Here is a snapshot of the free agent market at the goalie position: Tuukka Rask, who is committed to the Boston Bruins, Devan Dubnyk, Curtis McElhinney, who is older, played less, and performed worse than Dubnyk last season, Cory Schneider, who is also older than Dubnyk and didn’t play an NHL game last season, and a scattering of young goalies that did not receive qualifying offers and have a handful of NHL appearance between them. In short, the UFA goalie market is essentially just Dubnyk.
Now this doesn’t erase his performance from last season, or the year before last for that matter. The 35-year-old has not been on his game for some time now, performing well below his career numbers in each of the past two years. His age compounded by a number of years as a workhorse starter for the Minnesota Wild has shown in Dubnyk’s play, which has lacked sharpness and consistency even playing behind good teams like the Wild and Colorado Avalanche.
With that said, it speaks volumes that Colorado, a Stanley Cup favorite, still went out and acquired Dubnyk from the San Jose Sharks at the NHL Trade Deadline last season. The team was facing down several injuries and net and were desperate for help, but still would not have given up assets for a player they didn’t trust could help their team. While Dubnyk was ultimately forgettable in his short stint with Colorado, he delivered five starts and three wins for the team as they battled for supremacy in the division standings.
At this point in his career, Dubnyk is what the Avalanche saw in him: an experienced veteran who was once one of the best in the game and can still be relied upon in a pinch. In the meantime, Dubnyk can mentor young goalies and contribute to a locker room. It’s not exactly the sales pitch of a league-winner, but Dubnyk can still contribute even if he is no longer capable of serving in a starting or even 1B role. Ideally, the veteran could find a spot where he can act as a No. 3 and, if need be or if he shows he is capable, can take over a backup role. Again, it isn’t the most valuable label, but it could benefit a number of teams.
At the end of the day, for those clubs who decide they need another goalie this late in the off-season or in-season but don’t want to make a trade, Dubnyk is the best of a group of less than stellar options. Teams are not going to be looking for a young player with upside or a cold, broken down veteran if they are in urgent need of help. Outside of Rask, who may as well be signed, Dubnyk is the only goalie that can provide value as a free agent addition. Teams would be smart to keep tabs on him as training camps begin to open up.
2020-21: 22 GP, 6-11-2 (.368), .895 SV%, 3.20 GAA, .444 QS%, 1 SO
Career: 542 GP, 253-206-54 (.546), .914 SV%, 2.61 GAA, .539 QS%, 33 SO
At first glance, the Arizona Coyotes and Buffalo Sabres are the two teams with the greatest needs in net. Carter Hutton and Josef Korenar for the ’Yotes and Craig Anderson and Aaron Dell for the Sabres is a list of names that would be hard-pressed to even find backup jobs elsewhere in the league. With that being said, neither team has much incentive to bring in yet another veteran. Both Arizona and Buffalo are resigned to bottom-dweller status this season and don’t need to add depth in goal, especially when it blocks young keepers like Korenar in Arizona or Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Only if the veteran starters for these clubs suffered long-term injuries would Dubnyk really make sense.
Instead, the veteran is a more realistic target for a contender that needs depth and experience in net. Even after adding Louis Domingue, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ goalie group that also includes the inconsistent Tristan Jarry and the injury-prone Casey DeSmith could use added stability and guidance. Another team that jumps out as an option is Calgary. The Flames acquired promising youngster Daniel Vladar this summer to back up Jacob Markstrom and he cannot be reassigned to the AHL without the risk of waivers. However, if Vladar struggles in his first full-time NHL role and Calgary is not any more secure with Tyler Parsons or Adam Werner, Dubnyk could be a nice free agent addition to stabilize the net.
Any other suitors would likely be a product of injury at this point, but that could mean more than it sounds. Injuries in hockey are obviously not uncommon and Dubnyk clearly stands out as the best unsigned option available.
Barring an off-season training injury before camps open, a PTO seems like the most likely “contract” to be heading Dubnyk’s way. The experienced veteran would provide a good camp presence while proving that he does (or does not) have gas left in the tank. If anyone was urgent to add a goalie it likely would have happened by now, meaning some patient team is probably going to merely extend Dubnyk the opportunity to earn a deal.
With that being said, urgency can be created quickly, especially once camps begin. If Dubnyk isn’t already on a PTO elsewhere, he will be the first call from teams with thin goalie depth who suffer an injury in net and don’t want to waste time or capital on the trade market. Even in this situation though, the league minimum $750K is likely the extent of Dubnyk’s value. It would likely take several injuries across the league to force a bidding war that lands the veteran anything more.