In this week's edition we'll look at teams with various levels of uncertainty with regard to their goalie situation. This state of confusion can create opportunities for team managers looking to upgrade their overall talent base in nets.
While it could seem ridiculous to discuss Semyon Varlamov's backup - Jean-Sebastien Giguere - when Varlamov is 3-2 with fantastic peripherals (2.14 GAA and .936 SV%), the fact that Varly has never played more than 33 games in one season in six years as a pro makes us do so. Giguere is not only a Conn Smythe winner and a Stanley Cup winner, he's 2-0 with a 1.49 GAA and .933 SV %. Yes, JSG's sample size is small for this season (at this point whose sample size isn't?) but he has already shown, as have his team, that they can still be competitive if/when Varlamov gets injured.
Steve Mason is facing a critical season in his early NHL career. Is he the goalie who won the Rookie of the Year in 2008-09? Or is he the mediocre (at best) goalie that has worn the same uniform ever since? Mason is off to a horrendous start, he's 0-1-6 with a 3.46 GAA and .881 SV %, just like his team. The problems for Ohio's NHL squad have been exacerbated by the fact that top-pairing D-man James Wisniewski has been suspended for the first eight games of the season and another big-ticket offseason acquisition - No. 1 center Jeff Carter - is already injured. Curtis Sanford, the 32-year-old backup (37-37-11 for his career with a 2.75 GAA and .901 SV %), is day-to-day with a lower body injury. Sanford has not started an NHL game since 2008-09 - the last time Mason was good.
Goalie prospect Mark Dekanich, an impressive 50-28-9 in the last two AHL seasons combined for Milwaukee with a 2.16 GAA and .926 SV %, was supposed to be a good, sneaky, late-round pick in many fantasy leagues this fall but he suffered one of those dreaded high-ankle sprains in training camp and has been mothballed (on IR) for now. The 25-year-old Dekanich is a name you should definitely put on your watch list. Things have gotten so bad in Columbus that one can't even count out recently signed 38-year-old Manny Legace as a possible Blue Jackets goalie this season, though he was signed by management to shore up the goalie depth on their AHL affiliate.
Mark Twain once said, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated". Fantasy-wise, perhaps the same can be said about Nikolai Khabibulin. Khabby was 1.2 seconds away from his first shutout of the season when Edmonton fans' most hated NHL player - Dany Heatley - scored from a near impossible angle. The Wild would subsequently win the game in the shootout but the 38-year-old Ukrainian born Khabibulin has an insane 0.95 GAA and stunning .962 SV % after three starts to the season. At worst he's a potential No. 3 fantasy goalie right now with No. 2 upside and he could be available in your league's free-agent pool. At the start of the season most pundits predicted Devan Dubnyk would wrest the No. 1 goalie job and run with it. The 25-year-old understudy has played well himself - a 2.31 GAA and .920 SV %. It’s a shame that the Oilers offense has been moribund with 11 goals in six games, for the team ranks third in the entire league in goals against at 1.67. Hopefully the return of top-six center Sam Gagner and top offensive D-man Ryan Whitney will help jump start the offense. By the way, don't count out Ryan Nugent-Hopkins going back to junior despite the hat trick game. RNH is 24.1 % on face-offs and he played just 13 minutes in Thursday's last-second shootout loss to Minnesota. However, with Ales Hemsky's shoulder keeping him out for another two weeks and likely a recurring issue all season (it’s the same shoulder he had offseason surgery on and his latest setback didn't even occur from a hit), RNH may get moved to the wing for the remaining games until he hits the nine-game mark and management decides on his fate for the rest of the hockey season.
Martin Brodeur will miss another week minimum with a shoulder injury. Johan Hedberg has a 1.79 GAA and he's started three games to Brodeur's two. By the end of the season Brodeur will have likely started 48-52 games and Hedberg 30-34. Pick up Hedberg immediately is he's available in your league(s). Add New Jersey to the list of possible destinations of Vancouver backup goalie Cory Schneider, as Brodeur is in the last year of a six-year, $32 million contract. Brodeur will be 40 by next May and Hedberg will be 39 while Schenider will be 26.
It's Al Montoya's job to lose. He's started four out of the the Isles' five games and he sports nice numbers - 2.01 GAA and a .930 SV %. The problem is that they will inevitably give starts to both Rick DiPietro (close to a full recovery from his latest injury - concussion) and Evgeni Nabokov to keep them fresh. Why keep them fresh? Rick D. for ego management and Nabokov for trade enhancement. As such Montoya owners can't expect more than 50 starts for the season. It would take a trade of Nabokov by no later than January to drastically increase that 50 starts projection for Montoya.
Mike Smith, with a 2.50 GAA and .920 SV % in four starts, is outplaying backup Jason LaBarbera (3.50 GAA and .880 SV % in two starts). So why bother mentioning either? Because this writer has no faith in either goalie. Be ready anytime for a goalie acquisition. As a Shane Doan owner in a few leagues, here's hoping he waives his no-trade clause and gets moved to Vancouver by the trade deadline for Schneider or to Philadelphia for a package including Sergei Bobrovsky. If you were Doan, would you waive your NTC in order to try and win a Cup? Or would you just enjoy the big ranch, nice weather, and almost non-existent pressure of playing in NHL oblivion?
Jaroslav Halak has a 1-4 record with a 3.47 GAA and an .835 save percentage. Yikes! I picked up backup Brian Elliott (playing well) in my industry experts league for three reasons: one, I think Elliott is in line for more starts in the near future (say 1 out of every 4 games); two, Elliott is just 26 and put up good numbers for Ottawa two seasons ago with a 29-18-4 record, 2.57 GAA, .909 SV %, and five shutouts; three, I have a serious case of AD/HD. Don't expect too much from Elliott and don't be dumb and start him against Philadelphia or Vancouver. Halak is still the superior talent but Elliott could get you a win or two in the next 7-10 days against the likes of Calgary, Edmonton, or Minnesota.
Dwayne Roloson is off to a brutal start - in five games he has a butt-ugly 5.11 GAA and horrid .860 SV %. Mathieu Garon meanwhile sports a 1.93 GAA and .940 SV %. The Tampa Bay defense badly misses Mattias Ohlund (out another 6-7 weeks) but it obviously can't all be blamed on that. I drafted Garon in two leagues knowing he would get 30-35 starts based on Roloson's age of 42. You may wish to do the same, as the number of projected starts may even rise if Roloson's game continues to decline.
By now you've likely read about how bad Roberto Luongo has played in the early season and how much the Canucks' faithful are getting down on him. No matter what side you are in that debate (fair or unfair treatment? overreaction? Justified?), you cannot discount the value of backup goalie Cory Schneider, as Vancouver remains a league powerhouse who's biggest leader - Ryan Kesler - is now healthy again. Schneider will get another 25-30 starts minimum if Louie continues to struggle.