Capped: Valuing goalies in cap leagues
I know I have tried to do a lot recently on ranking players in salary cap leagues, in addition to sorting out salary predictions that I could use as another evaluation tool in the rankings. However, as a few people have pointed out to me recently, there are no goalie rankings anywhere for salary cap leagues. My goal of this week's article isn't to provide a full set of rankings (I wish I had enough free time to do so), but I hope to at least provide a basis of thought for evaluating goalies, and how I approach a few situations.
Before we get into the evaluations, I found this interesting. Below are the top players for points and wins in the 2016-2017 season (three years ago). One of these still looks reasonable, the other one looks like the names were all shuffled together compared to this season.
For skaters, I generally take the next three years into consideration, weighting the current year at 50 percent, with 35 percent year two, and 15 percent year three. However, goalies are much more variable, and as a result, trying to project them more than two years into the future can be a fool's errand. From there, I have found by evaluating the skaters, that a 70-30 ratio of value between the production and cap-hit seems to balance well. However, by spending less on the risky business that is goaltending, we can stack skaters a little more, so a 60/40 (1.5:1) ratio should generally work better for goalies.
Goalie salaries tend to peak around age 32 as I have found by looking at some numbers over the last few years, which is approximately where the talent seems to peak as well. As a result, owning a goalie up until their contract expires around age 31 is ideal. However, we don't always get our first choice in net, and sometimes we have to make do with what is available. This can be a problem as goalies play such a large part in our fantasy teams, but there are usually only 2-3 goalies per fantasy team, meaning small sample sizes end up deciding a lot of fantasy hockey seasons.
Last summer, after Andrei Vasilevskiy signed his mega eight-year extension, I wrote a little on goalie value in cap leagues. I want to take some of those numbers, and expand on how that can be applied to valuing goalies. The most recent goalie rankings were from three weeks ago, so it is still relevant for our use here today.
Looking first at the goalies in tier zero and tier one, we have some proven but expensive goalies on longer term contracts, and some bargains who are coming up on big raises soon. The top three goalies (Jordan Binnington, Connor Hellebuyck, and Andrei Vasilevskiy) are all in their mid-twenties, so we can expect them to produce at fairly consistent rates over the next number of years. However, with Vasilevskiy's $9.5 million price tag for the next eight years, the better owns will actually be Binnington and Hellebuyck.
Moving onto the rest of the list, we see it range from 20-36 years old, and from cap hits of $675 thousand to $10.5 million. The vast majority of the group though, is aged from 25-32, with cap hits in the $3-6 million range. Evaluating which of these goalies to take against another one is going to be tricky, so I will refer back to my 60/40 ratio from above. For me to rank a goalie higher, the better and more expensive goalie has to have a higher talent gap than pay gap from the other option. Otherwise, you are often going to be much better off taking the cheaper goalie.
Let's look at an example. Two of the top NHL teams this season are backstopped by Philipp Grubauer and Tuukka Rask. Using our handy player comparison tool, we see that Rask has a small edge across the board:
Tuukka Rask has put up some stellar numbers this season, while Grubauer has been solid in fewer games (though he has dealt with a few different injuries). In the grand scheme of things though, we want to know which goalie will be more valuable for your fantasy team to own. In a non-cap league, the answer is simple, but in a cap league where Grubauer costs about half as much as Rask, things become less clear. Compared to a replacement level goalie, let's say that Grubauer's stats are worth about 75 percent of what Rask is worth in a generic league setup. The salary difference has Rask being about half (50 percent) as valuable as Grubauer. Using the 60/40 ratio from above, and multiplying that by Grubauer's "score" of 50 percent, and we end up with the 75 percent "score" of Rask, meaning they should be valued very similarly.
Full disclosure, I picked these two before checking the numbers, but expecting their value to be close (though I wasn't expecting it to be even). This is how the goalie market generally seems to be set value wise, is that talent wins out, but when there is a larger salary discrepancy between a smaller talent gap, that's where things get tricky. Personally, I will generally lean towards the cheaper goalie, as it is easier to get a more consistent producer as a skater, so of the two, I would prefer to roll with Grubauer. Add in a slight advantage due to Grubauer's age and lower cost next season, and it becomes a clearer choice. Now I will reiterate that this will vary greatly due to league size and settings.
On a different note, it's not often that we see a goalie make an impact on their entry-level contract. Carter Hart is a special case though, and with Vasilevskiy's extension kicking in this summer, the Flyers' number one goalie should also become the number one goalie to own in cap leagues. Hart has one year left on his entry level deal, and will be going into year three of his reign as the best goalie on the Philadelphia roster – a roster that right now looks primed for a deep playoff run. If that is the case, beware a bit of a drop off in Hart's numbers in the second half of next season due to the large workload.
As of right now, it looks as though the top set of goalies to own in cap leagues would have a tier zero with just Hart, and then a tier one of (in no particular order): Jordan Binnington, Philipp Grubauer, David Rittich, Ilya Samsonov, Igor Shesterkin, and maybe it could be stretched to include Ben Bishop and Frederik Andersen.
Perhaps this summer I will find some time to put together the start of a goalie formula. In the meantime, if you have questions, comments, or article requests, you can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean.
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