Rambling quite a bit about goaltending in New York, Chicago, Colorado, plus other notes (May 27)
We’re here. The Stanley Cup Final begins tonight. The beginning of the end of the 2018-19 NHL season. I can’t believe we’re here already, I feel like I just had my draft. The regular season is done, the playoffs are 10 or 15 days away from being over, I’m almost finished putting together the Fantasy Prospects Report…what happened? Time stops for nobody.
I won zero trophies this year, so that sucks. Actually, I have an outside shot at the playoff trophy in my 29-year keeper league provided one of the teams sweep and Brad Marchand does well. I have a 12-point lead in that one, but Marchand is the only player I have left so it doesn’t look good when the other owner has six guys. So all in all, I’ll get a bit of prize money, enough to cover the entry fees plus beer money to enjoy during this year’s drafts. And that’s it. Not a great year.
But it was a screwy year, right? For goaltenders especially. If you were on the winning end of this year’s goaltending fiasco, I call it luck and not skill. Yes, owning Andrei Vasilevskiy in leagues requires skill (via drafting and holding over the years, or trading, etc.), but the sheer gap between him and the next guy in many formats – that’s luck. As I said to a friend in one of my leagues: owning Vasilevskiy this season is like owning Gretzky in 1984.
Vasilevskiy’s wins versus losses, combined with a 0.925 SV% pushes him miles ahead of second place. In my one league I made the Gretzky statement about:
1. Vasilevskiy 167.5
2. Frederik Andersen 136.6
3. Sergei Bobrovsky 135.8
4. M-A Fleury 132.3
5. Carey Price 126.6
6. Ben Bishop 123.1
Look at that gap! And in my other league (19-year keeper):
1. Vasilevskiy 93.25 points
2. Fleury 76.15
3. Andersen 75.8
4. Bobrovsky 73.4
5. Price 72.3
6. Ben Bishop 69.05
The gap between Vas and the next wave of great goaltenders is vast (or “Vas-t” ha) in two different league points formats.
But I got off on a tangent there. Circling back to the weird goalie year we just endured:
We had Matt Murray with a fantasy-damaging first half and a strong second half. We had John Gibson with a fantasy-damaging second half and a strong first half. We had Darcy Kuemper as one of the best goalies to own. We had a minor-league goalie in December, suddenly appear in January and take run at the Calder Trophy (and Stanley Cup?). We had a sub-.900 SV% goaltender get 36 wins. We had two goalies from the same team (Islanders) rank in the Top 20 in many league formats. We had Jaroslav Halak as the better Boston option from October through December and Tuukka Rask as the better Boston option from January through April (and into June). We had Cam Talbot absolutely implode, and a mediocre backup get signed to an extension as the Oilers’ starting goalie. And speaking of mediocre backups – suddenly Curtis McElhinney is a stud?
Goaltending is a huge mess to sort through this offseason, and with the free agent market flush with them this year it’s not going to get any easier. I feel like using a dartboard to help me out with the Fantasy Guide this year. But I’ll push up my sleeves and analyze the shit out of things, and see if my logic-driven mind can’t make sense of it all for you.
Question asked in the comments in the Top 100 Keeper Goalies: “How do you see the goalie situation in NY Rangers and Chicago?”
These situations in the coming season will depend heavily – (I will stress this in italics because italics mean you are stressing something) heavily – on injuries. Goalie careers are often launched thanks to an injury happening to someone else during Year A as opposed to Year B.
Henrik Lundqvist makes $8.5 million this year and next year. He is 37 years old. Last season he missed one game thanks to the flu, and three games with a back injury. Last season he posted the worst GAA of his career (3.07) and the worst SV% of his career (0.907). In fact, his last three seasons have been three of the four worst SV% seasons in his career. Furthermore, his SV% was best in the first quarter (0.918). After that, he was at 0.901. That tells me one of two things is happening. Either he is on the decline (which we know) and it’s happening quickly (which we can only suspect), or…his back injury troubled him in the second half even though he missed only three games.
Alexandar Georgiev makes $792, 500 next season and then he becomes a restricted free agent. He is only 23 and still on the rise. He improved every quarter: 0.894, 0.900, 0.912 and 0.930 SV% in order, each quarter of last season. He was never drafted and so he doesn’t have much in the way of a pedigree, his AHL numbers were ho-hum, and his numbers in Finland were very good. He deserves to be in the NHL.
Igor Shesterkin, for my money, is the best goalie in the organization and he is the best goalie not playing in the NHL. He, like Georgiev, is 23. He signed an entry-level contract three weeks ago for the maximum (up to $2.85 million if he hits all the bonuses in the NHL). That’s the Golden Boy treatment. I have full confidence that he is the franchise goalie of the future for this team. If you don’t know about him by now, just look him up and stare in awe at his ridiculous numbers in the KHL and internationally every year (and I mean every year – he doesn’t slip up ever). (Shesterkin scouting report here)
But what does this mean for the coming season? Well, I think Georgiev can be a quality NHL backup for Shesterkin in the future, so the Rangers won’t want to mess with the potential there. I think Shesterkin starts next season in the AHL. If Lundqvist stays healthy, I see a 50-50 split with Georgiev. And 40-plus games for Georgiev is great experience. Shesterkin, whose only weakness is having never played 40 games in a season, can work on his endurance and broaden his workload in the AHL. Playing 50 games would be ideal. How they resolve 2020-21 with Lundqvist still around is something I am guessing they will deal with next year, and just take this one season at a time.
But if Lundqvist’s back injury is chronic, or he suffers a different injury, the Shesterkin gets a foot in the door. And that would change everything. If this happens in November and he is fantastic in two starts, can they stop playing him? Or does he then Binnington his way through the season? Lundqvist’s health determines a lot in the coming season. The only thing I have any confidence about with New York goaltending is how things will look in the long term.
Oh boy, what to do as a Collin Delia owner? He could be a future NHL star, or he could be a career minor leaguer. And I think what happens this season with regards to Corey Crawford’s concussion issues will determine this.
Delia had strong AHL numbers when he was called up to the big club. He stabilized the goaltending for Chicago. He got roughed up for six goals in his 13 games (February 12) for six goals. After that, the team tried to shelter him and limit his games. Which was looking like it was making things worse after he got the hook on February 18 (three goals on 10 shots) and again in a four-goal loss on February 22. He was smartly sent down before he became shell-shocked, and other than one brutal game against Milwaukee (eight goals allowed), he played well down there. His NHL SV% of 0.908 is not reflective of what he was doing before hitting that wall. He has a three-year, one-way contract worth $1 million per season. Back-up money, but they haven’t ruled him out as a potential starter. Because…
Crawford is going to be an unrestricted free agent in 2020. He gets $6 million in the coming season. He’s 34 and has very serious concussion concerns. His one concussion cost him most of 2017-18 and the start of 2018-19. Another concussion on December 16 cost him two more months. To confuse matters, he returned from that last one and was out of this world – in the final quarter he had a 0.919 SV% and played 16 games.
So as you can see, everything here relies on injuries. If Crawford gets zero concussions then he plays 55 games and gets a 0.915 SV% and maybe 25 wins while Delia plays 30 games. If Crawford gets a concussion in November, Delia plays 50 games (more than he has in any year at any level), probably starts strong and peters out by March. If that injury happens later in the season, Delia could better handle the workload and probably put up impressive numbers. Ideal situation is Crawford not getting a concussion at all, and the two make a great tandem.
Two more things could muddy this issue.
First, is prospect Ivan Nalimov. I was very high on him a year ago, but he was injured early on last year and then didn’t enjoy his time with his KHL team because it was in China. So he was allowed to walk, and then he signed with Avangard Omsk, which already had two goalies. But he played well enough to finally elbow his way in as the backup and finished with a 0.917 SV% in 14 games. He is 24 years old, is 6-4, 209 pounds, and last year he had been told by Chicago that he could come over in 2019 and compete for an NHL job. He hasn’t signed a contract yet this summer but if he does it will complicate things with Delia. Nalimov would probably be asked to put in some AHL time. He is a dark horse. (Nalimov scouting profile here)
Second, is if the Blackhawks sign insurance. They have $20 million in cap room and have to replace five roster spots (skaters) with it. If they can get a fading star like Cam Talbot or re-sign Cam Ward, then this changes everything. This would mean Delia gets put on waivers in order to be sent down, or he gets traded. Either way it means a new team. But this wouldn’t happen until they roll with a three-headed goalie monster for a couple of months and make sure that Crawford is okay.
Under-the-radar signing: Pavel Francouz re-signs with the Avalanche. It’s a one-way deal and he has to clear waivers to be sent down (he won’t). The 28-year-old was never drafted, but impressed in the KHL and was signed last summer by the Avs. In the AHL he played 49 games and boasted an impressive 0.918 SV%. His two games with the big club were great. Sure, he lost both games but he only allowed two goals on 35 shots coming on twice in relief. After the wonky season we just had for goalies, expect him to win the Vezina in 2019-20. Okay, maybe not. But he’ll be a solid backup for Philipp Grubauer.
Congrats to: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies for winning their first Memorial Cup on Sunday. Joel Teasdale, an undrafted left winger who was signed by Montreal last summer, was the MVP of the tournament. He had 34 points in 20 QMJHL playoff games and then five points in five Memorial Cup games. He didn’t lead the Tourney in scoring – teammate Jakub Lauko (scouting profile here) did with eight points. Nor did he lead in goals, that went to teammate Felix Bibeau.
Montreal prospects had a great tourney with Teasdale winning MVP and Nick Suzuki finishing second in scoring with seven points in four games.
What a way to get eliminated. Check out this missed call in double OT that sent Charlotte to the AHL Calder Cup Final late Sunday…
In an interesting move, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson last week elected to sign back in Sweden. He will play there next season and my guess is he will return in one to two years when he has developed and matured. He rightfully felt as though being an AHL/NHL tweener wasn’t going to be good for him in the year ahead. Who knows? Maybe he comes back an offensive star in 2022.
You can pre-order all of this year’s products, including the Keeper League Fantasy Pack and the Ultimate Fantasy Pack. The first item – The Fantasy Prospects Report – will be out on June 1 at 3pm. I’ve been working hard on this, as has the rest of the team. I’ve written and researched eight of the teams already, and have another nine that I’ll be covering. The rest of the 15-person crew has submitted more than half of their assignment already. As always I’m finding some great sleepers for my keeper league and I can’t wait to share them with you.
See you next Monday.