Dollars For Fantasy Doughnuts: Oh Those Goalies…

 

So is Jonathan Quick the new fantasy hockey gold standard for goalies? It is a good question to ask. Some will say it is Henrik Lundqvist because he did win the Vezina Trophy after all and that is for the best goalie. However, being a fantasy hockey junkie, you come to realize that the lines blur from regular season to playoffs. How your goalies finish is most times more important than how they start. We have joked that having a hard charger and fast starter leads to success and for the most part, this is true.

The dilemma in fantasy leagues is that the high dollar guys mostly pan out and while that is true, not all of them work out in their destinations because of diminished play, team standards, or the unexpected. Let’s take a look at the highest paid goalies in the league according to salary. Once again thanks to Capgeek for their expertise.

HIGHEST SALARIES:

Player Pos Tm Age Term Amount
1. Rinne, Pekka » G NAS 29 7 $7,000,000
2. Lundqvist, Henrik » G NYR 30 6 $6,875,000
3. Luongo, Roberto » G VAN 33 12 $6,714,000
4. Bryzgalov, Ilya » G PHI 32 9 $6,500,000
5. Ward, Cam » G CAR 28 6 $6,400,000
6. Miller, Ryan » G BUF 31 5 $6,250,000
7. Backstrom, Niklas » G MIN 34 4 $6,000,000

When taking a deeper look, it became apparent what really was going on. Two players are on what I would like to call those “frontloader deals” where the money at the end is like a pittance to retirement. Another player is on the last year of their deal and will be entering the dreaded 35+ age category where most goalies begin to lose fantasy relevance. Then there is one that lost his starting job and appears headed out of town.

Please note the ages in general. All of the goalies are between the ages of 28-34. That spectrum is often integral in gauging goalie projections most of the time. By fantasy numbers, Henrik Lundqvist is the best fantasy goalie hands down. If you asked a couple years ago, that answer would be Ryan Miller. Now let’s take a look at a few snap numbers and why we cannot just rush to judgement in most of these cases.

WIN DIFFERENTIAL:

  • Pekka Rinne — +25
  • Henrik Lundqvist — +21
  • Roberto Luongo — +17
  • Ilya Bryzgalov — +17
  • Ryan Miller — +10
  • Cam Ward — +7
  • Niklas Backstrom — +1

This is one of those stats that is jus real simple. One takes wins and subtracts losses. Yes it may seem as overrated as the +/- for forwards and defense but again this is straight nuts and bolts statistics. There are no really fancy wrinkles here. If there were, then we would have some interesting math. However, there are some interesting trends that can even be taken from this first number set. Rinne and Lundqvist are entrenched with their teams and it is not a surprise for as high as they are paid, they top this list. However, as one goes down, one should note that Roberto Luongo only had 55 games played which means injury or an upcoming number two. With the signing of Cory Schneider yesterday, that time has come or has it?

Philadelphia has its own problems with their high end investment. Ilya Bryzgalov was only six over .500 in the second half of the season. Cam Ward was up and down all year and Niklas Backstrom played in only 46 games as his tandem with Josh Harding has killed most if not all of his fantasy value along with his near .500 team. Going forward, Minnesota does not look like it will improve much. Carolina has already added Jordan Staal, which is an improvement over Brandon Sutter. Buffalo is looking poised to make a move upward while Philadelphia never stands pat. Vancouver like we said is likely to trade Luongo and his two main suitors offer up different scenarios. Lundqvist and Rinne are stalwarts simply put.

Let’s have a little more fun with this and play with placement numbers such as GAA, save percentage and shutouts. Combining all three we came up with a simple “Fantasy Vezina Watch”. It was what helped us pick Jonathan Quick as our winner. One will see why in just a second. Here are those placements amongst our top moneymakers.

Fantasy Vezina WATCH

  • Henrik Lundqvist — 3
  • Pekka Rinne — 9
  • Roberto Luongo — 11
  • Ryan Miller — 15.5*
  • Ilya Bryzgalov — 16.5*
  • Cam Ward — 17
  • Niklas Backstrom — N/A (< 50 gms played)

This is the fun part. The asterisk for Miller is because of the simple fact that he had a hotter second half than first half. A same fate was in store for Ilya Bryzgalov despite the win differential not quite going his way. Cam Ward was just saddled with an awful team defense in front of him combined with some bad, inexcusable streaks. A placement number is dependent on so much for goalies. As many have said, GAA and save percentage are at least somewhat linked to team defense. It has to be after all. The best defense out of these seven teams would have to belong to Henrik Lundqvist. It is no surprise why he tops this list and that is no disrespect to his talent. Facts are just facts.

Lundqvist was the only goalie to have a GAA under 2.25 and a save perentage above .925. Just think about how many goalies had those numbers not too long ago and again in the mid 1990’s. There were quite a few more than people think. Now, in an era where scoring leveled some but is up, these cases are less the norm amongst our $$$ goalies.

Niklas Backstrom is only on this list because he has one more year at six million dollars. He will come off of it after the 2012-13 season while these other goalies have at least two more years on their current contracts. Backstrom can produce numbers but with Minnesota’s triumvirate of goalies, the amount of games will be lacking and healthy always seems to be issue of late with Backstrom. Roberto Luongo may be in Florida or Toronto for the 2012-13 season and that is going to make a world of difference fantasy wise. Florida and his numbers are comparable with last year while in Toronto his GAA may be the worst or mighty close of these seven netminders.

It would seem the top three for next season would be Lundqvist-Rinne-Mller but again anything can and usually does change. That is the funny thing with numbers. All we can do is take a snapshot and gaze into the future. No one ever seems to know what variables will rear their ugly heads. Again, just ask that Luongo fellow.

Lastly, we have the most important decision of all. At this moment, are these players worth the six million dollar benchmark? A goalie probably should be at the elite level to reach this salary and have proven it already over at least the last couple seasons. Our decision was also based fantasy wise as well and we did add our comparison test at the end for a reason.

YES OR NO?:

  • Henrik Lundqvist — Yes
  • Pekka Rinne — Yes
  • Ryan Miller — Yes
  • Ilya Bryzgalov — No
  • Roberto Luongo — No
  • Cam Ward — No
  • Niklas Backstrom — No

Why do we only deem three of these goalies as worth the benchmark. The reality is no one knows what will happen to Roberto Luongo once traded. The goalie is 33 and no one knows if he will have a surge at this juncture or a bit of a dip next year. It is not also to say that Cam Ward is not a very good goalie. He is but no one will ever confuse him as being elite because of consistency with the flashes of great play. Even Pekka Rinne and Ryan Miller were not definitively marked down as yes because of Miller’s struggles last year and the fact that Rinne could lose Ryan Suter this year and Shea Weber not too soon after. Time will tell how Rinne ultimately pans out but for now we say right at six million or a hair above. Using our valuations amongst these goalies, Henrik Lundqvist would be worth at least 7.5 million dollars and maybe closer to 8. That number drops to say 5.5 million for Ward and under 5 for Bryzgalov. As for Backstrom, his value would be around 3-3.5 at best.

Yes we live in a cold war but this is how things are when broken down at their simplest level. Hopefully there will be more little fantasy tidbits like this as the summer rolls on. Stay tuned. You have all been warned!

About Chris Wassel

Simply I am a hockey writer who is a jack of all trades. Whether it is draft, fantasy, NHL, KHL, AHL, etc...I probably can write about it. The challenge in hockey is to be able to step out of your comfort zone and write like you are still there. Hopefully you enjoy the humor in the writing on the site and tell your friends. Thanks for reading!

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