“I feel really good about the next wave,” said Pekka Rinne, who retired after the 2020-21 season as the Nashville Predators’ leader in wins (369) and shutouts (60).
Among those high on the list to fill the star void are John Gibson Anaheim ducks, Andrei Vasilevsky Tampa Bay Lightning and Igor Shesterkin New York Rangers.
They follow in Rinne’s shadow Roberto Luongo, who retired in 2019 after 19 NHL seasons, and Henrik Lundqvist, who did the same a year later after 15 seasons due to a heart condition requiring a surgical intervention. Luongo and Lundqvist are fourth and sixth in NHL history with 489 and 459, respectively.
Over the past three seasons, the list of notable goaltenders to retire also includes Tuukka Rask, who played 15 seasons with the Boston Bruins and is the first in their history for wins (308), Ryan Miller, who has played 18 seasons and has the most wins. among American-born goaltenders in NHL history (391), Ben Bishop, who played 11 seasons and finished with 222 wins and a .921 save percentage (tied for second with Rask in NHL history among goaltenders with at least 200 starts), Jimmy Howard, who started for the Detroit Red Wings in 10 of his 14 NHL seasons, and Corey Crawford, who won 259 games and the Stanley Cup twice (2013, 2015) for 10 full seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Carey Price, the Montreal Canadiens’ all-time leader in wins (361), will not play this season due to complications from knee surgery that threaten to end the career of the arguably most influential of the last decade.
“The game is more demanding than ever for goaltenders,” said Rinne, who played 13 full NHL seasons and is one of 12 goaltenders in league history with at least 350 wins and 60 shutouts. “The speed and skill of today’s NHL players requires goaltenders to play with speed, precision and high IQ hockey. Today’s No. 1 goalies have these qualities. They are multidimensional and formidable hybrids and athletes. I love watching the best goalkeepers today. “
The number of recent retirements has increased opportunities for some young goalkeepers.
“Really talented goaltenders,” Miller said.
Miller would know. He played his last four seasons as a substitute for one of those goaltenders: Gibson.
“We’ll see how many of them have more workloads this year,” Miller said. “Guys who retired played a lot of hockey every year. It seems like the NHL has adopted the 1a, 1b style on a lot of teams.”
Miller said he expects this season to be different from past ones, which included hiatuses and absences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the NHL saw a record 119 goaltenders play in at least one game last season.
With a normal offseason and training camps — and hopes for fewer COVID-19-related absences — more keepers could play No. 1 minutes, though.
Some, like Vasilevskiy, 28, and Connor Hellebuyck, 29, of the Winnipeg Jets, have established themselves as stars, each having won a Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender in the NHL. Vasilveskiy and Hellebuyck were among those whom Miller and Rinne identified as likely goalkeepers to have long careers as top goalkeepers.
That list also included Shesterkin, who won the Vezina Trophy and was a Hart Trophy finalist as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player last season, the 26-year-old’s second player since taking over from Lundqvist as Rangers starting goaltender. Miller’s top five list was rounded out by Gibson, 29, and Thatcher Demko26, who is in his second season as the No. 1 Vancouver Canucks. Rinne chose Juuse Saros27, who was a Vézina finalist last season and played with Rinne for six seasons, and Jacob Markstrom32, from the Calgary Flames to wrap up his roster.
However, Miller didn’t want to stop at five names, mentioning Saros, Markstrom, Jake Oettinger23 years old, Dallas Stars, Ilya Sorokin27, New York Islanders, Tristan Jarry27, Pittsburgh Penguins and Elvis Merzlikins28, optional Columbus Blue Jackets.
“A lot of guys seem like they’re about to take the next step,” Miller said.
Waiting right behind those who already have that chance as starters is another wave.
Luongo, who will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November, also had Oettinger on his roster, which focused more on goaltenders who hadn’t yet had the chance to be No. 1.
Spencer Knight21, who is entering his second full season with the Florida Panthers, and Jeremy Swayman23, who is also entering his second full season with the Bruins, was named by Luongo. Daniil Tarasov23, of the Columbus Blue Jackets, 19-year-old Jesper Wallstedt, who is about to begin his professional career in North America with American Hockey League affiliate Minnesota Wild, and 20-year-old Yaroslav Askarov, who is set to do the same with the AHL-affiliated Nashville Predators, was also on the list.
“There’s going to be a new breed of technically perfect goaltenders in the near future,” said Luongo, who leads the Panthers’ goaltending excellence department and is special adviser to general manager Bill Zito. “It’s just a matter of when, not if.”