In 2011, knowing they wouldn't be able to keep Ilya Bryzgalov, the Phoenix Coyotes prepared a list of replacements. Mike Smith, then with the Tampa Bay Lightning, was at the top. They loved his size, how he battled and his ability to play the puck. Because of their time together in Dallas, Dave Tippett knew he'd be a great fit.
That year, Smith struggled with Tampa during the regular season with an .899 save percentage and 2.90 goals-against average but for the Coyotes, that didn't matter. They knew what they were getting and a down year only meant he came cheaper.
Then came the playoffs.
The Lightning made an unexpected run to the Eastern Conference finals and Smith started getting playoff time spelling starter Dwayne Roloson that showed his confidence was back and just how good he could play in pressure situations. That postseason, Smith played three games, with a save percentage of .958. He allowed just two goals on 48 shots.
The Coyotes started to fear that Smith's playoff success might earn him more playing time and drive his asking price too high for their budget. That never happened and they signed him to a very reasonable two-year deal that is set to expire this summer.
But the playoffs can completely change the perception of a goalie and what he can demand in his next contract. It can also change how a team approaches their goaltending situation the following summer.
And two goalie situations playing out in the postseason for Pittsburgh and Chicago could help shape an interesting summer goalie market.
When Marc-Andre Fleury struggled to start the playoffs for the Penguins, Tomas Vokoun came in and steadied the ship in round 1. He's been a calming veteran presence and is a big reason the Penguins' game has settled. It's also raised questions about Fleury's future with the Penguins.