Goaltender is one of the most valuable positions in the game of hockey. Goalies are the last line of defense against the opposing team, and history has proven countless times that it's extremely hard to win a game, let alone the Stanley Cup, without a decent netminder. The goaler must make key saves when it counts the most, and in doing so will inspire confidence in his team mates, making the team better as a whole
For this reason, franchises are always ready to pay top-dollar for a goalie they can depend on. A sizeable chunk of each team's salary cap space is spent on puck-stoppers, with the ultimate goal of obtaining the Holy Grail of Hockey, Lord Stanley's Cup.
But for every NHL goalie that is rock solid in his net, there are others who crumble under the pressure. Often enough we see goaltenders earn huge contracts after an impressive season or a hot streak in the playoffs. Unfortunately, inconsistency is a characteristic that has plagued even some of the sport's elite athletes. Not everyone can be a Martin Brodeur (who actually makes this list) or a Patrick Roy, having many years of success with the same team. For that matter, not every superstar goaltender in the NHL is playing on a competitive team. Without a solid defense and a talented offense, it can be very difficult for these padded players to carry their teams on their shoulders.
Let’s have a look at the top 10 highest-paid NHL goalies on a save by save basis. Rather than just giving you the salaries by the numbers, we’ve taken these players earnings and divided them by the total number of saves they made last year. This allows us to see those goalies who have truly earned their salaries as well as those who are not anywhere near earning the amount of money they make. Of course, you have to keep in mind other factors such as injuries, player selection and the fact that the 2012-2013 season was shortened by the lockout, all of which may have affected the number of games played and shots saved.
Continue reading to find out which goaltenders found their way into the list of the top 10 highest-paid NHL goalies per save.
10 Nicklas Backstrom - Minnesota Wild: $6,160.16 Per Save
The Minnesota Wild’s Nicklas Backstrom earned $6 million in the 2012-13 season, a decent salary for the 974 saves he made. Backstrom has a save percentage of .900, and has already earned his place as one of the top goaltenders in the NHL. He was a Vezina trophy nominee in 2009. Backstrom agreed a new three-year deal with the Wild last summer worth $10.25 million.
9 Henrik Lundqvist - Ney Work Rangers: 6,238.66 Per Save
Henrik Lundqvist earned almost $6.9 million in 2012-13 season, an amount his team believes he deserves, considering he had the best statistics for a goaltender in NHL. He made a whooping 1,102 saves in 2012-13, and may even post better numbers this season. Lundqvist has a career 2.27 GAA and .920 save percentage. He has been the New York Rangers’ MVP for the last six years, and was the winner of the Vezina Trophy in 2012. The man has truly earned his pay.
8 ILya Bryzgalov - Philadelphia Flyers: 6,777.89 Per Save
ILya Bryzgalov is a classic case of a goaltender who has failed to live up to expectations. The Philadelphia Flyers offered him a mind-boggling nine-year, $51 million deal in 2011 after posting stellar performances in 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons. But he has yet to earn even a fraction of this money, and is not expected to do so any time soon. He made $6.5 million in the 2012-13 season, before the Flyers decided to buy out the seven years remaining on his contract. Bryzgalov has agreed to a modest one-year, $2 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers which will likely prove to be a relative bargain for the team.
7 Martin Brodeur - New Jersey Devils: $6,791.17 Per Save
With a long, successful career spanning from the early 90s, Martin Brodeur has cemented his place as one of the NHL's greatest goaltenders of all time. His illustrious career has seem him accumulate more than $75 million in career earnings. While his age seems to be slowly catching up with him, Brodeur is still making good money while posting pretty decent percentages. But this trend is not expected to continue once he completes his two-year $9 million deal which ends in 2014, as the superstar will likely be ready to consider retirement.
6 Marc-Andre Fleury - Pittsburgh Penguins: $6,815.37 Per Save
Marc-Andre Fleury has been an exceptional goaltender for the Pittsburgh Penguins throughout his NHL career, and is well worth the huge seven-year $35 million contract he signed back in 2008. Fleury earned $5.5 million in 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons and is set to earn $250,000 more per year in the next two years. While he may not be widely regarded as one of the league's elite goalies, Fleury has managed to deliver some pretty consistent performances. He is, in fact, one of the few NHL goalies who have tried to live up to all the expectations of being a number one overall draft pick, with save percentages of over .905 over the last 5 years.
5 Pekka Rinne - Nashville Predators: $ 6,986.03 Per Save
With his seven-year deal worth $49 million, running from 2012 to 2013, Pekka Rinne is among the highest-earning goaltenders in the NHL. His $7 million a year salary carries a $7 million cap hit, and is the largest contract in the Nashville Predators' franchise history. Unlike some top-earning goalies, Pekka Rinne is worth every dollar he makes. His accolades include being rookie of the month in the 2008-09 NHL season, Predators’ franchise record holder for shutouts and consecutive wins and Vezina Trophy finalist in 2012. He made 1,002 saves in the 2012-13 season, good for almost $7,000 a pop.
4 Jonas Hiller - Anaheim Ducks: $7,305.19 Per Save
Jonas Hiller has been steadily growing into one of the top goalies in the NHL, since becoming the Anaheim Duck’s starting goaltender in 2009. The vertigo issues that threatened to derail his career appear to be over, and he's expected to improve on the 616 saves he made last year. Hiller has been earning $4.5 million a year since 2010, and things can only get better in 2014 which is another contract year for the Swiss player.
3 Roberto Luongo - Vancouver Canucks: $13,428.00 Per Save
While he may have been pushed aside by Cory Schneider last season (which has seen him make only 500 saves), Roberto Luongo remains one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. Although Luongo thought he had lost Vancouver's number one spot, the team expressed their faith in him, deciding to trade Schneider to the New Jersey Devils. Luongo earned just over $6.7 million last year and continues his long-term $64-million contract which does not expire until 2022.
2 Cam Ward - Carolina Hurricanes: $14, 780.60 Per Save
As the top Carolina Hurricanes goalie, Cam Ward earned $6.4 million in the 2012-13 season. He has a 6-year $37.8 million contract that runs from 2010 to 2016. However, his stats don’t reflect his bank account. Ward has been inconsistent for a number of years now. Basically, he has found it hard to live up to the hefty expectations that followed his Conn Smythe trophy and Stanley Cup winning streak. Of course, there are a number of factors that have contributed to this situation. First, the Hurricanes haven’t been winning enough games to put Ward in a position where he can truly develop and express his abilities. Injuries and the disruption of the Hurricane’s Cup-winning roster have also played a part in Ward’s dismal stats.
1 Jaroslav Halak - St. Louis Blues: $16,536.96 Per Save
The St. Louis Blues have two capable goaltenders in Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak, both of whom have been battling for their starts. With Elliot having registered 208 starts in his career compared to Halak’s 233, it seems as if none of them has really won this battle. But, one thing is clear: Halak is top when it comes to the “battle of the pocket.” He made $3.5 million and $4.25 million in 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons respectively, having signed a four-year deal back in 2010. The man is set to make $4.5 million in 2014. Although his inability to instill confidence has led to some trade rumors, the Blues are determined to develop Jaro into their main man and you can expect him to surpass the 257 saves he made last year.