 save percentage. It's hard to see Johnson as a better option than MacDonald, but MacDonald's health could change that.
• Joey MacDonald: Joey Mac has played very well in limited opportunities over the past two seasons for the Wings. Last year, with Jimmy Howard on the shelf and Ty Conklin struggling, MacDonald went 8-5-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .912 save percentage, before suffering a season-ending back injury. If he's 100 percent heading into 2012-13, he might be the best option -- MacDonald's two-year contract opened with a two-way term last season (meaning he could be freely shuffled between Detroit and Grand Rapids), but he'll be on a one-way term this coming season at just $550,000. The price tag fits.
• Thomas McCollum: The 30th overall pick in the 2008 draft by Detroit, McCollum has not progressed at anywhere near the rate the Wings had hoped. He limped his way to an 11-16 record at Grand Rapids last season with a 3.49 GAA. For this option to become a realistic one, McCollum would have to have a monster training camp.
• Jordan Pearce: An undrafted pickup by the Wings in 2009, Pearce has battled his way through the system. He went 3-8-1 in Grand Rapids last season -- an ugly record -- and his 3.68 goals-against mark and .871 save percentage aren't any better. Pearce served as the Wings' backup in a major pinch last season, but they'd prefer to not turn that job over to him.
• Andrew Raycroft: Raycroft was absolutely putrid last season -- the Stars waived him in December after he started the year 2-8-0 with a 3.51 GAA, then sent him to the AHL when no one claimed him. It would be hard to put too much trust in Raycroft, but if MacDonald claims the backup job, Detroit could hand a struggling veteran like Raycroft a two-way deal and hope he snaps out of it.
Some other free agents to consider: Alex Auld (Ottawa); Scott Clemmensen (Florida); Al Montoya (NY Islanders); Dwayne Roloson (Tampa Bay); Curtis Sanford (Columbus)