In The Crease: Trade deadline passes
There was a lot of huffing and puffing that led to a whole lot of nothing on NHL trade deadline day when it comes to goalies -- unless you count the blockbuster that sent Anton Khudobin to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Jeff Penner and Mikko Lehtonen -- so instead let's tackle the situation going on with Southern California's quacktastic bunch.
Jonas Hiller came into his own this season as one of the NHL's elite netminders both from a real life and fantasy standpoint, but his latest health issue has derailed what was an impressive train of production. The Anaheim Ducks backstop has just one full game played for the month of February -- a 12-save shutout of the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 13 (yes, you read that right, the Oilers managed only 12 shots on goal for the game). Hiller was placed on injured reserve on Feb. 16 as his issues with vertigo have continued to plague him, and it's unclear when he'll be back in the lineup, and how effective he'll be when that happens. The latest report from the Orange County Register was that Hiller has been facing shots in net recently, but hasn't been able to fully practice yet. Looking back over historical cases of vertigo amongst NHL netminders doesn't paint a very optimistic picture. The last reported case was Philadelphia Flyers goalie Jeff Hackett during the 2003-04 season. After losing eight of nine starts in December and January of that campaign, Hackett was diagnosed with the condition. After attempting one rehab start with the Flyers' AHL affiliate, Hackett elected to retire. Of course, Hackett was 35 years old at the time and had played in 500 NHL games. Hiller is just 29, with 176 games played.
If you have Hiller on your roster, you've hopefully had a worthwhile option with which to replace him over the past month. The percentage of ESPN leagues in which Toronto Maple Leafs wonderchild James Reimer is owned has shot up considerably in recent weeks, but he may still be sitting on your waiver wire. If not, New York Islanders goalie Al Montoya might be an option. Montoya is owned in just 6.1 percent of ESPN leagues right now, and in spite of their spot in the standings, the Isles have been one of the NHL's hottest teams as of late. After all, it's not so much what a team (or goalie) has done thus far that we're concerned with, but rather what we believe will happen from here on out.
Of course, maybe it's just easier to grab one of Hiller's immediate replacements. Acquired in a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Feb. 24, Dan Ellis takes over Curtis McElhinney's old spot as Hiller's primary backup, making him the de facto No. 1 for the indefinite future with Hiller sidelined. Ellis was on the wrong side of .900 in save percentage and just under 3.00 in goals-against average while with the Lightning this season, and a 28-of-31 performance in his Ducks debut Friday night is about at those same marks. Sunday night, he was better in a 22-save win over the Colorado Avalanche. It's been awhile since Ellis had legitimate fantasy value -- the 2007-08 season, to be exact, when he went 23-10-3 for the Nashville Predators with a 2.34 goals-against average and .924 save percentage -- so the Ducks' aim here might be for Ellis to hold down the fort until Hiller or Ray Emery is ready, no more no less. From this vantage point, he's not worthy of starting on a fantasy team right now, at least not one that uses the three ESPN standard categories.
But speaking of Emery, the man who backstopped the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007 was called up from the Ducks' AHL affiliate this past week, completing an arduous journey back to the NHL after surgery to combat avascular necrosis. In weighing one's options at this point of the season, a pickup of Emery might be a smart move. Prior to his injury last season, he was playing to the level of a legit fantasy No. 1, so we know he's got a high ceiling on his production. For what it's worth (not a whole lot), Emery went 2-1 in his AHL rehab stints, with a 2.62 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. If you've got a roster spot being wasted on a player who's giving you nothing at this point of the season, why not add Emery and find out if he can recapture that glory?
Top 40 Goalies Note: Tim Kavanagh's top 40 goalies are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include wins, goals-against average and save percentage. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.
1. Roberto Luongo, Van (1)
2. Jonathan Quick, LA (3)
3. Tim Thomas, Bos (2)
4. Pekka Rinne, Nsh (4)
5. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (7)
6. Carey Price, Mon (5)
7. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (9)
8. Niklas Backstrom, Min (8)
9. Martin Brodeur, NJ (10)
10. Ilya Bryzgalov, Pho (12)
11. Tomas Vokoun, Fla (11)
12. Jimmy Howard, Det (13)
13. Ryan Miller, Buf (14)
14. Jonas Hiller, Ana (6)
15. Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy (18)
16. Antti Niemi, SJ (16)
17. Corey Crawford, Chi (20)
18. Cam Ward, Car (15)
19. Dwayne Roloson, TB (17)
20. Craig Anderson, Ott (29)
21. James Reimer, Tor (24)
22. Sergei Bobrovsky, Phi (19)
23. Jaroslav Halak, StL (21)
24. Semyon Varlamov, Was (23)
25. Johan Hedberg, NJ (28)
26. Kari Lehtonen, Dal (25)
27. Al Montoya, NYI (26)
28. Michal Neuvirth, Was (30)
29. Steve Mason, Cls (34)
30. Ondrej Pavelec, Atl (22)
31. Brian Boucher, Phi (27)
32. Tuukka Rask, Bos (32)
33. Dan Ellis, Ana (NR)
34. Brian Elliott, Col (33)
35. Jonathan Bernier, LA (35)
36. Cory Schneider, Van (36)
37. Scott Clemmensen, Fla (31)
38. Mathieu Garon, Cls (37)
39. Devan Dubnyk, Edm (NR)
40. Ray Emery, Ana (NR)
Even though no goalies at the NHL level switched places on trade deadline day, the moves that were made do have effects on the goalies for the teams in question. Let's dive in for a deeper look:
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (down one spot): As with any contending team, the Habs had some needs at the deadline, and chose instead to stand relatively pat aside from their deal on Feb. 24 to acquire Brent Sopel and Nigel Dawes. This isn't so much a criticism of Price as it is a reflection of the fact that all of his surrounding peers on my Top 40 got some serious help at the deadline while he'll need to continue carrying this team if it's going to make any noise as we traverse the final month-and-change of the fantasy season. He started off well enough in the post-deadline world, stopping 40 of 41 Tuesday night against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers (up two spots): One of the things holding Lundqvist back -- especially as of late -- was a lack of goal support. While the Rangers didn't pull the trigger on a trade to nab some scoring help up front, they did bring in puck-moving defenseman Bryan McCabe, who will generally help put the biscuit in the basket, but especially on the power play. So Marian Gaborik or no Marian Gaborik, this is an improved offense for the stretch run, and that will only help Lundqvist in the most frustrating of fantasy hockey categories: goalie wins.
Tomas Vokoun, Florida Panthers (no change): Another season on the trading block brought about the usual number of rumors that sent Vokoun to a variety of NHL outposts, and this time was supposed to be different since he's headed to unrestricted free agency this summer. Alas, no trade. Though the Panthers got younger at the deadline -- rumors that their sponsors now include DisneyXD and Trapper Keeper are unfounded -- this won't change Vokoun's day-to-day fantasy value all that much. He was more of an asset for his ratios (and shutouts, for leagues that count that) than his win total. If anything, it's a lost opportunity, as he could've possibly busted into the Top 5 if he had been sent to a contender. Down the final stretch, expect more of the same from a production standpoint.
Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres (up one spot): The fact that the Sabres were able to be a buyer at the trade deadline, relinquishing a future draft pick for a current NHLer, has to be encouraging for the team's fan base, as it may be a harbinger of things to come under new team owner Terry Pegula. However, the acquisition of Brad Boyes doesn't really do much for Miller's value, as goal scoring wasn't the problem for this team (it's No. 12 in goals per game in the league this season, and was a spot higher for the month of February); an addition on the blue line would've been much more apt. On the other hand, a little extra scoring punch never hurts, especially since Miller has let in no more than two goals in his past seven starts and has only three wins to show for it. The Buffalo goalie's stock gets a slight bump.
Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames (up three spots): For the season, Kipper hasn't been all that impressive; but recently, he's been the spark that has ignited the Flames' red-hot run back into legitimate playoff contention. Check out these stats for the month of February: an 8-2-3 record, 1.97 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. He also pitched two shutouts in the final four starts of the month. I'm not convinced he'll be in that elite class down the stretch, but he's not far behind.
Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators (up nine spots): In last week's column, I cautioned not to go too bonkers after Anderson's stellar debut with the Sens. Well, after what we've seen since, it may be time to let go of those previous restrictions. Through five starts, he's picked up three wins, has allowed more than one goal only once, and has a .963 save percentage. Check to see if he's been dropped in your league; if so, pick him up immediately. Apparently the memo that he's in a contract season was delayed in its delivery, and was forwarded to his new address in Ottawa, because he's finally starting to play like that's the case.
Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets (up five spots): Some may consider my bump of Mason a little tardy. I say to those people, "It seems like you haven't been burned by Mason or someone of his ilk before." Mason shattered his fantasy owners' dreams last season, and the beginning of this campaign -- for those who thought that 2009-10 was just a sophomore slump and bought in -- was no gumdrop waterfall, either. But as of late, the Blue Jackets have shown some fight in getting back into the hunt in the Western Conference, and Mason has won 14 of 22 over the past three months. Not impressive enough for you? Over the course of nine February starts, he posted a 2.20 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. Should we put our trust back in him completely? Not a chance. But if he's on your waiver wire, you could do much, much worse. And who knows, maybe he's harnessed whatever it was that made him so good in his rookie campaign and has put it back to use.
Martin Brodeur (93.9 percent) and Johan Hedberg (47.0 percent), New Jersey Devils: Let's dust off one of ESPN Fantasy guru Matthew Berry's favorite angles, the blind fantasy taste test. Goalie A has a 13-11-2 record this season with three shutouts, a 2.34 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. Goalie B has gone 14-19-2 with four shutouts, a 2.69 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. It'd be mean to make fun of a No. 2 goalie like that, so it's obvious that Goalie A is "Moose" Hedberg while Goalie B is the player taken by Round 3 in most every fantasy hockey draft this season. As the Devils' season has turned around over the past several weeks, Brodeur initially led the charge, making improvements to all of those Goalie B numbers above (which tells you how bad things were at the start). A knee injury sidelined the all-time great, but Hedberg performed so well as his replacement that he was the NHL's third star for the month of February. Now, let's face it, calling the Devils' situation in goal a "time-share" is a bit of a misnomer; at some point, Brodeur will take back the iron horse workload that's part of what's made him a legend between the pipes. But when that's going to happen still appears to be a matter of some dispute. Hedberg stopped 28 of 30 shots in a losing effort this past Friday, while Brodeur stopped 25 of 26 in a win on Sunday, his first action in three weeks. It's altogether possible that Devils coach Jacques Lemaire will give Hedberg a handful of starts down the final stretch as long as he stays hot; as a result, he's worth a roster spot. As for Brodeur, the early-season results were disheartening, but as long as there are no lingering aftereffects from the knee injury, he should be an elite option down the stretch.
Sergei Bobrovsky (97.0 percent) and Brian Boucher (45.2 percent), Philadelphia Flyers: Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has not disclosed his master plans regarding the team's goalies to anyone. This includes Boucher, according to what he told Chuck Gormley of the Delaware News Journal this week. From a performance standpoint, neither man had a great week since the last edition of this column: Bobrovsky went 1-0-1, with six goals relented and a .906 save percentage, while Boucher lost his only start, allowing four goals to the rebuilding Senators on 29 shots (a save percentage of .862). Again, there doesn't appear to be a decision on the horizon as to who's the starter here; but rostering one half of a time-share that backstops the Eastern Conference leaders isn't a terrible thing either, so both men have value until that decision is made.
Semyon Varlamov (82.9 percent), Michal Neuvirth (67.4 percent), Washington Capitals: One of the problems in assessing the Caps' goaltending situation last season was the inconsistent health of Varlamov, and that's actually been the case for both of the young Washington netminders this season. With Varlamov sidelined with a lower body injury recently, Neuvirth has started the past four games, picking up wins in three of four, allowing nine goals total (just three-in-three if we throw out the six-goals-allowed nightmare against the Rangers) with a .929 save percentage. The takeaway here is that even when Varlamov is back healthy, this time-share is by no means decided.
Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst and Rumor Central contributor for ESPN.com
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