NHLers reflect on another wild summer of goalie musical chairs: 'It's crazy'

Andrei Vasilevskiy doesn't pay attention to off-season NHL news.

The signings, the trades, the big moves just aren't on the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender's radar.

That means every so often, Vasilevskiy will stare roughly 200 feet down to the other end of the ice — and be surprised by who's occupying the opposite crease.

"Let's say we're playing season opener against some team," the 2019 Vézina Trophy winner said at the recent NHL/NHLPA player media tour. "And all of a sudden the guy I'm playing against, he used to be on another team.

"I didn't know that guy signed with the other team. All of a sudden he's playing against me for different team."

Vasilevskiy has experienced more and more of these moments in recent seasons. There are likely more to come in 2022-23.

The NHL's goalie carousel spun again this summer with a number of teams flipping, switching and altering their look at the game's most crucial position.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have an entirely new crease tandem after acquiring Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators via trade and signing Ilya Samsonov. Ottawa now has Cam Talbot, who will be out until November with an upper-body injury, after a trade with the Minnesota Wild, while the Edmonton Oilers nabbed Jack Campbell from the Leafs in free agency.

"You truly don't have much control over it," Toronto defenceman Morgan Rielly, whose club also dealt the underperforming Petr Mrazek to the Chicago Blackhawks, said of watching the goalie musical chairs from afar. "You're definitely curious because it's an important spot on the ice, but it's out of your control.

"You just let (management) do their thing."

The Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche will have another new goalie tandem after getting Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers to play alongside Pavel Francouz, with Darcy Kuemper having moved onto the Washington Capitals after one season in the Mile High City.

"It's just kind of what we do, I guess," joked Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon. "We get a new goalie every season now.

"(Georgiev) signed a three-year deal. Hopefully we'll see him for three years, at least."

The Detroit Red Wings are another club with a new face in Ville Husso following a trade with the St. Louis Blues. The New Jersey Devils got Vitek Vanecek from Washington, which also cut Samsonov loose before he inked a deal with Toronto, during a July stretch around the NHL draft and free agency that saw no fewer than 10 deals involving netminders.

Marc-Andre Fleury also re-signed with Minnesota after being acquired from Chicago at the trade deadline, which paved the way for the deal that sent Talbot to Ottawa.

"It's crazy," Dallas Stars goalie Jake Oettenger said of seeing other members of the crease fraternity swapping teams in quick succession. "I'm a hockey fan, too, so it's fun. Hopefully that's something I don't have to ever experience in my career.

"But it's always fun when summer rolls around to see where guys are going."

The flat salary cap due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a limited goaltending marketplace with regards to known quantities has no doubt played a part in the volatility of the last few summers. Teams increasingly moving towards tandem situations rather than a netminder making 60-plus starts is also a factor as clubs look for the right roster mix.

"Everything happens for a reason," said Ottawa captain Brady Tkachuk, who waved goodbye to Murray and welcomed Talbot this summer. "You hate to see somebody go, but then become excited for the guy coming in."

"It's the nature of the business," Murray added of being on the carousel. "Try not to pay attention to it. Anything that's outside of my control, I try not to worry about.

"That stuff has a way of taking care of itself."

Kuemper went through a second straight off-season of uncertainty after the Arizona Coyotes traded him to Colorado in the summer of 2021 as part of last year's netminding frenzy.

He got to pick his destination this time around.

"It's exciting once you start narrowing it down," Kuemper said. "At first, it's a little bit stressful. You're uprooting your whole life. Hockey's the No. 1 thought, but then you're also thinking about where you're going to be living and moving all your furniture. There's a lot that goes into it.

"Once everything falls into place, and it starts to settle in, it turns into more excitement."

And like seasons past when the goalie dust settles, there could be nights when Vasilevskiy needs a program.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 4, 2022

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press