Anyone in a dynasty league knows the value of goaltenders. They’re so important that they can often single-handedly make or break your franchise. And since they’re so important, they certainly deserve their own article prior to the start of the season.
1) Henrik Lundqvist: Age 28/Cap hit $6.875M. Despite seeing a slight rise to his GAA the past two seasons, Lundqvist’s other numbers have still been fantastic. He’s averaging 36 wins, a .918 SV% and a GAA of about 2.40 since 2007-2008. He also plays in an astounding amount of games; 72, 70 and 73 in 07/08, 08/09 and 09/10, respectively. Another important consideration is that the Rangers generally play solid team defense and despite having the occasional bad game, King Henrik reigns supreme in long-term leagues.
Even though Lundqvist’s superb numbers are said to give him most of his value, his out of this world worth is partially explained through more practical factors. Lundqvist is only 28, so he has plenty more hockey left to play. Moreover, he also has vast name value. So if you’re ever put in a difficult position and have to trade him, you’ll truly get a king’s ransom in return.
2) Ryan Miller: 30/$6.25m. Even though Miller dominated the NHL and the world last year, he only deserves the #2 spot for the long haul. Yes, Miller posted remarkable numbers last year, impressing us all with a 2.22 GAA, .929 SV% and 41 W. Those were all career best, by far. More troubling is the fact that Buffalo will be without Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder, who were lost to free agency. Defensive chemistry is extremely important to the Sabres’ system and it might take a while for the club to find it this year. To make matters worse, Buffalo doesn’t have the offensive firepower to consistently get Ryan 41 wins. While it is an excellent defensive system most years, Buffalo isn’t willing to spend the big bucks required to keep star players playing in front of Miller.
3) Tuukka Rask: 23/$1.25m. Despite having less than a full season of NHL action under his belt, Rask deserves to be ranked third. If you can somehow ignore his youth, small cap hit and insane numbers last season (1.97 GAA, .931 SV%), remember that he has proven himself at every level of hockey he’s played in. He put up superb numbers as an 18 year old in the FNL and a 21 year old in the AHL. He’s extremely competitive and wants to win more than anything else.
Furthermore, he plays in a very solid defensive system and will for the foreseeable future. Even if he gets a bit off track this season, (sophomore slump anyone?) the Bruins won’t hang him out to dry. They’ll allow Tim Thomas to step in for a few games while Rask regains his form. Despite lacking experience, Rask is clearly the #3 fantasy goaltender going forward and could be #1 within a season or two.
4) Roberto Luongo: 31/$5.33m. Luongo consistently wins lots of games and posts stellar numbers, so why is he only #4? The answer is once again found in reality, not fantasy. There are big questions about Luongo in Vancouver and there’s no guarantee how long he’ll be there if the team doesn’t make the Stanley Cup Finals this year. His numbers last year were certainly a bit of a let-down. A 2.57 GAA and .913 SV% were the worst stats he posted in several years. There’s also lingering concern about his head. Some question whether he can win the big game and others wonder if the injuries he suffered in 2009 are still bothering him.
Luongo really disappointed Canuck fans down the stretch. Though much blame can be laid on the defense, Big Lu’s 3.22 GAA and .895 SV% in the playoffs are cause for concern. Then again, he still has big name value and will be a capable netminder on most nights. Be careful not to overrate him though.
5) Ilya Bryzgalov: 30/$4.25m. There are several reasons to like Ilya Bryzgalov, and almost no reasons not to. After posting career numbers on a rejuvenated Phoenix team last season, Bryzgalov looks like a strong favorite to be one of the top five goalies in the league in 2010-11. Stocked with young talent like Viktor Tikhonov, Mikkel Boeddker, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and Kyle Turris, Phoenix certainly looks like a franchise on the way up. The team also has veteran leadership with Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, Adrian Aucoin, and Ed Jovanovski. Adding to Ilya’s value is the fact that he only recently turned 30 and has no long-term health concerns or lingering injuries.
However, there are a few questions for the immediate future. Bryzgalov will be a free agent in 2011 and could potentially price himself out of the range of the Coyotes. The veteran blue-line around him is aging fast. Jovanovski, Aucoin, and Derek Morris aren’t exactly 25 anymore. Plus, many around the league still knock him for the occasional soft goal. But don’t be fooled by the naysayers, “The Bryz” is one of the top 5 on this list for a reason, so treat him as such.
6) Miikka Kiprusoff: 34/$5.8m. While I’m not personally a huge fan of the Kipper, he has exceptional high name value and posted career numbers in 2009/2010. After posting a 2.35 GAA and a .920 SV%, Kiprusoff’s value has gone sky high. The team in front of him is extremely solid, especially on the blue-line, so he will probably win a lot of games in 2010-11. But with that said, the time to sell him is now! In fact, I’m even willing to say it’s only reasonable to keep him if you intend to make a championship run this season or simply can’t find an attractive enough offer.
Admittedly, he had a great season in 09-10 but his numbers in the previous two seasons were definitely disappointing. Also important is the fact that Calgary management brought in Swedish super goalie Henrik Karlsson. Is Karlsson only there to play 15 games as a backup, or might he look to take over when Kipper falters? Another concern is Kipper’s number of starts. A large part of his value is derived from his insane number of games played, over 70 in each of the last three seasons. But can that continue as he continues to age? Considering the addition of a capable backup, I’m expecting Kipper to start fewer games each year from here on out.
7) Jaroslav Halak: 25/$3.75m. Don’t be fooled into thinking Halak’s success in the 2010 playoffs was a fluke, because it definitely wasn’t. Much like Rask, Halak has succeeded at every level he’s played in. Going back through the last seven years, Halak has conquered more leagues than Napoleon conquered nations. Halak left big marks on the Slovak league, QMJHL, ECHL, AHL and most recently, the NHL.
While Halak played sterling hockey last year, keep in mind that he posted a .915 SV% in 35 games during the 2008/09 season too. Halak also has name value that’s growing by leaps and bounds. Factor in where he plays, St. Louis, which is a franchise loaded with young, defensive talent and the situation looks great. However, there should be one concern. Halak hasn’t endured the workload of an NHL starter in the course of one season until last year, and he faded a bit in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Beyond perhaps lacking a little endurance, Halak has an extremely bright future and should be considered the seventh-best long-term goaltender in the NHL at this time.
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