Saturday, March 19, 2011

Who Needs a Goalie?

I don't want the Capitals to trade any of their three young goalies in the near future, nor do I think the team should. A goalie that can come in and be league average (or better) at age 20 or 22...comparables in that regard include Marc Andre Fleury, Cam Ward, Tuukka Rask, as well as players like Andrew Raycroft. Hanging onto three goalies is a bit of a two edged sword.

Ideally, the team sells high on the guy that ends up being the worst (like Pittsburgh did with Angelo Esposito), but there's virtually no way of knowing which will be the worst. If Varlamov stays healthy, he could be similar to Henrik Lundqvist. If Neuvirth stays healthy, think Cam Ward, I think. And Holtby actually can stay healthy, and is the best puck handler and most outwardly-emotional of the bunch. And any of them could just as easily go the Raycroft route as the all-star route.

There are plenty of people who would trade one of those goalies if the return is decent. Any sane team wouldn't pay much for a goalie in a trade: there's simply too much uncertainty in goalie development. A desperate team, though, may be willing to overpay. Which teams could be desperate?

Atlanta: I think they're set with Ondrej Pavelec.
Tampa Bay: They may want a goalie, as they don't have anybody reliable for next season, but Steve Yzerman is pretty smart, and I think he realizes that it's much better to take a cheap, average goalie and load up on the skaters rather than sacrifice some skaters for a goalie.
Florida: Tallon is high on Markstrom, trading away Alexander Salak, who isn't too bad of a goalie prospect himself. Probably nothing here.
Carolina: Cam Ward is signed for the foreseeable future.

New Jersey: Maybe. Looking at their Hockey's Future page, there isn't a goalie until #12. The Devils can probably bank on another season or two from Brodeur, though, so they can afford to be patient with their goalie prospects.
Pittsburgh: Fleury is signed.
Philadelphia: Bobrovksy looks like a gem. I don't think they'd want to sacrifice any skaters for goalies, though. Paul Holmgren has done a good job of managing the cap.
New York Islanders: Maybe, but I don't think so. DiPietro is still there, right? Al Montoya has been good this year, too.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist.

Toronto: Jonas Gustavvsson, and, listening to ESPN's Hockey Today, apparently Damien Cox suggests the Leafs could chase Ilya Bryzgalov. I think that's more likely than trading yet again for another good-now piece. Burke sounds committed to a rebuild, and Reimer and Rynnas are the core of the "goaltending of the future."
Montreal: Carey Price.
Ottawa: They do have Lehner, so no, I think. Although he's young and raw, the Sens don't look like they're planning to contend anytime soon.
Buffalo: Ryan Miller.
Boston: Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask.

Detroit: Jimmy Howard.
St. Louis: Jaroslav Halak.
Chicago: Corey Crawford, though they may not be averse to getting some insurance.
Columbus: Steve Mason, though they may not be averse to getting some insurance. It does look like CBJ is committed to Mason, and plugging in other goalies until Mason starts clicking again.
Nashville: Pekka Rinne I think will be around for some time, and Chet Pickard and Anders Lindback are top-end goalie prospects.

Minnesota: Niklas Backstrom.
Colorado: Calvin Pickard is in the same boat as Lehner--good, but young and raw. There may be some possibilities here. I think they'll go with the Steve Mason route here, though.
Edmonton: Devan Dubnyk, although Edmonton may like another goalie. Steve Tambellini, moreover, isn't exactly known for winning trades.
Vancouver: Roberto Luongo is signed long term. Poor Cory Schneider.
Calgary: Miikka Kiprusoff is getting old, and the cupboard in Calgary is pretty bare (30th by HF). Kipper is signed for three more seasons after this one, but he's also turning 35 this fall. Possibilities here.

Anaheim: Jonas Hiller is in the best goalie conversation.
Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick, Jonathan Bernier. Nope.
Phoenix: With Ilya Bryzgalov possibly set to walk on July 1, and no one in the pipeline, they need a goalie.
Dallas: Kari Lehtonen has finally overcome his injury troubles and established himself as elite. Maybe Semyon Varlamov could learn a thing or two.
San Jose: Antti Niemi just got a new contract for the next four seasons, and they have lots of goalie prospects, so doubtful they'd overpay for any of Varlavirthby.

Teams that may be willing to pay significant value for a young goalie: New Jersey, Calgary, Phoenix.

UFA goalies this offseason that could easily be starting goalies next season: Tomas Vokoun, JS Giguere, Ilya Bryzgalov, Craig Anderson

That's slim pickings. It's best just to hold onto all of them, I think. There's isn't much of a chance the Caps can get good value for any goalie.

It's worth nothing that Neuvirth only cracked the NHL full-time this season. Holtby's equivalent to Neuvirth's 2010-2011 is 2012-2013, two years from now (Varlavirth were in 2006, Holtby 2008). So there's still plenty of time. And given the frequency with which Varlamov and Neuvirth get injured, Holtby will probably be getting lots of games in even as the third-string goalie. And more importantly, in my mind, with more goalies, the price of each falls.

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