In The Crease: Post-draft update


Two exciting developments over the last week for all the puckheads out there: the release of the league's 2011-12 schedule, and the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Most of the time, even the top goalie prospects require some seasoning before they make their NHL debuts -- since the 2000 draft, only Rick DiPietro and Marc-Andre Fleury have taken the ice in the NHL the season immediately following their being drafted, and they were both the No. 1 pick in their respective year. This year's class is no exception to that trend. The first goalie taken was Magnus Hellberg at No. 38 overall by the Nashville Predators, and he'll take his fantastic last name to the Swedish Elite League (Elitserien) in 2011-12. John Gibson, taken one spot later by the Anaheim Ducks, is headed to the University of Michigan this fall, while Christopher Gibson, taken No. 49 overall, is only turning 19 this December, and enters a Los Angeles Kings' system that is well-stocked with talent.

But we did have some other developments that have sparked some changes in the fantasy goalie rankings looking ahead to 2011-12. There are usually some trades just prior to and during the draft, and this year was particularly furious, especially for the Philadelphia Flyers. This week, I'll get into what the already busy offseason means for the netminders, as well as what we learned from this year's playoffs that can be carried ahead as we get ready for 2011-12. In a few weeks, I'll take a look at some new faces in new places (there are some pretty big dominoes left to fall), and the rankings will continue to shift with the ebb and flow of personnel changes.

One other quick note before we get to the main course here: Yahoo! Sports has reported that Semyon Varlamov is "unlikely" to be with the Washington Capitals next season, instead opting to head to the KHL. While that would take one man out of the goaltender shuffle in D.C., it'd still be a two-man race between Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby; as we've seen recently, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau has no problem running a time-share throughout the season. (Thus crippling the fantasy value of each man involved).

Moving on…

Top 40 Goalies

Note: Tim Kavanagh's top 40 goalies are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues. Stats include wins, goals-against average and save percentage. April's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Tim Thomas, Bos (2)
2. Pekka Rinne, Nsh (3)
3. Carey Price, Mon (4)
4. Roberto Luongo, Van (1)
5. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phi (10)
6. Ryan Miller, Buf (5)
7. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (9)
8. Jonathan Quick, LA (7)
9. Martin Brodeur, NJ (6)
10. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (8)
11. Tomas Vokoun, FA (11)
12. Corey Crawford, Chi (16)
13. Craig Anderson, Ott (12)
14. Jimmy Howard, Det (13)
15. James Reimer, Tor (20)
16. Dwayne Roloson, FA (29)
17. Antti Niemi, SJ (15)
18. Jaroslav Halak, StL (18)
19. Ondrej Pavelec, Wpg (26)
20. Cam Ward, Car (19)
21. Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy (27)
22. Niklas Backstrom, Min (21)
23. Michal Neuvirth, Was (22)
24. Braden Holtby, Was (23)
25. Al Montoya, NYI (24)
26. Scott Clemmensen, Fla (39)
27. Kari Lehtonen, Dal (25)
28. Ray Emery, FA (28)
29. Sergei Bobrovsky, Phi (14)
30. Jonas Hiller, Ana (17)
31. Steve Mason, Cls (30)
32. Jonathan Bernier, LA (31)
33. Dan Ellis, Ana (32)
34. Devan Dubnyk, Edm (34)
35. Brian Elliott, Col (35)
36. Tuukka Rask, Bos (36)
37. Brian Boucher, FA (37)
38. Cory Schneider, Van (38)
39. Johan Hedberg, FA (NR)
40. Anders Lindback, Nsh (NR)

Playoff Heroes

Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins: At the NHL awards show, Thomas added the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goalie for the regular season to his Conn Smythe Award as the MVP of the playoffs. Not a bad campaign. I give him the tentative edge over the competition heading into next season, as the B's return a solid corps of blue-liners (with or without Tomas Kaberle), so much so that ESPN NHL Draft guru Gare Joyce believes that they'll let top draft choice Dougie Hamilton spend two years developing, even though some consider Hamilton NHL-ready. Tuukka Rask lingers as a threat to Thomas' stranglehold on the starting gig, but based on 2010-11, I'd feel confident with Thomas as my team's No. 1 in fantasy. The only difference this season is that he won't be available in the middle rounds of the draft: his average draft position (ADP) in ESPN leagues last season was 178.8, while he should go in the Top 2 rounds this time around.

Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks: Though Luongo had a historically inconsistent effort in the Stanley Cup finals, he was a big part of the reason the Nucks made it that far. The good news is that defensive stalwart Kevin Bieksa has been re-signed prior to hitting unrestricted free agency. The bad news is that Luongo's mental state could be shaky coming off some disappointing performances on the sport's biggest stage, not to mention the fact that backup Corey Schneider had comparable stats to Luongo in 162 minutes of relief action this postseason (a 2.58 goals-against average to Luongo's 2.56 and a .915 save percentage to Luongo's .914). The Canucks' decision this offseason to trade or hold on to Schneider, who appears to be ready for his shot at being a No. 1 somewhere, will have a profound effect on where Luongo winds up in the final preseason rankings.

Dwayne Roloson, free agent: Set to hit the free agent market on July 1, Roloson certainly did an excellent job selling himself to the interested suitors with his playoff performance (fourth amongst postseason performers in save percentage, sixth in goals-against average). A recent report from the St. Petersburg Times has indicated that the Lightning are open to re-signing the man who will turn 42 this October to another one-year deal, and that should prove fruitful; much of Roloson's value for our purposes came from his win total, which should continue with much of the nucleus in Tampa set to return. In another NHL outpost, that potential in the win category might not be as high.

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens: Tough to call a guy who played in just one series a "hero," per se, but Price's seven-game performance against the eventual champions (and the Conn Smythe winner in the opposite net) should not be overlooked. Over that septet of starts, Price posted a 2.11 goals-against average and .934 save percentage, which were actually better than Thomas' numbers during that series (2.25 and .926, respectively). In addition, the Canadiens have acted quickly to re-sign core players this offseason, coming to terms with Hal Gill (he of the 151 blocked shots in 2010-11) and Andrei Markov already. There's no reason to believe Price will not be amongst the elite options in 2011-12.

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators: From a numbers standpoint, Rinne didn't have the strongest overall performance this postseason. After finishing third in goals-against average (2.12) and second in save percentage (.930) over the course of the regular season, those numbers dipped to 2.57 and .907, respectively, in 12 postseason appearances. However, those overall ratios are a tad misleading, as the Ducks seemed to have his number in Round 1 (the stats bear this out as he allowed 19 goals in six games, with a .876 save percentage). Against the Presidents' Trophy winners, he was stellar: 13 goals given up in the six game series, with a .932 save percentage. The Preds' potential re-signing of restricted free agent Shea Weber will be pivotal for Rinne's continued success, and his win total might get a boost if the rumors of promising young scorer Alexander Radulov returning to the team come true.

Changing Sweaters

Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia Flyers: Considered by some to be the top free agent netminder on this year's market, Bryzgalov has already inked his long-term deal with the Flyers, removing a bit of suspense from the post-July 1 world. Simply put, the Flyers are a team in transition, so there is some worry with tying one's fantasy team's ship to a man in the crease for such a squad. However, with much of the strong corps of defensemen returning, that risk is mitigated somewhat.

Tomas Vokoun, free agent: Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was unable to move impending free agent Vokoun by the in-season trade deadline, and as the season concluded, it appeared that the veteran's days in South Florida would be coming to an end. Though Vokoun has indicated that he wants to explore the market, it's possible he'll ultimately re-sign with the team (especially since the Panthers will have to spend to get to the salary floor). There are openings in Colorado and Phoenix for a starting goalie, so the bidding war could be interesting. Vokoun is also one of the major dominoes alluded to above. If he, or another free agent, doesn't sign with the Panthers, Scott Clemmensen becomes the de facto starter, and he's had his moments. It'll probably be another year before the team's franchise goalie of the future, Jacob Markstrom, makes his debut.

Ray Emery, free agent: Emery was able to write the first chapter in a remarkable comeback story this season after recovering from avascular necrosis and joining the Anaheim Ducks for the final two months of the season. Though less of a target than Vokoun -- due to uncertainty on his durability -- Emery could find himself as a No. 1 for 2011-12, or as the dominant part of a time-share.

Some other intriguing potential free agents include: Evgeni Nabokov, New York Islanders (whose official status is unclear); Jose Theodore, Minnesota Wild; Johan Hedberg, New Jersey Devils.

Help Has Arrived

These goalies are thanking their GMs following the drafting of some NHL-ready prospects.

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils: After Scott Niedermayer left New Jersey to sign with the Anaheim Ducks in 2005, the Devils have had a string of potential replacements try to fill in as an elite puck-moving defenseman. But while Brian Rafalski, Paul Martin and Andy Greene have not been able to completely fill the Niedermayer role, No. 4 overall pick Adam Larsson may. Considered to be nearly a shoe-in to start the season in the NHL after plying his trade in the SEL, Larsson could be the cog that lifts the Devils out of the league's basement, scoring-wise. And as we know, more goals on the board usually means more wins, especially for a backstop like Brodeur.

Devan Dubnyk, Nikolai Khabibulin, Edmonton Oilers: It remains to be seen whether the Oilers' youth movement will include the goaltender position, but Dubnyk was dramatically better than Khabibulin in 2010-11. At the very least, it'll be a training camp battle and possible time-share. Either way, the franchise added its second-straight No. 1 overall pick in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the British Columbia native will be with the big club at least for the nine-game window before the team has to decide whether to ship him back to juniors. Eventually, all of this young talent will begin to coalesce into something beautiful. For now, Dubnyk is a sleeper option, with the upside of being a solid No. 2 this season.

Tim Kavanagh is a fantasy hockey analyst and Rumor Central contributor for ESPN.com