The Tampa Bay Lightning are without a backup goalie for next season, for now.
Brian Elliott’s contract with the team concluded at the end of the season, and the 38-year-old’s likelihood of returning is somewhere between unclear and doubtful.
Since trading Ben Bishop in 2017, the Lightning have had three notable backups to Andrei Vasilevskiy: Louis Domingue (2017-19), Curtis McElhinney (2019-21) and Elliott the past two seasons.
Nothing extraordinary is asked of the players who have been signed to the position. Vasilevskiy is a top tier goalie, and at his best is one of, if not the best goalie in the world. Still, the team needs a backup to play around 20 games a season — around a quarter of the year. And should worst come to worst by the way of Vasilevskiy suffering an injury, the backup needs to be comfortable with a larger workload so that the team still has a fighting chance.
With those factors in place, the Lightning have leaned towards veterans in the latter stages of their careers with a proven history of consistency — especially in the cases of McElhinney and Elliott.
Additionally, the salary cap remains a constraint in preventing the Lightning from spending lavishly on a backup. Since Vasilevskiy has become the starter in Tampa, no goalie signed by the team has earned more than the $900,000 Elliott earned each of the past two seasons. With the salary cap on the move up, at least by $1,000,000, the Lightning will likely be looking to pay next year’s backup around the same amount or just a bit more.
Considering all those factors, here are five potential free agent options the Lightning could turn to for a backup goalie next season.