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The (Almost) Top Fifty Goalies Over The Past Three Seasons

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During the present kerfuffle over the Nikolai Khabibulin signing, one of the points consistently raised is that he was the best available option and that he will be, at worst, a top-fifteen NHL goaltender if he's healthy. One of the points raised on the opposite end of the spectrum is that there were plenty of goalies out there for the role and the Oilers invested too heavily in term and dollars.

All of this got me thinking: where has Khabibulin ranked as an NHL goaltender? And how many legitimate starting options were out there, anyway?

To answer that question, I've made a list (courtesy of hockey-reference.com) of every NHL goaltender who has played at least 60 games over the past three seasons. There were 49. I've listed them below, ranked by save percentage, with this summer's free agent crop in bold.

  1. Niklas Backstrom: 93-45-22, 2.24 GAA, .923 SV%
  2. Jonas Hiller: 33-22-2, 2.28 GAA, .921 SV%
  3. Tomas Vokoun: 83-64-18, 2.54 GAA, .921 SV%
  4. Martin Brodeur: 111-59-16, 2.22 GAA, .920 SV%
  5. Roberto Luongo: 115-64-22, 2.33 GAA, .919 SV%
  6. Tim Thomas: 94-59-17, 2.58 GAA, .919 SV%
  7. Cristobal Huet: 71-45-13, 2.53 GAA, .916 SV%
  8. Steve Mason: 33-20-7, 2.29 GAA, .916 SV%
  9. Henrik Lundqvist: 112-71-25, 2.33 GAA, .915 SV%
  10. Martin Biron: 77-51-17, 2.75 GAA, .914 SV%
  11. Jean-Sebastien Giguere: 90-45-20, 2.44 GAA, .914 SV%
  12. Dan Ellis: 34-29-7, 2.62 GAA, .913 SV%
  13. Kari Lehtonen: 70-68-17, 2.90 GAA, .913 SV%
  14. Chris Mason: 69-54-17, 2.56 GAA, .913 SV%
  15. Ilya Bryzgalov: 64-64-18, 2.67 GAA, .912 SV%
  16. Ryan Miller: 110-61-22, 2.64 GAA, .912 SV%
  17. Carey Price: 47-28-13, 2.71 GAA, .912 SV%
  18. Ty Conklin: 46-24-9, 2.63 GAA, .911 SV%
  19. Marc-Andre Fleury: 94-44-18, 2.67 GAA, .911 SV%
  20. Evgeni Nabokov: 112-49-20, 2.28 GAA, .911 SV%
  21. Rick DiPietro: 59-50-16, 2.73 GAA, .910 SV%
  22. Mike Smith: 41-42-11, 2.53 GAA, .910 SV%
  23. Nikolai Khabibulin: 73-54-18, 2.64 GAA, .909 SV%
  24. Miikka Kiprusoff: 124-74-24, 2.66 GAA, .909 SV%
  25. Dwayne Roloson: 70-75-20, 2.83 GAA, .909 SV%
  26. Mathieu Garon: 47-37-7, 2.75 GAA, .908 SV%
  27. Manny Fernandez: 40-26-4, 2.65 GAA, .907 SV%
  28. Martin Gerber: 55-41-8, 2.81 GAA, .907 SV%
  29. Jason Labarbera: 25-33-8, 2.92 GAA, .907 SV%
  30. Pascal Leclaire: 34-38-9, 2.65 GAA, .906 SV%
  31. Cam Ward: 106-69-16, 2.70 GAA, .906 SV%
  32. Manny Legace: 63-49-15, 2.62 GAA, .905 SV%
  33. Marty Turco: 103-72-21, 2.47 GAA, .905 SV%
  34. Alex Auld: 35-44-17, 2.76 GAA, .904 SV%
  35. Peter Budaj: 67-55-15, 2.73 GAA, .902 SV%
  36. Olaf Kolzig: 49-49-13, 3.00 GAA, .902 SV%
  37. Antero Niittymaki: 36-46-17, 3.09 GAA, .902 SV%
  38. Jose Theodore: 73-53-9, 2.79 GAA, .902 SV%
  39. Brent Johnson: 25-29-11, 3.12 GAA, .900 SV%
  40. Joey MacDonald: 17-34-9, 3.31 GAA, .900 SV%
  41. Chris Osgood: 64-21-18, 2.57 GAA, .900 SV%
  42. Vesa Toskala: 81-52-18, 2.82 GAA, .900 SV%
  43. Fredrik Norrena: 35-45-11, 2.79 GAA, .899 SV%
  44. Mikael Tellqvist: 29-26-6, 3.00 GAA, .899 SV%
  45. Patrick Lalime: 25-31-6, 2.96 GAA, .898 SV%
  46. Curtis Sanford: 19-23-6, 2.92 GAA, .896 SV%
  47. Johan Hedberg: 36-31-8, 3.34 GAA, .891 SV%
  48. Andrew Raycroft: 51-50-14, 3.16 GAA, .891 SV%
  49. Curtis Joseph: 26-42-3, 3.20 GAA, .889 SV%

Now than, let's consider just the free agent crop. Still ranked by save percentage, this new list includes cap figures as well:

  • Martin Biron: 77 wins, .914 SV% (10th) - 1 year, 1.4 million per season
  • Ty Conklin: 46 wins, .911 SV% (18th) - 2 years, 1.3 million per season
  • Nikolai Khabibulin: 73 wins, .909 SV% (23rd) - 4 years, 3.75 million per season
  • Dwayne Roloson: 70 wins, .909 SV% (25th) - 2 years, 2.5 million per season
  • Mathieu Garon: 47 wins, .908 SV% (26th) - 2 years, 1.2 million per season
  • Manny Fernandez: 40 wins, .907 SV% (27th) - unsigned
  • Martin Gerber: 55 wins, .907 SV% (28th) - signed in the KHL
  • Jason Labarbera: 25 wins, .907 SV% (29th) - 2 years, 1.0 million per season
  • Manny Legace: 63 wins, .905 SV% (32nd) - unsigned
  • Olaf Kolzig: 49 wins, .902 SV% (36th) - unsigned
  • Antero Niittymaki: 36 wins, .902 SV% (37th) - 1 year, .6 million per season
  • Brent Johnson: 25 wins, .900 SV% (39th) - 1 year, .525 million per season
  • Joey MacDonald: 17 wins, .900 SV% (40th) - unsigned
  • Fredrik Norrena: 35 wins, .899 SV% (43rd) - signed in the SEL
  • Curtis Sanford: 19 wins, .896 SV% (46th) - 1 year, .6 million per season
  • Andrew Raycroft: 51 wins, .891 SV% (48th) - 1 year, .5 million per season
  • Curtis Joseph: 26 wins, .889 SV% (49th) - unsigned

No free agent goaltender, other than Nikolai Khabibulin, received over 2.5 million dollars per season. No free agent goaltender, other than Nikolai Khabibulin, received more than 2 years of term.

Regardless of his reasoning, I don't think there's an argument to be made that Steve Tambellini didn't overpay for his goaltender, in both years and dollars. Martin Biron is the obvious comparison, but Dwayne Roloson worksjust as well - his numbers are very, very similar to Khabibulin's despite the fact that he's played for an (on the whole) inferior team over these past three seasons.