NHL Free Agency: Goaltender Breakdown

NHL Free Agency: Goaltender Breakdown

The annual goalie carousel continues to go round and round. Henrik Lundqvist left the Rangers for the Capitals, Braden Holtby left the Capitals for the Canucks, Jacob Markstrom left the Canucks for the Flames, Cam Talbot left the Flames for the Wild, and somehow the Oilers still ended up with Mike Smith and gave him a raise. Goaltending is voodoo, especially going into next season with a shortened or compressed schedule. Most teams have no choice but to go with a 1A-1B setup, and even the Habs, who have a workhorse in Carey Price, thought it necessary to acquire a former starter in Jake Allen. Here's the rundown on all the goalie movement so far this offseason.

(All advanced stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.)

The Skinny: Flames sign Jacob Markstrom to a six-year deal worth $36 million.

The Raw Numbers: Markstrom finished fourth in Vezina voting with a .918 Sv% and 2.75 GAA, ranked 10th in saves (1,303) and first in saves per game (30.3). He leaves Vancouver fifth all-time in regular season wins (99), fourth in saves (6,253) and fourth in minutes played (13,107).

The Impact: Twice voted as the Canucks' MVP, Markstrom brings some stability and respectability to a position the Flames have struggled to address for years. Unless Big Save Dave Rittich turns into the next Hasek, Markstrom is expected to be the workhorse, much like he was in Vancouver. The Flames' significant investment in Markstrom, however, means less dollars available for defensemen, and it'll be the first time in nine seasons elite pairing Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie will not be on the same team. However, considering how well Markstrom played on a Canucks team that bled scoring chances, he has proven he can hold down the fort when the stampede comes. He's easily top 10 in most fantasy leagues.

The Skinny: Canucks sign Braden Holtby to a two-year deal worth $8.6 million.

The Raw Numbers: Holtby is coming off the worst season of his career with a 3.11 GAA and .897 Sv% despite winning 25 games. During his best three-year stretch (2014-17), Holtby's GAA/Sv% split was phenomenal at 2.17/.923, but over his three most recent seasons (2017-20), it had dipped to 2.96/.906. Holtby's -15.97 goals saved above average from 2017-20 at 5-on-5 ranked 46th of 53 goalies (min. 3,000 TOI).

The Impact: The Canucks are betting that Holtby can turn it around under the highly regarded goalie whisperer Ian Clark. The Canucks are a talented offensive team but thin on defense, and Holtby ranked 53 of 58 goalies in high-danger save percentage (.780, min. 1,000 TOI) this past season. The Caps took a step back defensively last season, which hurt Holtby's numbers, but he's stepping into a similar situation with the Canucks, who relied heavily on Markstrom to bail them out. Hughes was the only defender capable of skating the puck out of the zone consistently, and the Canucks' counter-attacking style left them vulnerable to odd-man rushes the other way. The Caps ranked 19th in fewest high-danger chances allowed (603) and the Canucks ranked 16th (596). Both Holtby and Demko can make the case to be the 1A, though it'll likely be Demko to start, but expect Holtby's numbers to improve under Clark's tutelage. Demko-Holtby should be a sought-after tandem in fantasy drafts behind Lehner-Fleury, Rask-Halak, Bishop-Khudobin and perhaps Samsonov-Lundqvist.

The Skinny: Wild sign Cam Talbot to a three-year deal worth $11 million.

The Raw Numbers: This will be Talbot's fifth team in eight NHL seasons, coming off a one-year show-me deal with Calgary where he finished with a .919 Sv% (13th in the league) and 2.63 GAA (19th). Since winning 42 games in 2016-17, he's won just 54 games over the past three seasons.

The Impact: Alex Stalock's play is probably too erratic for Minnesota's liking, so they got some insurance in Talbot, who will battle for the No. 1 job and probably win. The Wild's defense has traditionally been very stout, boasting two elite defenders in Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon, and ranked first with the fewest high-danger scoring chances allowed with 444, which is 52 better than the second-place Bruins and 122 better than the 8th-place Flames. The Wild were last with a .770 HDSV% (worse than the Wings) and if Talbot maintains the same level of play, he could save them another 10-15 goals. However, goal support is going to be a problem after Bill Guerin shipped out two of their top goal scorers, and the Central remains a tough division. At best, Talbot is a 1A starter, but he's not someone fantasy managers should feel comfortable drafting, and don't forget the big wild card in Kaapo Kahkonen.

The Skinny: Devils sign Corey Crawford to a two-year deal worth $7.8 million.

The Raw Numbers: Crawford has never won the Vezina but he was one of the best goalies of the past decade, a two-time Cup champ and ranks ninth in games started (469), ninth in wins (259), 11th in saves (12,606) and seventh in save percentage (.918) since the 2010-11 season (min. 400 GP). Crawford ranked 17th in GSAA (14.55) and 15th in Sv% (.923) at even strength (min. 3,000 TOI) over the past three seasons playing in front of a terrible defense.

The Impact: The defense in Jersey right now isn't that much better, but they just acquired Ryan Murray and they're trending in the right direction. Crawford and incumbent starter Mackenzie Blackwood will likely operate in a 1A-1B situation with Blackwood the favorite to be the 1A right now as the team's goalie of the future. The Devils were 29th in GA/GP (3.25) and allowed the sixth-most shots (32.7 SA/GP), and even if Murray is a reliable top-four defender, they are still a bottom-10 defense. The upside is that they should have plenty of goal support with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier taking steps forward. Both Crawford and Blackwood can get hot, so this is a potential late-round tandem for fantasy managers.

The Skinny: Capitals sign Henrik Lundqvist to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.

The Raw Numbers: Lundqvist will turn 39 years old in March, and for the second straight season failed to win at least 20 games and finished with a save percentage below .910 and a GAA above 3.00.

The Impact: This is a smart move for the Caps, who will play Lundqvist when they need to give Ilya Samsonov a break. Lundqvist is entering the very tail end of his career, but he will be playing for a better team in front of a better defense, giving him a chance to go above .910 Sv% and below 3.00 GAA. Lundqvist will likely play 20-30 games in an 82-game schedule, depending largely on Samsonov's health and performance, and will only have fantasy value in deep leagues with two goalie slots. He may still have the occasional great performance in him, but the fantasy value in Lundqvist will reside in the wins he can rack up.

The Skinny: Red Wings sign Thomas Greiss to a two-year deal worth $7.2 million.

The Raw Numbers: The Islanders have now lost both Jennings-winning goalies in 2018 to free agency (Robin Lehner), and Greiss leaves Long Island with 101 wins in 179 career starts. Since Greiss' first season with the Islanders, among goalies with at least 100 games played he ranks 23rd in wins, 20th in Sv% (.915) and 29th in saves (5,081).

The Impact: The very underrated Greiss should get most of the starts over Jonathan Bernier, who had another tough season in Detroit, though it was a slight improvement from the season before. By just about every metric, Detroit was really, really bad, finishing 23 points behind Ottawa, and even with some significant improvements from their young talent and players with something to prove (Bobby Ryan, Marc Staal), they're still a lottery-bound team. There's some fantasy value in Greiss as a super-late-round grab, but definitely not for Bernier.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Chen
Jason joined RotoWire in 2013. In 2014, he was a finalist for the FSWA Hockey Writer of the Year award. Jason has also written for Yahoo Sports, CBS Sports, The Hockey News, The Hockey Hall of Fame's Legends Magazine, and Centre Ice Magazine.
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