Capped: The Backup

by Chris Pudsey on October 22, 2015

Identifying four valuable backups for your cap league.

Goalies are a weird bunch to figure out. I know, I’ve played the position for the past 35+ years (yes, I am old.) When a goalie is hot, he’s hot and when he’s not, well we know where I am going with this. So far this year, we’ve seen some starters who really have NOT been hot. This is where a good backup goalie can really save an NHL’s team, but also helps your fantasy team.

There are times when a good backup is a valuable asset, such as:

  • Larger leagues (team wise) with a bigger roster
  • Daily start leagues
  • Questionable starting goalies (both in skill and expected health issues)

Vice-versa, there are times when owning backup goalies don’t really come into play as much:

  • Weekly start leagues
  • Smaller leagues (team-wise)
  • Small roster limits
  • Proven workhorses for starting goalies

In this weeks Capped, we are going to take a look at some inexpensive backup goalies that entered this year as the clear backup but are proving their value early on in this NHL season and are worth considering for your roster. I am not going to list guys who were considered 1A/1B heading into the season, mainly focus on the guys who many didn’t think had nearly the value that they might have as the season progresses. 

Michal Neuvirth – PHI – $1.625M, one year remaining

player

GP

Win

L

OTL

SO

GA

SHA

GAA

SV%

NEUVIRTH, MICHAL

3

2

0

0

2

3

83

1.04

0.9639

When Steve Mason was called away from the team due to a family emergency, Michael Neuvirth was handed the crease and he didn’t disappoint. In three games he has two shutouts and a sparkling 0.963 save percentage early on. 

Neuvirth is an easy choice to put on this list considering his game-play so far this season. While he hasn’t officially stolen anything from Steve Mason, he has certainly shown he is more than capable when it comes to filling in for the Flyers should they ever need him, short term or long. 

I think it’s safe to say, for now, that Mason is still the guy in Philadelphia due to his strong play last year but Neuvirth is going to get his chance earlier than expected to show he is also worthy of spelling off Mason when the time is needed.

Anders Nilsson – EDM – $1M, UFA at seasons end

player

GP

Win

L

OTL

SO

GA

SHA

GAA

SV%

NILSSON, ANDERS

2

1

1

0

0

4

85

1.98

0.9529

The former Islanders third round draft pick had 21 NHL games under his belt before this year but spent last year in the KHL, honing his game. So far, it looks like the right move because he’s been solid for the Oilers early on.

Nilsson impressive play in the pre-season was more than enough for the Oilers to banish Ben Scrivens back to the AHL and has now even challenged Cam Talbot for starting time. 

As it stands right now, head coach Todd McLellan is comfortable rotating goalies and giving them equal billing in the starting spot. While the Oilers struggled early on to score goals, their defensive play has actually looked good, including their goaltending.  Nilsson is in a good spot that many probably didn’t expect him to be at this stage of the season. 

Joni Ortio – CAL – $600,000, RFA at seasons end

Ortio has yet to make an official appearance this season but with the recent situation in Calgary which saw Kari Ramo being placed on waivers, it could very well be Ortio-time for the Flames.

The Flames are struggling to keep the puck out of their net and Ortio could be the guy who steps up and steals the starting role from Jonas Hiller. Hiller has been less than stellar so far this year, sporting a 3.78 GAA and a nasty 0.867 save percentage.

Ortio did get into six NHL games last year and although the Flames did appear to be playing better defensively last season, he came out of those six games with a 4-2 record, 2.52 GAA and 0.908 save percentage.

Darcy Kuemper –  MIN – $1.25M, RFA at seasons end

player

GP

Win

L

OTL

SO

GA

SHA

GAA

SV%

KUEMPER, DARCY

1

0

0

1

0

2

37

1.93

0.9459

After Devan Dubnyk was signed to his new long-term deal in the off-season, most considered Kuemper to be fodder but so far, Dubnyk hasn’t performed nearly as well as he did last year.  Not that it should really surprise anyone because his numbers last year were out of this world good but I don’t think many expected Dubnyk to be quite as bad as he has been so far. Sure, he’s 3-1-1 so far this year, but his personal stats are well below his career average, and that was on some bad Oilers teams too.

Dubnyk’s “less than stellar” numbers could very well open the door for Kuemper, who many at one time expected to be the long-term answer in nets for the Wild, to gain a few more starts than once expected. 

If you were one of the many who discarded Kuemper heading into this season and wrote him off, you may want to reconsider your thinking. He may end up having more value this year than you thought.

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