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In the Cage: Potential free-agent goalies

Thursday, 04.11.2013 / 2:10 PM
Justin Goldman  - NHL.com Correspondent

Every Thursday during the season, Justin Goldman, the director of goalie scouting for McKeen's Hockey and founder of The Goalie Guild, will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy goaltenders. From updated goalie rankings to players you should keep a close eye on and much more, Goldman will be your fantasy goalie expert all season long.

Considering the regular season comes to an end in just over two weeks, we realize most poolies have already laid their fantasy teams to rest. With that in mind, we've selected the top five free-agent goalies available this summer and took a quick look at their overall fantasy output this season.

Ray Emery – Blackhawks: Of the top five potential free-agent goalies available this summer, nobody has earned a new contract more than the 30-year-old Emery. He currently sits third overall in goals-against average (1.90) and seventh in save percentage (.924), all while posting a mind-blowing 15-1-0 record in 19 appearances. Regardless of the situation, Emery has found ways to steal some games that Chicago had no business winning. Not only has he proved that previous injury concerns are no longer an issue, but his 10-game winning streak, which included a 2.28 GAA, was the longest in franchise history.

Niklas Backstrom – Wild: At 35 years of age, Backstrom has proven once again that he can still handle a grueling workload with relative ease. Although he was rusty coming out of the lockout, he smoothed out his game and went 11-2-0 in March with a 2.48 GAA and .915 save percentage. Those aren't gaudy stats by any means, but he has allowed two goals or less in 19 of 33 games and is currently tied for first in the NHL with 20 wins. It certainly helps to have an improved defense in front of him, but he's still considered the franchise's backbone.

Mike Smith – Coyotes: The 31-year-old carries an optimal frame at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, and while he's had his fair share of highs and lows this season, he's clearly going to be one of the top goalies available this summer. He has stopped 93 of his last 95 shots over the past three games, so he's getting hot at just the right time for Phoenix. He's also tied for the League lead with five shutouts, reaching that mark in just 29 games. This is an interesting case to follow right now, as Coyotes general manager Don Maloney has publicly stated that he won't discuss serious contract talks until ownership issues are resolved.

Evgeni Nabokov – Islanders: The steady veteran presence of Nabokov is reminding Islanders fans of what Chris Osgood accomplished over a decade ago. The 37-year-old has stopped 90 of his last 95 shots (.947 SV%) and was 8-4-1 in March with two shutouts and a 2.43 GAA. He's the ultimate road warrior, posting an 11-3-2 record away from the Island with a 2.50 GAA and .916 SV%. These aren't the type of fantasy stats that will put him in the top half of the League, but his durability, reliability and timely performances have been the driving force in leading his team to a potential playoff appearance.

Anton Khudobin -- Bruins: Poolies couldn't ask for much more from the 26-year-old Kazakhstan native. After last night's win over New Jersey, he's now 9-3 with a 2.23 GAA on the season. His .924 SV% is seventh overall in the NHL, and he's a perfect 4-0 at home, allowing seven goals on 129 shots (.946 SV%). The workload increased in March, as he went 5-2 with a 1.80 GAA and .934 SV%. With those numbers, Khudobin has established himself as a solid backup that can push a starting goalie, so he'll garner some attention this summer. He still plays a somewhat unconventional athletic butterfly style, but the technical side of his game is improving as time goes on.

Other potential UFA's: Jose Theodore (IR), Nikolai Khabibulin, Jason LaBarbera, Joey MacDonald, Thomas Greiss, Mathieu Garon, Al Montoya, Dan Ellis, Chris Mason, Michael Leighton

TRENDING UPWARD

1. Ray Emery – Blackhawks: Razor Ray was a huge asset for poolies over the past week. Not only did he win three games in four nights, but he shut out two hungry teams in Nashville and Minnesota. He has stopped 59 of 62 shots during this stretch and has posted three shutouts in his last five games (4-1-0).

2. Mike Smith – Coyotes: After missing six games due to injury, Smith is 2-1-0 with 93 saves on 95 shots in April. That includes a 24-save shutout in a 4-0 win over Colorado on Apr. 6, a 40-save effort in a 2-0 loss to the Canucks on Apr. 8 and a first-star effort in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Edmonton.

3. Brian Elliott – Blues: If you paid attention to last week's column, you may have benefitted from adding a rested and razor-sharp Elliott. He has now posted back-to-back shutouts (43 combined saves) and is 4-0-0 in April with 95 saves on 99 shots, good for a .960 SV%.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

1. Jonathan Quick – Kings: It clearly hasn't been a great season for Quick after off-season back surgery, and the stats prove it. He is just 1-2-0 in April with a .895 SV% and 3.01 GAA. He currently has just a .904 even-strength SV% and recently gave up five goals on 31 shots in a 5-1 loss in Dallas.

2. Martin Brodeur – Devils: New Jersey is reeling without Ilya Kovalchuk, and so is Brodeur, who is now 0-4-4 in his last eight games. He's 0-4-1 in April with a 2.62 GAA and .881 SV%, so if the Devils have any hope of making the playoffs, he may have to turn things around single-handedly.

3. Pekka Rinne – Predators: With four straight losses, Rinne is now 1-4-1 in April with a 2.00 GAA. His .940 SV% is excellent, but now he is just 4-9-3 on the road with a 2.87 GAA and .897 SV%. His 14 wins in 39 games is a letdown for poolies, as is his .916 SV%, which is only 20th overall in the NHL.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

Richard Bachman – Stars: Kari Lehtonen is currently day-to-day with a lower-body injury, so Bachman will be expected to keep Dallas' playoff hopes alive. He started off on the right foot by relieving Lehtonen and stopping all 22 shots he faced in a 5-1 win over the Kings.

TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES - sidebar widget

These modified re-rankings are a projection of a goalie's fantasy output for the entire season. Our rankings are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, goals-against average and save percentage. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). It is important to note that our rankings reflect sheer fantasy value, not talent. A less-talented goalie could be ranked higher due to their team's strong defense and offense.

TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES

These modified re-rankings are a projection of a goalie's fantasy output for the entire season. Our rankings are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, and GAA and SP%. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). It is important to note that our rankings reflect sheer fantasy value, not talent. A less-talented goalie could be ranked higher due to their team's strong defense and offense.

1. Tuukka Rask, Bruins (same)

2. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (same)

3. Antti Niemi, Sharks (+3)

4. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (+1)

5. Carey Price, Canadiens (-1)

6. Pekka Rinne, Predators (-3)

7. Niklas Backstrom, Wild (same)

8. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (+5)

9. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (+2)

10. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (-2)

11. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (-1)

12. Jonathan Quick, Kings (-3)

13. Ryan Miller, Sabres (+1)

14. Braden Holtby, Capitals (-2)

15. Ray Emery, Blackhawks (+7)

16. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (-1)

17. Cory Schneider, Canucks (same)

18. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (-2)

19. Viktor Fasth, Ducks (+1)

20. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (+1)

21. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (-2)

22. Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers (-4)

23. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders (+1)

24. Ben Bishop, Lightning (+1)

25. Craig Anderson, Senators (NR)(IR)

26. Martin Brodeur, Devils (-3)

27. Mike Smith, Coyotes (NR)(IR)

28. Devan Dubnyk, Oilers (-1)

29. Anton Khudobin, Bruins (-1)

30. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (-4)

Dropped out of previous rankings: Tomas Vokoun (29), Justin Peters (30)

Injured: Cam Ward (18), Jaroslav Halak (22), Anders Lindback (28), Jose Theodore (NR)

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