Between the pipes July 1
The list of top goalie free agents set to become available July 1.
Dwayne Roloson played a major role in the Tampa Bay Lightning's run to the Eastern Conference Finals this past season.
He'll also be 42 years old when the Lightning play their fourth game of the 2011-12 season.
The question facing Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is what to do with Roloson come July 1, when the goaltender becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Roloson went 18-12-4 with four shutouts last season, and then went 10-6 in leading Tampa Bay to the conference finals for the first time since 2004. However, can he have that much success again?
Compounding matters is the fact that Roloson's backup, Mike Smith, also can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Can Yzerman chance losing both his goaltenders off a club that will have Stanley Cup aspirations? There doesn't appear to an NHL-ready in-house option, and a trade would require giving away prospects, draft picks or altering the core of the team.
And the free-agent market, while intriguing, isn't deep in top-flight candidates. Here's a look at a few that teams besides the Lightning could have interest in:
|Tomas Vokoun -- A two-time All-Star in Nashville, he hasn't had the same level of success with Florida but remains highly regarded and could flourish again with a strong team in front of him. His .922 save percentage this season -- 10th in the League -- proves the 34-year-old could have some good seasons left in him.|
|Ray Emery -- A medical marvel following career-threatening hip surgery last year, Emery was outstanding in 10 late-season games with the Ducks, going 7-2-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average and then starting five of the Ducks' six playoff games. He's just 28 and has won big games before -- he backstopped the Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final.|
|Jean-Sebastien Giguere -- The 34-year-old isn't the same goalie who won the 2003 Conn Smythe Trophy, but he remains a strong, stable veteran that could help a team. He played just four games for the Maple Leafs after March 1 due to injury and the rise of rookie James Reimer, but a healthy Giguere could be a solid contributor.|
|Jose Theodore -- The 34-year-old had a solid season as Niklas Backstrom's back-up in Minnesota this past season, going 15-11-3 in 32 games. However, his 2.71 GAA was his best in three seasons, and his .916 save percentage was his best since his Vezina and Hart Trophy-winning 2001-02 season. He's shown he can still play in the League, and in the right situation as a full-time starter.|
|Brian Boucher -- Boucher isn't a full-time starter, but over the last four seasons with San Jose and Philadelphia, the 34-year-old has shown he can be a solid contributor as a backup -- he has a 2.44 GAA in 94 games since 2007-08 -- and can be a positive influence in the locker room. His numbers against the Sabres in the first round of the playoffs were outstanding (4-1, 2.09 GAA, .934 save percentage).|
|Cedrick Desjardins -- He's won a Memorial Cup, an ECHL championship and guided a team to the AHL finals -- but has yet to stick on an NHL roster. He won both games he played for the Lightning this past season, allowing just one goal in each. At age 25, he could be ready to make the jump to full-time NHL player.|
|Josh Harding -- The 26-year-old has shown promise in small opportunities with the Minnesota Wild over the last five seasons, but a knee injury sidelined him for all of 2010-11. He's never played more than 30 games in a season, but he had a 2.21 GAA in 19 games in 2008-09 and has a lifetime 2.66 GAA.|
|Johan Hedberg -- Much like Boucher, the 38-year-old Hedberg isn't suited to a full-time starting role, but he showed this season in New Jersey that he can handle the load in certain situations. His 2.38 GAA this season was the best of his career, and he also had a .912 save percentage. At his age it's questionable if he wants to play another season, but he'd certainly be a nice complement to a team with a young goaltender.|
|Pascal Leclaire -- Leclaire's talent never has been the question. The biggest issue has been his fragility. He played just 14 games this season with Ottawa, and has played more than 34 games just once in seven NHL seasons. However, that one season he was sensational, going 24-17-6 with a 2.25 GAA in 54 games for the Blue Jackets. That season earned him a three-year contract worth $3.8 million per season. If he can stay healthy -- and is willing to take a pay cut -- he might be worth a chance.|