Capped: Projecting salaries for free agent goalies
This week premiers the salary projections for the top 20 free agent goalies in salary cap leagues. It doesn't look as fun as the top 200 skaters list that we have coming out next week, but I assume you that there will some fireworks involving these players this offseason. The list is unsurprisingly headed by Jacob Markstrom and Robin Lehner, though it sounds as though Lehner may not be on this list for long. If the rumoured deal of $5 million per year for five years is true, then it shows Lehner coming in below market value, and that could set the benchmark for a slew of bargain goalie contracts this summer. Maybe Markstrom falls in at $5.5 million for the Canucks, and Pittsburgh can re-sign Jarry for $3 million or less.
My thoughts on the projections:
Most importantly, these projections aren't perfect – keep that in mind. These projections try to take all of the player biases out of the equation, and it's all based off of numbers. As a result, if you don't agree with something, then it could mean you have some existing biases that are showing through. On the flip side, this also means that a lot of the NHL GM biases can't be taken into account, and what we end up with is more-so a projection of a player's value instead of exactly what they will sign for. This means that it can be a useful tool to ballpark a player's value before they sign and to give an approximation on their potential cost. It can then also be used after a contract is signed to compare their value to the contract versus the expectation, easily signaling whether the initial reaction to the contract should be positive of negative.
The stats used to show the value of a goaltender are generally based on the previous, current, and future season, with some input for future upsides and likely peak statistics. I am now content that most of the bugs have been worked out of the system, but as with any writer and publisher of numbers, I love to hear criticism and comments as they point out the areas for improvement. You can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean for any of these comments.
Some quick hits regarding the list:
-Due to the fact that there are approximately 44 incumbent NHL goalies signed to contracts through 2020-2021, that will mean there should be a squeeze for these last 20 to fit into the remaining 18 slots. With the additional growth of prospects adding to that squeeze, it could be that we see most of Mike Smith, Ryan Miller, Malcolm Subban, Aaron Dell, and Jimmy Howard without contracts entering the season.
-Chicago right now has two empty goalie slots for next season. They could turn back to Corey Crawford, or maybe go in a new (cheaper?) direction that could involve Collin Delia.
–Braden Holtby seems to be the real wildcard here. No one knows where he might end up, and it's realistic to see him getting bid on to a price tag of somewhere around $7 million, or completely shut out and forced to take a cheap backup role at around $2 million.
-Laurent Brossoit continues to be undervalued – this time by my projections. He's worth more than league minimum, and can be a solid backup when needed.
-I will be curious to see if there are (m)any buyouts of goalies this summer, as a few targets such as Devan Dubnyk and Henrik Lundqvist could save teams cap space and valuable revenue in a year where there won't be much to come by.
-Where Khudobin signs is going to dictate his value just as much as his salary. Will he be in a platoon role that suits him? Does he sign in Buffalo and get overloaded in 60 starts just like Hutton? Does he sign back in Dallas and lose the volume appeal of a starting role?
-The minimum salary for next year as per the new CBA is $700,000, going up to $750,000 for the 2021-2022 season. Anyone not showing is also projected to earn the league minimum of $700,000, though most rookies will probably be closer to $900,000.
-Potentially off the radar for some, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Tampa Bay try and find a new home for Curtis McElhinney and bring in a replacement backup for $900,000 or less. The $400,000+ that they could save can be put towards sorting out the cap issues that their skaters are causing; every little bit counts. Mike Smith might like a Stanley Cup chance for $900,000 and 15-20 starts.
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