Thursday, 8 March 2007

2006-07 Off-Season UFA's (Part One - Goalie's)


The first in a series of posts on the UFA market that will hit this upcoming off-season.

Foreword: a team without a good goaltender simply won't make the play-offs and since a couple of play-off dates is generally worth a million or more (a game) to the team's bottom line it is, quite simply, the only position that can pay for itself in the entire NHL. It is also the riskiest investment - your guy pulls a Salo and... well...

BELARUS!

Goaltenders .. (salaries in $ million /yr)

Age . $.$$ .. Name

29 .. 3.33 .. JS Giguere
28 .. 2.13 .. Martin Biron
28 .. 1.22 .. Mathieu Garon
28 .. 1.90 .. David Aebischer

31 .. 0.85 .. Jussi Markkanen
29 .. 0.53 .. JS Aubin
28 .. 0.60 .. Johan Holmqvist
27 .. 0.75 .. Niklas Backstrom
27 .. 0.47 .. Curtis Sanford
25 .. 0.45 .. Dany Sabourin
24 .. 0.49 .. Mike Smith

34 .. 0.50 .. Mike Dunham
31 .. 2.00 .. Kevin Weekes
31 .. 1.50 .. Jocelyn Thibault
29 .. 0.48 .. Brian Boucher
28 .. 1.00 .. Robert Esche
41 .. Dominik Hasek
41 .. Eddie Belfour
39 .. Sean Burke
39 .. Curtis Joseph
35 .. Jamie McLennan
30 .. Ty Conklin

Group A: 'name' players - guys a team should be able to build around.
Group B: 'potential' players - high risk vs. reward.
Group C: 'come-back' players - once good can they find their mojo?
Group D: 'hanging on' players - may get a good year... or a good back-up out of them.

The Questions To Ask Yourself

There are three pertinent questions to ask yourself (imo) when hunting for goalie in the off-season:

1. How sure are you that he can do the job you ask him to do?
----- your surety he can be a capable #1 goalie (or back-up)

2. How sure are you that he will do the job you ask him to do?
----- deals with injury history, verifiable playing history, etc

3. How sure are you he will do a good job of it?
----- closely related to the 2nd question but more a measurement of comparative performance

Examples:

Giguere as a starter (scores 274 out of a possible 300):
-- a capable #1 goalie in the NHL for some time (Q1 - score 99pts),
-- few lost years due to incompetence or injury (Q2 - score 85pts) and
-- ranks top-10 in sv% and has done so often (Q3 - score 90pts).

Biron as a starter (scores 250 out of a possible 300):
-- long-time back-up and #1A goalie in the NHL (Q1 - score 85pts),
-- few lost years due to incompetence or injury (Q2 - score 85pts) and
-- normally ranks top-20 in sv% (Q3 - score 80pts)

Markannen as a starter (scores 170 out of a possible 300):
-- has only ever shown success as a back-up and did not perform to expectation when given the opportunity to be a starter (Q1 - score 60pts),
-- has few lost years due to incompetence or injury but measured on 'back-up' status; i.e. fewer games than a starter (Q2 - score 60pts) and
-- low in sv% over a few # of games; is potentially devastating if games played increases (Q3 - score 50pts)

Markannen as a back-up (scores 255 out of a possible 270):
-- a capable back-up for some time (Q1 - score 90pts),
-- few lost years due to incompetence or injury (Q2 - score 90pts) and
-- not a great sv% but has that great play-off run (Q3 - score 75pts)

I added the scoring system to bring some contrast into the analysis and NOT to turn this into a number crunching exercise (precisely why I didn't score every player on the list).

So Giguere's scores higher than Biron. It makes sense. Giguere has been an undisputed #1 goalie in the past, has several high-performance seasons while doing so and almost always has a top-ranking sv%. Biron has played stints as a #1 but has never grabbed the title outright and doesn't have any GREAT seasons to his credit. But is Giguere the better goalie?

It all comes down to what you want them to do for you and what you are willing to pay for it.

For any team that thinks they are a contender right now but lacks a top netminder the bidding for Giguere will be fierce. The team that wants competent netminding at an affordable price will give Biron his shot. If you want to ditch your season you get, say, a guy like Markannen and a guy like Conklin and with a straight face you tell everyone you are competing for the Stanley Cup. If you want a top-notch back-up however then Markannen is as good a bet as any.

The Names to Watch

The ones to watch, imo, are (in order and grouped):

Giguere

Biron
Aebischer
Garon

Dunham

Backstrom
Smith

Of the group listed the best bet is, by far, Giguere. He may also be the best UFA to hit the market. Period. That said, without reading a word of print on it, I predict he will be back with Anaheim. And I predict that he may even be willing to do so for less than $6.0 mill /yr.

Why?

To answer a question with a question: on what other team does he have Neidermayer and Pronger out in front of him? Giguere stays with Anaheim and he has a decent shot, barring calamity,at competing for the Stanley Cup every year. Nowhere else, that needs a tender, has that strong a team.

Only way he hits FA is if a) he is bound and determined to or b) Burke undervalues him.

The next best option is Biron. His stats historically ride the line between good and very good and he has, as long as I have followed him, always been the guy who just 'needs' a real opportunity. He needs to be wanted. He needs a hug. The early returns say that he will get just that in Philly so look for the Flyers, a team that has always excelled at picking the second best goalie out there, to lock him up to a 3 year deal averaging ~ $3 mill /yr.

Aebischer and Garon are the do-overs. They got their shot and didn't impress. Teams that sign them are hoping they are making an educated guess and not an ignorant gamble. The bonus is that adequate goalies are generally cheap so a team will have exra Cap space. Think Chris Osgood with Detroit - a good enough team can win with okay, not great, goaltending. Look for short term contracts in the $1.5 - 2.0 mill /yr range. Detroit will need cheap goaltending.

Dunham is the guy a smart team gets to be their back-up. He is also the guy a stupid team loosk at and says 'hey, maybe this year his groin won't shred like the skirt of a japanese schoolgirl in tentacle anime!'. Good luck with that. I can't make a call on this one except to say that most NHL GM's make stupid look smart.

Backstrom and Smith are the wildcards. Both are having great seasons and as of this posting are at 29 gp and 17 gp respectively and both have a .922 sv%. They both play for good teams but the numbers are nothing to sneeze at. Backstrom is the kind of guy that a team like Phoenix should make a real play for. Other than Giguere there isn't anything out there that is going to do a lot for them so taking a gamble on a guy like Backstrom could pay off in spades.

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So that is the goalies. One day I may even get to the LW's... but that would mean I would eventually have to finish off my set of Smyth Continuum posts now wouldn't it? One day. One day.
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Have a great evening everyone.

2 comments:

kinger said...

Pretty weak goalie crop altogether.

I agree that Giguere is likely to stay a Duck, and Biron could be a quality guy for Philly.

Vodka Boy said...

oof... sounds good on paper but i've seen the wheels come off of Abby here in montreal. i'd knock him down a group.