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2010 Draft Prep: Goaltending tiers

by | Rotowire.com
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While goalie values vary according to how your league is structured, both in terms of scoring and how many players you start, often I won't end up with the three blue chip goalies listed here. There are about 6-8 goaltenders in my next tier that I wouldn't mind selecting, and instead getting a top-level skater in the first round. This would cover me in a 10-team league, and even if I was playing in a 12-14 team league I could still live with an average goalie with high upside. What I can't live with is not having that high-scoring forward that I want. Those kinds of players will fly off the board quickly. I will take a top goalie if they slip to the bottom of the first round, but at the top I want the player that can put the biscuit in the basket, not the player that keeps it out.

Blue Chips

Martin Brodeur, Devils: Choose whatever catch phrase you want for Brodeur, "first ballot Hall of Famer", "best goaltender ever", "ageless wonder", it doesn't matter, he is still a top goaltender in any fantasy format. That the Devils re-signed Ilya Kovalchuk should also be a good thing, as theoretically New Jersey should score more goals thus alleviating some of the pressure on Brodeur's shoulders. If you're a pessimist, the addition of Johan Hedberg could lead to Brodeur being rested more often than usual.

Ryan Miller, Sabres: After the incredible run Miller had last season with Team USA in the Olympics and with the Sabres, he may be the first goalie taken off the board in most fantasy drafts, and it's difficult to argue against that logic. Miller won 42 games last season while posting a 2.22 GAA and .929 save percentage, numbers that any fantasy owner would take once again, and playing in the Northeast Division may allow Miller to repeat that performance.

Roberto Luongo, Canucks: I downgraded Luongo from this tier, as his 2.57 GAA last season and average performance during the playoffs were hardly noteworthy. Still, Luongo is a world class goaltender and the Canucks have the look and feel of a team that could make a strong run at the Stanley Cup this season, much like the Blackhawks did last year. Henrik Sedin has emerged as good a player as his brother Daniel, plus Alexandre Burrows, Mason Raymond, and Ryan Kesler, give them the additional scoring they need. The team has reworked their defense, all with an eye towards giving Luongo the support he needs to remain a top NHL goaltender.

Second Tier

Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers: If Lundqvist were playing for a better team, he might make the leap to the top tier. However, the Rangers however are a team that will be fighting for a playoff spot come April, have just an adequate offense and an average defense that puts much of the pressure on Lundqvist to not only keep them in games, but win some by himself. The addition of Martin Biron as a backup finally gives the Rangers a legitimate option to start in net when they want to rest Lundqvist, too. This could be bad news as Lundqvist may start less than the 71 games he has averaged over the past five seasons.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins: In my mind Fleury is this generation's Billy Smith in net. He's a solid goalie during most of the regular season, but only truly turns it on when the games matter most and during the playoffs. This can drive fantasy owners crazy as he plays for one of the best offenses in the NHL and should put up better statistics than he does.

Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames: If you look at Kiprusoff's win total from last season, 35, you may come to the conclusion that he had an off year. That's not quite true, as Kipper had a 2.31 GAA and a .920 save percentage, numbers that aren't far off of Ryan Miller's. The reason for the low win total was the Flames lack of offensive support, something they are hoping the return of Olli Jokinen will eliminate.

Ilya Bryzgalov, Coyotes: Phoenix and to a certain extent Bryzgalov were huge surprises last season. The Coyotes made the playoffs, which seemed unlikely before the season began with all the talk about relocating the franchise and coach Wayne Gretzky stepping down due to the team's financial problems. Bryzgalov posted career best numbers in both GAA (2.29) and save percentage (.920) to lead this team to the playoffs. Whether or not he can do it in back-to-back seasons remains to be seen, but I wouldn't count him out.

On The Rise

Semyon Varlamov , Capitals: With the departure of Jose Theodore, Varlamov no longer has strong competition for the starting job between the pipes. Varlamov was having a strong sophomore season before injuries set him back and he was never able to get back into rhythm once he returned. With Alexander Ovechkin and company putting up crooked numbers on the scoreboard, Varlamov can relax in net and play his game, knowing that one bad goal is not going to cost the team the game. Varlamov may not be a top goaltender, but he will come off the board quickly because of his offensive support.

Pekka Rinne, Predators: Rinne and Dan Ellis were platooning in net to begin last season before the Predators decided to hand the job to Rinne, giving him a contract extension. Rinne proved the Predators right by becoming one of the stingier goaltenders in net during the second half of the season, finishing with a 2.59 GAA and .911 save percentage. The Preds let Ellis walk this offseason, and he ended up in Tampa. All of the potential backups to Rinne are untested at the NHL level, so look for Rinne to be a workhorse this year.

Jimmy Howard, Red Wings: With the free agent defections and injuries the Red Wings suffered early last year, it was starting to look like a lost season until Howard was installed as the starting goaltender over Chris Osgood. Howard thrived with the additional workload. His level of play in net seemed to spark the entire team as the Wings play improved dramatically, especially when all of their injured skaters returned. The Wings are healthy this season and look to be one of the stronger teams in the West, Howard could be one of the top goaltenders in the league this season.

Jaroslav Halak, Blues: Halak's trade to the Blues was one of the strangest moves of the offseason. Not because the Blues traded for him, but because the Montreal Canadiens decided to keep Carey Price ahead of Halak. Halak had clearly outperformed Price and was the main reason why Montreal had such an impressive playoff run. He will give the Blues the franchise netminder they haven't had since Curtis Joseph was in his prime.

Craig Anderson, Avalanche: The Avalanche took a chance when they signed Anderson before last season. He had never been a full-time starter in the NHL before, but the Avs liked what they saw in Anderson's limited action for the Panthers the season before. The gamble paid off nicely when Anderson put up a better than expected season with 38 wins, 2.64 GAA, and .917 save percentage. Sure the GAA could be better, but the save percentage is where you want it, and remember this is a young team that should only get better.

On The Decline

Tim Thomas, Bruins: Thomas won the Vezina Trophy in 2008-09 but that wasn't enough to secure his starting job last season as he slumped and eventually lost the job to Tuukka Rask. Once Rask took hold of the job the Bruins tried to trade Thomas, but his contract made that next to impossible. He is slated to be a backup this season and his name is sure to come up in trade rumors whenever a team is in need of a backstop. Thomas also underwent offseason hip surgery, though he's been cleared for training camp.

Carey Price, Canadiens: The Canadiens traded away Jaroslav Halak and decided to hand the starting job to Price. This was a curious decision, as Halak had outplayed Price in every facet of the game, but the Montreal brass still believes Price will eventually be the better goaltender. They paid for that assertion by handing Price a two-year contract extension on the eve of training camp. I have serious doubts and if Price were to get off to a slow start this season, the Montreal faithful are sure to let him hear it. Alex Auld is this year's backup.

Cristobal Huet, Blackhawks: Huet has had one strange ride over the past 12 months. He's gone from being the starting goalie for a strong team, to the backup, to being most likely to play in the AHL this season so his salary doesn't count against the cap, to possibly being lent to a Swiss team. Having a .895 save percentage will do that for you. The Blackhawks confirmed Huet's lack of future with the squad by keeping him away from training camp, even with Antii Niemi plying his wares elsewhere.

Chris Osgood, Red Wings: Osgood went from the penthouse to the outhouse in a big hurry. He was the starting goaltender for the Wings during the 2008-09season when they went to the Stanley Cup finals, but then lost his job during the first half of last season when his play deteriorated badly. He posted a 3.02 GAA and .888 save percentage. Osgood is 38 years of age and perhaps Father Time has finally caught up with him, though at least he'll have the benefit of playing behind a healthier Red Wings squad. He has been relegated to the backup role behind Jimmy Howard.

Nikolai Khabibulin, Oilers: Khabibulin had a debut season to forget in Edmonton. He first he was lost for the season due to a back injury in November, and then got arrested for drunk driving while rehabbing the injury during the season. Khabibulin was found guilty of the DUI but will probably not have to serve his 30-day jail sentence during the NHL season. Still, the Oilers may give Khabibulin their own penalty and with the talent around him, it's not like he was a solid pick in net this season anyway. On the bright side, at least he's fully healed from last season's back injury.

Newcomers

Michael Leighton, Flyers: Leighton is certainly not a newcomer to the NHL as he has been playing since the 2002-03, but last season was the first in which he had a starting role. Leighton was claimed off waivers from the Hurricanes as the Flyers needed a goaltender once Ray Emery went down for the season. Leighton was everything they asked for and more as he posted a 16-5-2 record and 2.48 GAA in the regular season and then the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup finals with him between the pipes. He's still a bit of a fantasy gamble, with Brian Boucher still around and youngster Johan Backlund potentially there to steal playing time away.

Antti Niemi, Sharks: Like his former goalie partner Cristobal Huet, Niemi also had a crazy ride last season. He took over the starting job from Huet, led the Hawks to their first Stanley cup in almost 40 years, won his arbitration case and subsequently was released by the Hawks, and then finally signed by the Sharks. Before you go bonkers and grab him in your fantasy draft, remember that San Jose also signed Anterro Niittymaki, so this could be a straight platoon situation, something that is never good for a fantasy owner.

Tuukka Rask, Bruins: Rask put up numbers that were simply out of this world last season. A 1.97 GAA and .931 save percentage gave the Bruins no choice but to bench Tim Thomas, who had won the Vezina Trophy the season before and was signed to a big contract. If Rask doesn't come down with a sophomore slump, then he can be the type of goaltender who can give you great value among the middle tier of goaltenders. If the Bruins ever find a taker for Thomas' contract, Rask could vault among the elite with the added job security.

Jonathan Quick, Kings: The Kings became relevant in the NHL again last season and Quick was a big reason why, as he posted 39 wins to go along with a 2.54 GAA and .907 save percentage. Quick however is not the Kings goaltender of the future (Jonathan Bernier has that distinction), but should be the starter this season, though the team has suggested that they will reduce his workload. When evaluating Quick's value, you have to temper your enthusiasm for last season's numbers and a team that's overall on the rise with the news of his workload reduction, and the presence of two legitimate threats to that playing time in Bernier and Erik Ersberg.

While this doesn't cover every goaltender in your fantasy pool, it should be a good headstart towards seeing where the first couple of tiers start and end. Good luck in preparing for your drafts!

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Player News
Ryan Ellis
Preds, Ellis Still At Odds Over New Contract
Ryan Ellis, D, NSH
12:49 AM
News: Preds GM David Poile addressed Ryan Ellis' contract situation Saturday, saying the main stumbling block continues to be money, according to the Tennessean. "Unfortunately at this time we have not agreed what they think and what we think is fair compensation," Poile said. "We want [Ellis]. We are not trading him, we really like him. We really like the way he played last year. It's just a disagreement on dollars."
Analysis: Ryan Ellis, who has missed the first two days of training camp so far, played in 80 games last season for and finished with 27 points - his highest full season total to date. And while there is still plenty of time left to get a deal done before the start of the season, the clock is ticking. Not only is he missing out on conditioning drills and scrimmages, the more Ellis misses of training camp, the greater the chances of some other defenseman impressing the coaching staff and grabbing a roster spot that might otherwise go to Ellis. Bottom line, we think Ellis will get signed by the start of the regular season, but what his role on the team will be is anybody's guess. He's a risky fantasy pick right now, until all of the above gets sorted out.

Jon Merrill
Devils' Merrill Misses Practice With Head Injury
Jon Merrill, D, NJ
12:48 AM
News: Jon Merrill missed the second day of Devils' training camp on Saturday due to a head injury he suffered after colliding with teammate Ruslan Fedotenko during Friday's practice, Rich Chere of NJ.com reports.
Analysis: Luckily for Jon Merrill, the Devils' first regular season game isn't until October 9th. While head injuries are never a good thing, the promising young defender should have ample time to get healthy before the regular season kicks off.

Ryan Johansen
Jackets' Johansen: Is KHL Calling?
Ryan Johansen, C, CLB
9/20/2014
News: Ryan Johansen is set to receive a contract offer from CSKA Moscow of the KHL, reports TSN.ca. The deal is expected to be for one year and $5 million.
Analysis: The Jackets and Ryan Johansen are at an impasse in salary negotiations. Johansen doesn't think he should have to ink a bridge deal and instead go straight to the rich house, while the Jackets think he should prove his mettle with a P.K. Subban-like bridge contract. Still, reports indicate the team has offered as much as $32 million for six years and $46 million over eight, so those aren't exactly "bridge." Johansen sniped 33 goals and ended with 63 points in 82 games last season. A move to the KHL is unlikely, but leverage is leverage.

Joe Thornton
Sharks' Thornton Disagrees With General Manager
Joe Thornton, C, SJ
9/20/2014
News: Joe Thornton took issue Friday with general manager Doug Wilson's offseason comments about the Sharks rebuilding and becoming a "tomorrow team," reports the San Jose Mercury News. "That's Doug's opinion," said the big center. "I think if you'd ask anybody in here I don't think they have the same feeling."
Analysis: There have been plenty of rumors about Wilson doing all he can to push Jumbo Joe into a place where the center either demands a trade or the situation becomes ripe to ship him out of town. There seems to be a bit of a ripple starting in San Jose -- we'll see how far it goes.

Slater Koekkoek
Bolts' Koekkoek (Shoulder): Feels 100-Percent
Slater Koekkoek, D, TB
9/20/2014
News: Slater Koekkoek (shoulder) skated in practice Friday and said his surgically-repaired shoulders "felt 100-percent," reports the Tampa Bay Times. "I didn't play with any hesitation," said the big defender.
Analysis: This guy has all the potential in the world and could be dominant. But he desperately needs to stay healthy for a full season, something that just hasn't happened in years after multiple shoulder surgeries. He'll spend a full season in the AHL this year and the Bolts hope he can prove those shoulder issues are a thing of the past.

Sven Andrighetto
Habs' Andrighetto Scores In Scrimmage
Sven Andrighetto, RW, MON
9/20/2014
News: Adrighetto scored a goal on a penalty shot during Montreal's intra-squad scrimmage Saturday, the Montreal Gazette reports.
Analysis: Sven Andrighetto showcased some of his offensive skill, forcing a hooking penalty that led to his penalty shot goal, but the 5-9 forward was also out-muscled in one-on-one battles and was on ice for three of his opponents' goals. That sums up Andrighetto at this stage of his career. If he were to stick with Montreal, it would have to be in a third- or fourth-line role, where he would have to play a more physical role than he's accustomed to.

Ben Bishop
Bolts' Bishop (Wrist) Feels "Really Good"
Ben Bishop, G, TB
9/20/2014
News: Ben Bishop (wrist) was encouraged with how he felt after Friday's on-ice work, reports the Tampa Bay Times. He did 15 minutes of individual drills and a 90-minute practice. "The first session felt really good, got a little sore toward the end of the second session, but that's kind of expected," Bishop said.
Analysis: This is great news for his owners and for the Bolts. The team's playoff hopes went down the drain when big Ben Bishop got hurt late in the year. He'll build on his Vezina-nominated season and should deliver similar output this year.

Ryan Callahan
Bolts Try Callahan With Stamkos
Ryan Callahan, RW, TB
9/20/2014
News: Ryan Callahan could start the season on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat, reports the Tampa Bay Times. The trio was together at camp on Friday and head coach Jon Cooper was quick to tell reporters, "I don't think there's an open audition," to play with Stamkos.
Analysis: Ryan Callahan didn't really spend a lot of time with Stammer last season, so he's the likely odd man out if there's juggling. But Palat had great success beside Stammer late in 2013-14. Stamkos himself liked the trio: "Obviously you want a mix of everything on a line," Stamkos said. "You want a guy who can distribute the puck, a guy that can shoot, and a guy that can go into a corner and get it. With the guys I was playing with (Friday), we had a good combination of that."

Ondrej Palat
Bolts' Palat Back With Stamkos On Top Line
Ondrej Palat, LW, TB
9/20/2014
News: Ondrej Palat practiced with Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan on Saturday and Lightning coach Jon Cooper expects the trio to start the season together, reports the Tampa Bay Times. "We've got a group that has some success with him last year, and why wouldn't we go back to that again? At least at the start of the year," said the coach.
Analysis: Ondrej Palat was a finalist for the Calder trophy and was a two-way revelation for the Bolts last year. He can dish the puck and did that well last year when he skated with Stammer late in the year. Palat's star is on the rise -- push him up your draft list. His two-way sensibility should insulate him against a sophomore slump.

Steven Stamkos
Bolts' Stamkos Starts With Callahan And Palat
Steven Stamkos, C, TB
9/20/2014
News: Steven Stamkos opened training camp on a line with Ryan Callahan and Ondrej Palat, according to the Tampa Bay Times, and while the players were told not to read much into their line mates in camp, coach Jon Cooper was quick to suggest this trio would start the season together. "We've got a group that has some success with him last year, and why wouldn't we go back to that again? At least at the start of the year."
Analysis: Steven Stamkos spent a lot of time with Palat and center Tyler Johnson near season's end last year. The Stamkos-Callahan-Palat combo is a nice mix of sniping, mucking and distributing. It looks like a good combo to us.

 
 
 
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