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Potential NHL Crease Movement

August 21, 2019

No plan survives the enemy and there’s no guarantee the goalie depth chart you start the season with will end with the same goalies there. Sometimes the depth chart merely sees internal movement. The young prospects taking over roles from the AHL veterans or surpassing the veteran NHL back-up. Of course there are also always injuries that take a toll on the depth chart creating holes that need to be covered either internally or externally if the internal options can’t handle it. Looking at depth chart situations next year and the upcoming crop of goalies looking to push for full NHL time let’s take some educated guesses as to what moves we should anticipate.


The Goalies


Alexandar Georgiev




               When any team goes into rebuild mode it provides opportunity for young players to make a mark and provide some light during a dark time for the team. Alexander Georgiev was one of those lights for the New York Rangers. He joined the team in his DY+4 as an AHL goalie eventually earning 9 starts as a Ranger putting up a 0.556 QS% and a 5v5 SV% 1.21 higher than what he was expected to put up (via Corsica). Small sample size but impressive nonetheless. In the AHL it was a respectable rookie season on a not so great team posting a 2.834 GSAA/0.515 QS% which isn’t eye popping at first sight however those numbers were better than the other goalies on the Wolfpack including NHL/AHL experienced Marek Mazanec.


                Georgiev’s rookie North American season earned him the opportunity to take a shot at the back-up spot behind Henrik Lundqvist. He took the job and was given 30 starts for his efforts. This season is where the NHL took a bit more of a bite out of Georgiev but not a large one. His overall numbers took a dip in both the NHL and AHL. In the NHL his QS% dropped to 0.500 and 5v5 SV% differential dropped to -0.15 which while not great is still just below average so not team killing especially for a goalie only in his DY+5. What makes Alexander Georgiev available despite his surprising NA career so far is KHL star goalie Igor Shesterkin. The Rangers didn’t finally convince Shesterkin to come over just to spend the year in the AHL. The wrinkle in the situation is that Georgiev is waiver exempt this season so the Rangers don’t need to move him immediately and can put him in the AHL for another year. He’s a good option for a team looking for a potential tandem goalie with a track record building up of being a decent back-up.


Eric Comrie


                He’s been a slow but rising prospect for the Winnipeg Jets finally cementing himself as a goalie ready to take the next step into the NHL. His first two seasons in the AHL he was hovering around the below average mark number wise in both QS% and GSAA/30. It’s not an impressive start to anyone’s pro career however he was charged with being the starting goalie both years so slightly below average numbers in DY+3/DY+4 seasons isn’t career ending but it needed improvement. These past two years have seen Comrie achieve that improvement. In his DY+5 season he saw his GSAA/30 climb from -0.062 to 0.266 and his QS% from 0.451 to 0.500. This past season is where Comrie earned his place on this list making 47 starts, posting a 0.638 QS%, and 0.403 GSAA/30. He was a Top 5 starter in the AHL and is ready for the opportunity to earn a NHL job.


                What makes Comrie a prime candidate to end up on another team is that he’s waiver eligible. He’s going to be a tempting target for a team that is fine with giving a young potential NHL back-up a chance to prove himself. Comrie isn’t perfect though and there are some parts of his resume that will give teams pause. Comrie’s DY+6 direct statistical comparisons, who have seen at least an NHL season, are Anton Forsberg, Malcolm Subban, and Garret Sparks. Comrie also has a NHL track record of five starts over the past three seasons. AHL success is one thing but as the names above have shown the NHL is a different animal. There’s a definite risk factor when it comes to adding a goalie with little to no NHL experience but everyone needs to start somewhere right? If you need to fill the back-up spot then might as well take the chance.  


Louis Domingue



                One of the most intriguing names available coming into the season is Louis Domingue. He has the longest NHL track record among the goalies named here with about 3 ½ years’ worth of being a NHL back-up. NHL teams like experience in the back-up position and that is what Domingue will bring. Over his NHL career Domingue has put up a 0.509 QS% and a 5v5 SV% 0.31 below expected. If you just take into account Domingue just playing on the Tampa Bay Lightning his QS% jumps up to 0.541. So behind a competent team Domingue is proven to succeed and behind a struggling team he struggled with them.


                Domingue might be the easiest bet to make that he won’t be on Tampa, or in their organization, for much longer. There are teams with back-up spots still available (Florida/Toronto) and as mentioned above Domingue has NHL experience, more important NHL experience at being at least average. It’s slightly eyebrow raising that Domingue is being replaced despite being an average back-up but if Tampa wants to solidify their goalie depth in the NHL it’s hard to argue that Curtis McEhlinney isn’t an upgrade right now. He’s worth it as an upgrade in a league that had no issue passing around Calvin Pickard next year. This’ll be Domingue’s last chance to prove himself to be a NHL goalie and there will be teams offering the chance.


Tristan Jarry



                Did you want an Eric Comrie but with NHL experience? Look no further than Tristan Jarry. The Pittsburgh Penguins goalie prospect burst onto the scene during the 2017/18 season when he made 23 NHL starts posting a 0.609 QS% though his overall 5v5 play saw him post a SV% 1.11 below his expected 5v5 SV%. A combination of being waiver exempt and Casey DeSmith pushed Jarry into the no. 3 role on the Penguins this past season where he got all of two starts. Jarry has had an interesting career to this point. He had a typical DY+3 rookie AHL season with a below average GSAA/30 (though not by a whole lot) then his DY+4 AHL season was monstrous.  It was a DY+4 season that was similar to the one that Thatcher Demko put up in 2017/18 and surpassed the one Connor Hellebuyck put up in 2014/15.


                What might cause teams to pause before claiming Jarry off of waivers is he wasn’t able to win the back-up position outright from DeSmith and his previous AHL season wasn’t anything special as he posted a 0.587 QS% and 0.354 GSAA/30.  It wasn’t a season that ends his chances at a NHL shot but doesn’t provide a lot of confidence as the DY+6 statistical comparisons have him surrounded by goalies such as Antoine Bibeau, Jon Gillies, Calvin Pickard, and Oscar Dansk. With Jarry’s previous NHL experience, solid AHL career, and massive DY+4 season it should be enough for teams to consider giving him a chance. Doesn’t hurt that he comes from an organization that has done very well in developing goalies recently either.


Anton Forsberg



                Can a narrative sink a goalies career or keep them going even when it shouldn’t? In the case of Anton Forsberg it looks like the case of the former. Forsberg was drafted in the 7th round and worked his way into being a top goalie in the Columbus organization along with Joonas Korpisalo. With the way the Columbus goalie situation was working out only one of Korpisalo/Forsberg could stay with the Blue Jackets. In the end Forsberg ended up in Chicago which maybe a season or so earlier would have been good unfortunately Forsberg ended up in Chicago at a not so great time. When Corey Crawford was injured it fell to Forsberg to take the spot. He struggled behind a team that was barely being kept afloat by Crawford ending the season with a 0.467 QS%, -4.17 GSAA, and a 5v5 SV% -1.06 below expected. That season scared the Blackhawks into pushing Forsberg into the no. 3 role this past season in favour of Cam Ward.


                So after a bad NHL rookie season has Forsberg lost his chance at proving himself to be a NHLer? Forsberg has a few points in his favour that say he deserves another shot at the NHL. His AHL career up to his first NHL season was very good and even after his demotion to the AHL this past season he posted another very good season (0.656 QS%/0.470 GSAA/30). If you’re unconvinced by his rookie NHL season he had a better season than Malcom Subban who was at the opposite end of the narrative effect and Joonas Korpisalo as well. Will Forsberg be the starting goalie your team is looking for? Most likely not but he provides another option at the back-up position if you want to give the chance to a hungry, young-ish goalie that has a solid resume.


Jake Allen



                Just like Cam Talbot was moved last season Jake Allen is the dark horse goalie to be moved this season. Talbot last year was on the hot seat with Mikko Koskinen coming in. Now with Jordan Binnington coming in the Allen is in one of two places, the hot seat or as a really expensive back-up. If Ville Husso can rebound after last year’s disastrous season the Blues will have a cheaper option at back-up rather than paying two goalies +8M. Not to mention while Allen is very happy to be a Cup winner and been a great teammate to Binnington he still wants to be a starter. The Blues know this too and know that the extra cap space if Binnington can prove to be a NHL starter could help elsewhere on the roster.


                Can Jake Allen be a starter or is he forever a back-up though? Just like every goalie with previous starter success Allen will more than likely be given one last shot at taking the starting position. It’ll be a bit of risk though for whatever team decides to trade for Allen. He still has two years left on his contract. This isn’t Cam Talbot with one-year left on his deal. Also there’s no doubt Allen’s reputation has taken a hit. He has never posted a season with a +0.600 QS% or +10 All Sit. GSAA. On the flip side Allen has only two seasons out of six where he posted a QS% below 0.520 (12/13 & 17/18). All it takes is one team to take a chance on Allen’s potential and for Allen to put in the effort necessary to take advantage of the opportunity. 


The Teams


Toronto Maple Leafs



                One look at the Leafs goalie depth chart makes them a prime candidate to make a move for a goalie and add in the fact they are never afraid of doing what they can to shore up the position makes the Leafs almost a guarantee to adding a goalie sometime during the season. The Leafs were unimpressed with Garret Sparks and his performance (0.471 QS%/0.902 SV%) so we have to assume the bar is decently high. With a team that wants to contend for the Cup why shouldn’t it be? Mike Babcock needs trust in his goalies and needs to trust he can give Andersen more time off to rest up before playoffs. Is Babcock really going to trust Michael Hutchinson who posted a 0.250 QS% last year or Michael Neuvirth who spends more time on IR than nearly every other goalie? Unless Hutchinson starts on fire the Leafs should be looking for a true NHL back-up. The real question is which goalie do the Leafs go after? Chances are if Dubas wants to see whatever goalie he picks up actually play games for the Leafs it’ll have to be someone with NHL experience like a Louis Domingue or Anton Forsberg.


Florida Panthers



                The Maple Leafs have Cup ambitions and right now the Panthers just have “let’s get back into the playoffs” ambition. The Panthers made a huge investment in order to make playoffs in Sergei Bobrovskiy. The back-up position behind Bobrovskiy though is absolutely bare. At least with the Leafs they could convince themselves that Hutchinson has NHL experience and can be a NHL goalie. With the Panthers it’s a lot of question marks with Samuel Montembeault, Chris Dreidger, Ryan Bednard, and Philippe Desrosiers. Considering where the Panthers finished last season and how mostly every other team has their depth chart set they’ll get first pick at the waiver wire. The question will be finding a back-up goalie who can take the load off of Bobrovskiy. It’s going to be tough finding the best back-up goalie out of a handful that are very close together. In the end the Panthers will hope that the back-up won’t matter but they’d feel a whole lot better with some type of insurance.  


Colorado Avalanche



                This is a tough one and I debated about whether or not to put them here. In the end there’s a glaring no. 3 spot on the roster and it has yet to be filled. The tricky part is that no. 3 spot can only be filled via two avenues, trade or signing. There’s no making a claim on the waiver wire for a quick fix. Instead they’ll probably be waiting to see which goalies make it through waivers (Anton Forsberg/Mike Condon?) and trade for them. Of course the other option is going with an unknown in signing Hayden Hawkey but early in free agency Sakic made it clear he wants a no. 3 goalie with NHL experience and the free agent market is very thin on those. It’s not a massive need but the Colorado Eagles will certainly appreciate not having to run a tandem of Werner/Miska if possible.


Philadelphia Flyers



                They have Carter Hart but when it comes to the Philadelphia Flyers and the crease they will never tire of finding goalies to throw at the problem hoping for a miracle. It’s a tenuous situation in Philadelphia in the crease. You have 2nd year starter and 21yo goalie Carter Hart. There’s going to be more adjustment there and the next question is can Brian Elliott handle it? Quality Starts % wise Elliott was the only goalie on the Flyers to hit the +0.520 mark. If the Elliott/Hart tandem experiment fails for whatever reason though there’s plenty of reason to think that the Flyers will at least look at the goalie market. Maybe they take a chance on Jake Allen. Wouldn’t be the first time they brought in a goalie struggling hoping they’d reach their potential. When it comes to goalie trades and movement on the goalie depth chart never count out the Flyers.


Edmonton Oilers



                If there’s a Philadelphia Flyers of the West it has to be the Edmonton Oilers. They will exhaust no effort to attempt to fix the stability problem in the crease. They had Cam Talbot but ran him into the ground creating injury issues. They extended Mikko Koskinen after his hot streak ended. Now they have Mike Smith who had a resurgence at the end of last season but none of these two are looking like long term solutions in net. With Ken Holland at the helm the Oilers proved they can find ways out of contracts with moving Milan Lucic to the Flames. If Koskinen/Smith stumble out of the gate there’s no doubt that the Oilers will have some sort of plan in place. Now that plan could be wait it out and replace Smith at the end of the season. It won’t be fun for Oilers fans but it’s hard to make a big goalie change mid-season. It’s possible they move Smith to a team looking for a more veteran option to help bolster their playoff run. The goalie question in Edmonton hasn’t been answered yet so that leaves them as a prime candidate for a goalie move.


Ottawa Senators



                The Senators re-signed Anders Nilsson to a multi-year deal after a good run (where have we heard that before…Hammond/Condon) and they have cult legend Craig Anderson as well. Nothing is ever easy for the Ottawa Senators in any way. The Senators have certainly not been afraid to make smaller goalie moves over the years. The biggest factor when it comes to the Senators crease is Craig Anderson. If the Senators make a goalie move it’ll be because he was the catalyst. He’s on a one-year deal which makes him tempting as a target from other teams with a track record of success (before the past two seasons). Anderson though has a NTC so unless he wants to move he won’t. If a Stanley Cup contender wants Anderson there’s a chance. Otherwise we see Anderson finish up his career in Ottawa.

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