In part 1 of this analysis, I've decided to take a look back at the goalies that were extended or signed to long-term extensions during the 2013-2014 season and see just how effective those deals will be.
September 2, 2013: Chicago Blackhawks sign Corey Crawford: 6 Years, $36,000,000
The Chicago Blackhawks wanted to extend their Stanley Cup winning goaltender after a stellar season. Rather than Crawford potentially being in a “lame duck” year, the Blackhawks gave him a contract making him one of the highest paid goalies in the league. Crawford was coming off his best year in his career, with a 1.94 GAA and .926 SV% during the regular season and an even better 1.84 GAA and .932 SV% in the playoffs.
The Blackhawks wanted to lock up their goalie for the long run, but to me, Crawford is more a part of a great system/team than a great goalie. 6 Years is a long time, and 6 million could be a bit too rich for the Blackhawks’ blood.
December 4, 2013: New York Rangers sign Henrik Lundqvist: 7 Years, $59,500,000
The New York Rangers decided to lock up one of the top, if not the best, goalies in the NHL before it became too late. With a few pending UFA, including Lundqvist, their captain Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi, the Rangers decided to part ways with their captain and go for the old adage “defense wins championships.” Lundqvist currently leads all active NHL goaltenders in career save percentage, and has had one of the best save percentages over the past 3 and 5 years combined. Lundqvist is the only one of these goalies signed this season and quite possibly one of a few goalies who has been above the NHL league average for save percentage since 2009.
Hank is “The King” for a reason and he is showing it this postseason. 7 years is a lot, but it's worth it to lock him up for the rest of his career.
January 18, 2014: Philadelphia Flyers sign Steve Mason: 3 Years, $12,300,000
The Philadelphia Flyers have had goalie troubles ever since the glory days of their current GM, Ron Hextall. When Steve Mason had posted one of his best stretches since his rookie campaign, former GM Paul Holmgren decided to extend him right then rather than potentially testing the free-agent market. Mason posted a great .928 save percentage in October and even better .938 in November but then hit a lull with .899 and .889 in December and January before going back up to a .938, .917 and .935 in February, March, and April respectively. The Flyers hope that Mason can perform consistently at a .920+ save percentage like the bookends of the 2013-2014 season, rather than the middle of it.
This was a poorly timed signing, and the Flyers could’ve waited to see who was available in free agency to make either a better financial decision or a bigger splash.
January 30, 2014: Colorado Avalanche sign Semyon Varlamov: 5 Years, $29,500,000
The Colorado Avalanche feel like they have found their next stud goaltender to go along with their new head coach and former star goalie, Patrick Roy. Semyon Varlamov put up a .927 save percentage, good for 3rd best in the NHL of those goalies who qualified. Varlamov has been up and down in recent years, but the Avalanche are hoping that he can continue his upward trend.
The Avalanche saw that Varly was playing well and led one of the best “worst-to-first” stories in the league. The length is perhaps a year too long, but the cap hit is about right.
March 4, 2014: Carolina Hurricanes sign Anton Khudobin: 2 Years, $4,500,000
The Carolina Hurricanes signed lifelong backup Anton Khudobin away from Boston last year in order to do just that, back up Cam Ward. However, due to a few goalie injuries, Khudobin was thrust into the starting well and played quite well. Anton started 34 games, the most in his young career, winning 19 games with a 2.30 GAA and a .926 save percentage with one shutout. Cam Ward is still under contract for 2 more years, just like Khudobin, but Khudobin can be a great backup and fill in for Ward when needed.
Khudobin has shown signs of being a solid goaltender in his relatively short career and this is a great price for a goalie of his caliber.
March 13, 2014: Edmonton Oilers sign Ben Scrivens: 2 Years, $4,600,000
The Edmonton Oilers had a bit of a goalie carousel during the 2013-2014 season with 6 different goalies playing for them this season. Ben Scrivens was arguably their best, posting a .916 save percentage and nearly winning 50% of his games (9-11-0) including a record-setting shutout. The goalie tandem of Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens seems to be one that will provide a healthy competition and this is a steal of a contract for his numbers thus far.
The Oilers made a good signing here, but likely could’ve waited to the offseason to sign a goalie on a 1 year deal for about half the price since they won’t be competing anytime soon.
May 19, 2014: St. Louis Blues sign Brian Elliott: 3 Years, $7,500,000
The St. Louis Blues midseason acquisition of Ryan Miller seemed like it would spell the end of Brian Elliott’s career in St. Louis. However, after another disappointing playoff performance, the Blues have decided to part ways with Miller and instead extend one of the most underrated goalies in recent years. Elliott had the Blues best save percentage (.922) of any of their goalies this year and won 18 games in 25 starts. Brian Elliott decided to resign with the Blues for a seemingly low rate rather than testing the market.
The Blues went for it all this year with Ryan Miller but decided to extend Elliott instead. Elliot should continue to play well behind this solid defense, and even if he doesn’t, this is still a reasonable cap hit for a great backup.
May 22, 2014: New York Islanders sign Jaroslav Halak: 4 Years, $18,000,000
The New York Islanders traded for Halak’s rights earlier this month, so this signing was no surprise. Halak bounced back in the 2013-2014 season with a .921 save percentage after a horrendous (.899 save percentage) lockout-shortened 2013 season. The Islanders have rid themselves of the Rick DiPietro fiasco and they hope that Halak’s experience can provide the boost that they need.
The Islanders traded for Halak’s rights, which seemed like an aggressive move for New York, and likely could have waited a month or 2 to sign a comparable goalie for a lesser contract.
Here are the contracts in a simpler, chart form.
There are 4 tiers here:
- Elite: Henrik Lundqvist
- Top 10: Corey Crawford, Semyon Varlamov
- Solid Starters: Jaroslav Halak, Steve Mason
- Backups turned Starters: Brian Elliott, Ben Scrivens, Anton Khudobin
Henrik Lundqvist is now the highest paid goalie in the league and for good reason. Crawford and Varlamov have different career paths, but have both played their best hockey in recent years. Crawford was coming off a Stanley Cup winning season, and Varlamov is a Vezina Trophy candidate for the current season. Jaroslav Halak has had success in the past, and the Islanders need a solid goalie. The same goes for the Flyers, and Mason provided many moments of greatness during the year. Finally, Elliott, Scrivens and Khudobin have all had great numbers in limited time, and their teams are hoping that they can continue their success.
Our next chart shows the 8 goaltenders’ cumulative save percentages over the past season, the past 3 seasons, and the past 5 seasons. As described above, Elliott, Scivens and Khudobin have all had great successes in small sample sizes, however, when you look at past 5 years, Henrik Lundqvist is high above the competition. In the mid-run, Elliott and Khudobin both outperform Lundqvist, thanks to a .940 2011-2012 season from Elliott and an extremely small sample size from Khudobin (not to mention the great Boston team in front of him).
Each goalie is shown on the chart by his team’s primary color, with the NHL average in black. Ben Scrivens and Anton Khudobin are left off the chart as they have only played for 3 years and 2 years respectively. Not surprisingly, each and every one of these goalies has had ups and downs in his career, but only Lundqvist has been above the NHL average, and never really close to it, for the past 5 years. Also, all the goalies who signed later in the year (Mason, Varlamov, Khudobin, Scrivens, Elliott, Halak) have had bounce back years and are all playing above the NHL average for save percentage. Furthermore, Corey Crawford signed his contract before the year, which was coming off his best year as a pro. All of these goalies were signed when they were playing well, and the teams had a “good feel” about them, but should these teams have waited to test the free agent waters?
The lower tier guys are extremely economically-efficient for their teams due to the small sample size. Likewise, Varlamov and Halak are about on point with their contracts. However, Steve Mason is being rewarded for one good season, while his performance over the past 3 and 5 years has been subpar. Lundqvist and Crawford are also being overpaid when you look at it this way, but the financial numbers don’t take intangibles into effect. Lundqvist and Crawford are unique in their consistent performance in the playoffs, as well as Lundqvist’s dominance during the regular season.
In conclusion, stud goalies (Lundqvist) are hard to come by and should be locked up no matter the terms. However, be wary when negotiating with a goalie who is having a “great stretch” because we have all seen how quickly those can turn sour.
In Part 2, I will look at the goalies of the 2014 NHL Free Agent class, including Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiler, and everyone's favorite, Ilya Bryzgalov.
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Ryan Gilbert is a sports writer for Poweranks, specializing in hockey and baseball. He can be found on Twitter @RiskyBryzness. Give him a follow! P.S. If anyone is looking to hire a newly graduated Financial Analyst, please let me know!