How the Hurricanes beat the goalie market

The free agent market for goaltenders seems to change every year because there are only so many goalies available and only a certain amount of teams that need a goalie. This year, there were mainly back-ups available and most of them were either unproven, old or not very good. Once Jason Labarbera, Thomas Greiss, Dan Ellis & Ray Emery were off the table, the market for a back-up goaltender was very thin, which makes it surprising that the Hurricanes were able to land Anton Khudobin for only $800,000. That price is about right for someone of Khudobin's caliber when you look at his career stats. His track record in the NHL is very good with a career save percentage of .933, but he has only 21 games of experience with solid yet unspectacular numbers in the AHL. That is worth roughly what the Hurricanes gave him, but you can make the argument that he easily could have gotten more when you look at some of the recent contracts given out to other unproven goalies.

Within the last year alone, teams have given out both term and money to goalies who did not have a lot of experience. Khudobin's 21 games isn't much, but it isn't that far off from what some other goalies had before they signed their new contracts.

Khudobin is a 7th round pick and may not have as much pedigree or "talent" as most of the goalies on this list, but if you break it down to strictly his performance in the NHL, $800k looks like a steal for him. Had he played 10-15 more games, then he may have gotten at least $1 mil. or a multi-year deal. I know that he wasn't a high draft pick or anything, but that didn't stop Anaheim from giving Viktor Fasth a two-year deal after playing only nine games. He was a highly regarded goalie in Sweden, but giving that much money to a goalie with barely any NHL track record seems like a risk that can come back to haunt a team. Same goes for the Calgary Flames giving $5.8 mil. to a goaltender who hasn't played in the NHL in four years, a goalie who has been bad in the NHL on top of that.

The Lightning were also quick to give Anders Lindback a two-year deal and a decent salary after playing 38 games in a back-up role for the Nashville Predators. They then followed suit this year by giving Ben Bishop a multi-year contract despite him being on the team for only a few weeks and not having much NHL experience. The Leafs also invested decent salary and multiple years in Jonathan Bernier despite him not having much of a track record, not too different from what the Avalanche did with Semyon Varlamov after trading for him.

This isn't to say that all of these contracts were bad moves, but it does shows how lucky the Hurricanes are to get Khudobin for as low of a cost as they did because other teams haven't been afraid to give at least $1.5 mil. a year to goaltenders who played well in limited NHL action. Had Khudobin played in more games, this may have been a different situation since 30-40 games or so seems to be the cutoff points for GMs to decide that they have something in a young goaltender, at least based on the numbers above. Khudobin's save percentage would likely crash down to earth by the time he plays that many games, but he could also prove to be just as good or even better than some goaltenders who signed for more money.

Khudobin's contract is even more interesting when you take the goalie market into account because the Hurricanes didn't exactly have a lot of leverage going into this situation. The Hurricanes apparently tried to sign Dan Ellis but ultimately couldn't come to an agreement, so they were looking for a back-up and Khudobin was arguably the best one available. Despite that, the Canes managed to get him for only $800,000. It's possible that playing time was an issue because Khudobin will likely be the back-up in Carolina next season barring an incredible training camp from Justin Peters, but they weren't the only team looking for a back-up.

Chicago was also looking for one and they ended up paying $1.7 mil. for whatever is left of Nikolai Khabibulin. Calgary's goaltending situation also looks dicey and both San Jose & Vancouver have decided to promote from within for their #2 spots. Khudobin would also be an improvement over anyone of the Islanders back-ups, so it's not like he couldn't get playing time elsewhere.

Jim Rutherford did a fantastic job of filling a need for the Hurricanes and doing it at a cost that was below market value, which is very tough to do with goalies. Khudobin's talent and potential can be debated, but all he has to be next year is a decent back-up for Carolina and that's something the team has needed for quite awhile now. Who knows? He might be good enough to stick around for a few more years if he's good enough. In a summer full of overpayments, this stands out as one of the better signings.