This time around I will be looking at a number of currently signed or upcoming restricted free agent goaltenders. These players range from intriguing low cost options, to older goaltenders being forced out of the starting position by their backups, to young up and comers that may be available for the right price, to absolute long shots. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is which.
My intention here is to look solely at the numbers of players that Flames GM Brad Treliving may currently be targeting to shore up arguably their greatest weakness heading into next season.
The stats I’ll be examining are the same as the ones I looked at for the UFA goaltenders: shots against per 60 minutes, unadjusted and adjusted save percentages, as well as their ability to stop shots with varying degrees of difficulty, in three different situations of play: 5 on 5, shorthanded, and all situations. Team penalty killing percentages are included for context for the shorthanded numbers.
These goaltenders are listed in order of age and include their 2015-16 regular season records. All contract values are per season, time remaining is from the 2016-17 season onward and includes the player’s status at the time of expiry. All contract information from General Fanager.
|Mike Smith||34||Arizona Coyotes||32||15-13-2||$5.6 million, 3 years, UFA|
|Jimmy Howard||32||Detroit Red Wings||37||14-14-5||$5.29 million, 3 years, UFA|
|Brian Elliot||31||St. Louis Blues||42||23-8-6||$2.5 million, 1 year, UFA|
|Thomas Greiss||30||New York Islanders||41||23-11-4||$1.5 million, 1 year, UFA|
|Ben Bishop||29||Tampa Bay Lightning||61||35-21-4||$5.95 million, 1 year, UFA|
|Anders Nilsson||26||Edmonton Oilers/St. Louis Blues||29 (26 Oilers, 3 Blues)||10-13-2||RFA|
|Frederik Andersen||26||Anaheim Ducks||43||22-9-3||RFA|
|Darcy Kuemper||25||Minnesota Wild||21||6-7-5||RFA|
|Jake Allen||25||St. Louis Blues||43||26-15-3||$2.35 million, 1 year, RFA|
|John Gibson||22||Anaheim Ducks||38||21-13-4||$2.3 million, 3 years, RFA|
|Matt Murray||21||Pittsburgh Penguins||13||9-2-1||$620K, 1 year, RFA|
A quick note on Nilsson before we jump into the stats: he played 88 minutes over three games, all in relief, for St. Louis so I’ve chosen to discount those minutes and focus solely on his time in Edmonton, where he played 1,414 minutes. All stats from War On Ice.
With the Flames likely to repeat as a negative possession team next season the one thing that immediately interests me is how these goalies handled their respective workloads. At the top for SA/60 at 5on5 we see that Mike Smith, Anders Nilsson, and Thomas Greiss had the most amount of work to do while they were playing.
Smith moved comfortably into a 1a/1b role in Arizona this season with Louis Domingue, and performed admirably at 5on5. The only one that did better was Brian Elliot, but he also faced almost four fewer shots per 60 than Smith did.
The goalie that really interests me so far is Greiss. He had the third highest workload, the fourth highest SV% and the second highest high danger SV%, all at $1.5 million for one more season. Oh, he’s also only 30 so he likely has at least another 3-4 seasons worth of quality left.
At the other end of the list for SV% we have Nilsson, Jimmy Howard, and John Gibson. I don’t think the Flames have a reasonable shot at either of the Anaheim goalies, but if I were to target one of them it would be Andersen. Gibson performed only marginally better than Howard at evens while facing by far the least amount of shots per 60 than every other goaltender listed. Nilsson, unfortunately, is just terrible even if he would be the easiest goaltender to acquire.
While Nilsson faced over 60 shots against per 60 while he was in Edmonton, he also ended up with the lowest SH SV% to go along with it. Elliot wasn’t that far behind Nilsson in St. Louis for workload, but managed a far superior SV% while helping the Blues to the third best penalty kill in the league.
The best shorthanded goalies however are Gibson, Darcy Kuemper, and Matt Murray. Ben Bishop and Elliot round out the top five.
There are two things that I want to draw particular attention to. Number one is Murray’s outstanding numbers here; he’s in the top three for pretty much everything when down a man. On the other hand, this data dump represents the entirety of his NHL regular season career. All 13 games of it. Given his age and experience I don’t think that backing up the Brinks truck for him is the prudent thing to do.
The other is Kuemper’s massive high danger SV% when playing shorthanded. I have no idea what he’s doing or how he’s doing it but he is absolutely making the stops that need to be made on the PK from in close. When we look at average value for this stat ending up around 83% and then Kuemper comes along and blows it out of the water, my immediate thought was that there is no way this is repeatable, let alone sustainable, but I was wrong. He did the same thing last season, only better coming in at 95.45% for high danger chances against.
In all situations over the entire season there are a few things to make note of. In order of SV% the only number one goaltender for his current team is Bishop (third). Of the other desirable trade targets for the Flames, most of the players platooned with somebody this season. Elliot had the best SV%, but also split time fairly evenly with Jake Allen (sixth). John Gibson (fifth) split his season with Andersen (seventh). Greiss (fourth) split his season with Jaroslav Halak and Jean-Francois Berube. Matt Murray (second) has obviously been stellar in his very limited sample of regular season games but he’s only 21, still on an ELC, and likely won’t be going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
We know historically that most goaltenders begin to round into form around 25-26 years of age with their primes coming around 30. There’s a lot that can go wrong before Murray is well and truly established. To put this into perspective, would anyone be comfortable trading a Johnny Gaudreau for Andrew Hammond? Because that could very well be the cost of getting Murray out of Pittsburgh, and there’s a very real chance that once Murray is further along in his development he could settle into the Hammond range of ability.
All things considered, my primary targets are Brian Elliot, Thomas Greiss, and Ben Bishop. Bishop is the only proven starter on the list that is still in his prime, but he also comes with the most expensive contract, even if it is only for one more season. Elliot and Greiss also only have one more year on their contracts, but they are nowhere near as expensive as Bishop, but with comparable numbers.
Along with Elliot and Greiss’ contracts being the most palatable, I believe the cost to acquire them would also be the most acceptable. What puts Elliot and Griess over the edge for me is their high danger SV%. Elliot and Greiss are first and second in this area while Bishop is fifth.