West: Wanna buy a time share? Goalie tandems – present and future

by Kevin Wickersham on January 2, 2017 | (4 Comments)
  • The Wild West
  • West: Wanna buy a time share? Goalie tandems – present and future

As vexing as It can be to rely on goaltenders that spend half their time on the bench, there can be benefits. We all know to pick up handcuffs, but sometimes we must look less at obtaining a handcuffed pair and more at collecting mismatched pieces. Unless you can nab one of the upper echelon goalies, you’ll have to rely on a whole morass of third and fourth-tier netminders that could turn into time share components, so you may want to wait until even later rounds and pick up the real article. In the process, you can fortify your forwards, get some more blueliners that dole out hits and PIM, and pluck those high ranking prospects. With the mercurial nature of goalie performance (remember Bobrovsky and Elliott last year?) selecting less than a “sure thing” goalie with a high draft pick, or offering an exorbitant price for one in a trade, is a real risk.

As with everything NHL, Vegas and the expansion draft will play a paramount role in what happens to these pairs once the 2017 Stanley Cup is won. The Golden Knights are sure to select some good goalies. If we examine the past, goaltenders are amongst the most prized of first-year expansion team possessions (see John Vanbiesbrouck, Manny Fernandez, Thomas Vokun, and Guy Hebert among others).

Let’s price a few Western Conference time shares to see if we should buy, as well as the top organizational prospects lurking behind them that might influence their not-distant futures:  

 

CalgaryChad Johnson and Brian Elliott

Top Prospect – Jon Gilles

Johnson went from benchwarmer to red-hot, and is now settling into time share status. Elliott had a few impressive flurries during the first portion of 2016-17, but has yet to sustain a lengthy, dominant run like we saw in St. Louis last year. This one seems always up for grabs, with the hot hand getting the net. Calgary may have a chance to do some damage in the playoffs this year, so expect whoever has the best chance at getting them a win on any given night to be out there. Recently Elliott has tended to play against weaker teams, with Johnson versus the stronger, but this will probably change. Other than a perhaps too-long run with Elliott at the beginning of this campaign, Calgary’s opportunistic switches have been swift.

Standing 6-5 and weighing 229 lbs., Gilles has the size as well as skill to star in the NHL. He’s also had his share of injuries in recent times, and strong completion at AHL Stockton this year from David Rittich. Should Elliott bolt from Calgary as an UFA this summer, or either he or Chad Johnson end up in Vegas, the butterfly-style, aggressive Gilles could be presented with a golden opportunity in Calgary during 2017-18.

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Avg. Shot Dist.

Chad Johnson

22

13-8-1

2.34

0.920

35.01

Brian Elliott

17

6-9-1

3.07

0.890

33.74

Jon Gilles (AHL)

17

9-5-2

2.94

0.910

X

 

 

ColoradoSemyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard

Top Prospect – Spencer Martin

Pickard sure looks like the future, but he also looks snake bitten. Too many opponent goals come from friendly fire (i.e. Avalanche skates) and potential wins are squelched by meager offensive support. Varlamov still has some great moments, but they happen less and less frequently, and the injuries more and more so. With his sizable contract, expect Varly to continue to get lots of starts when healthy, but it shouldn’t be long before Pickard is the main guy here regardless of Varlamov’s physical health. A sustained Pickard run could help the floundering Coloradans make a more permanent shift sooner rather than later.

Martin has spent time with the big club this year with Varlamov’s frequent injuries, although he hasn’t yet seen any ice time. He has elite goaltending potential, and has performed well with AHL’s San Antonio this year. Confident on the ice, adept at challenging opponents, and extremely quick, he could eventually surpass either or both current Avalanche netminders given the right circumstances.

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Avg. Shot Dist.

Semyon Varlamov

21

6-14-0

3.33

0.901

35.79

Calvin Pickard

17

6-8-1

2.95

0.904

37.75

Spencer Martin  (AHL)

21

13-7-0

2.37

0.921

X

 

 

DallasKari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi

Top Prospects - Philippe Desrosiers and Maxime Lagace

A cliché, as the Stars are the definition of “shared net” in recent times. Dallas’ current situation can be deciphered like this - play Niemi at home, where he has been generally impressive, unless Lehtonen is on a successful run, but tread lightly as such runs rarely last more than two or three games.

Dallas doesn’t have highly-rated goalie prospects, which is kind of strange for such a net-maligned organization. Desrosiers is likely the best of those, with little chance of making an impact in the near future, or perhaps at all. With his recent demotion from the AHL to the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads, perhaps primary Texas Stars’ netminder Maxime Lagace has supplanted him, but he again is not a high-profile prospect. The recent numbers for both are pretty ugly as you can see below. The most likely path to Dallas goalie improvement still seems through free agency or trade.

 

Player

G

Record

GAA

SV%

Avg. Shot Dist.

Kari Lehtonen

22

9-10-3

2.77

0.901

33.88

Antti Niemi

19

7-4-4

2.87

0.910

35.79

Philippe Desrosiers (AHL)

7

2-2-0

3.25

0.893

X

Philippe Desrosiers (ECHL)

6

1-2-0

4.12

0.894

X

Maxime Lagace (AHL)

21

9-7-2

3.62

0.890

X

 

 

VancouverJacob Markstrom and Ryan Miller

Top Prospect – Thatcher Demko

Again, the future v. the past, with significant cash tied up in the past. Boy, Miller used to be great… Remember that? I really root for the guy, and their numbers are relatively equal, but it’s increasingly Markstrom’s time with the 36 year-old Miller’s contract up at the end of the year. From a fantasy and real hockey perspective, at 26 years of age Markstrom is a much better long term, cost-efficient investment at this point in time.

Could Demko leapfrog into the top spot? It’s possible, although really not this year unless the top two suffer major injuries or collapses. Many rank Demko as the top goalie prospect yet to make a mark in the NHL and a future franchise cornerstone. Likely he will be taking Miller’s place relatively soon on the Canucks’ roster, so the future may bring another Canuck time share in 2017-18 while we wait for an alpha to emerge between he and Markstrom. My money is on Demko eventually, but perhaps it will take until 2018-19 or so to play out.

 

Player

GS

Record

GAA

SV%

Avg. Shot Dist.

Jacob Markstrom

19

7-8-2

2.65

0.909

31.42

Ryan Miller

21

9-10-1

2.81

0.909

33.71

Thatcher Demko (AHL)

18

7-7-3

2.88

0.898

X

 

 

 

  • Allan Phillips

    Spot on with Martin. I see him a lot and he is very solid, making a good showing on a poor team. The only drawback I see with him is his size. By today’s standards, he’s a bit small at 6′. Ditto on Pickard – he’s got no protection in Denver but he is more focused and driven than Varly at this point.

    • Kevin Wickersham

      Thanks! Tough to see any goalies being all that successful in Colorado until they get more defensive support, but I think Martin might be the guy eventually.

  • The Dot

    Any thoughts on the Philly duo? Has Mason solidified the #1 spot for the next while?

    • Kevin Wickersham

      With Neuvirth coming off the IR today, I could see him stealing some upcoming starts if he stays healthy, especially since Mason has cooled off over the last few games. I bet they’l go more or less with the hot hand in the near future.