Every Thursday during the season, Justin Goldman, a regional goalie scout for USA Hockey and founder of The Goalie Guild, will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy goaltenders in NHL.com's weekly segment: "In the Cage." From updated goalie rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Goldman will be your fantasy goalie expert all season long.
With less than one week until the NHL Trade Deadline (Wednesday, March 5 at 3 p.m.), the window of opportunity to upgrade your goaltending before the fantasy playoff push is quickly closing.
The 2014 Sochi Olympics was a nice break from the grueling NHL schedule, but it also gave us a rare glimpse of some key fantasy goalies playing behind different defensive systems.
But now, with a few other goalies rumored to be on the move next week, we're focused in on six key goaltending storylines leading up to next Wednesday and the trade deadline.
TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES
- 1. Tuukka Rask, Bruins (same)
- 2. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (same)
- 3. Carey Price, Canadiens (+1)
- 4. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (-1)
- 5. Ben Bishop, Lightning (+1)
- 6. Antti Niemi, Sharks (-1)
- 7. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (+1)
- 8. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (-1)
- 9. Jaroslav Halak, Blues (same)
- 10. Steve Mason, Flyers (same)
- 11. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (+1)
- 12. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (-1)
- 13. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (+1)
- 14. Ryan Miller, Sabres (+1)
- 15. Jonathan Bernier, Maple Leafs (-2)
- 16. Cory Schneider, Devils (+1)
- 17. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (-1)
- 18. Jonathan Quick, Kings (same)
- 19. Mike Smith, Coyotes (same)
- 20. Anton Khudobin, Hurricanes (same)
- 21. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (+1)
- 22. Craig Anderson, Senators (-1)
- 23. Darcy Kuemper, Wild (+1)
- 24. Ben Scrivens, Oilers (+1)
- 25. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (-2)
- 26. Martin Brodeur, Devils (same)
- 27. Braden Holtby, Capitals (same)
- 28. Tim Thomas, Panthers (same)
- 29. Antti Raanta, Blackhawks (same)
- 30. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders (NR)
6. Minnesota's injury issues: When the Minnesota Wild signed John Curry to a two-way contract last week, it was an ominous sign that Josh Harding could miss more time due to multiple sclerosis. Niklas Backstrom is also still dealing with a nagging pulled abdominal muscle, so that leaves Darcy Kuemper as the Wild's lone reliable goalie.
Like most teams, they have a packed schedule from here on out, with six more back-to-back sets. So if the issues with Harding and Backstrom persist, Minnesota may be forced to acquire a steady veteran before the deadline.
5. Carolina's crowded crease: Cam Ward continues to struggle, Anton Khudobin continues to shine, and Justin Peters has proven he's capable of being a serviceable NHL backup. Something has to give, and sooner rather than later.
The Carolina Hurricanes continue a crucial five-game road trip tonight at the Dallas Stars, so their goaltending has to be at its best. To make matters worse, both Khudobin and Peters will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, so Carolina's short- and long-term goaltending situation could be influenced by the deadline.
4. Halak's shaky value: You could drop just about any goalie in the St. Louis Blues' defensive system and have fantasy success. But Jaroslav Halak's performance in the Olympics (see trending down) was a nightmare, adding fuel to the fire that the Blues may be seeking an upgrade in goal.
Halak did stop 34 of 35 shots in a 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, so depending on the way the market shifts between now and March 5, the upgrade may come at the expense of Brian Elliott instead.
3. Brodeur's last stand: It's hard to imagine Martin Brodeur wearing anything other than a New Jersey Devils sweater, but with his potential retirement looming, he may need to become a rental player if he wants more playing time. Even then, he could be relegated to a veteran “insurance policy” for a team that has a less experienced goalie driving the bus.
Clearly a living legend, Brodeur's own bus is running low on gas, so we don't expect him to carry much fantasy value down the stretch. He last played on Jan. 26 and is 1-3-1 in his past five games, allowing 18 goals on 130 shots, a .862 save percentage. But no matter where he plays, his fans will always follow.
2. Rinne's timely return: Currently on a conditioning stint with the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League, Pekka Rinne could earn some key fantasy points down the stretch for the Nashville Predators. He has a career record of 37-17-9 with a 2.35 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in March, and his 68 games played and nine shutouts are career-highs compared to all other months of the regular season.
It seems like forever since Rinne last played, so remember that he allowed just three goals on his past 87 shots in the three games before the hip infection. He is also 3-1-1 in his past five games.
1. Miller's uncertain future: No NHL player is tied to more swirling trade rumors right now than Ryan Miller. He was a big star in the 3-2 win over Carolina on Tuesday (36 saves), but ominous signs of his inevitable departure has Buffalo Sabres fans worried about the future.
For those of you that have stuck with Miller up to this point, expect to be rewarded. Considering he has a .923 save percentage behind a team that allows an average of 34 shots per game, yet scores an average of less than two goals per game, wherever Miller ends up his fantasy value is sure to rise.
GAA: 2.33 | SVP: 0.925
Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche -- Russia's goaltender buckled against Finland in the quarterfinals, as he was pulled after allowing three goals on 15 shots. He will get a chance to bounce back on Friday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
GAA: 2.23 | SVP: 0.917
Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg Jets -- In four games for the Czech Republic, Pavelec allowed 10 goals on 90 shots (.889 save percentage). He did not dress for his team's first preliminary round game against Sweden.
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings -- Howard made 19 saves in a 2-1 overtime win against Montreal on Wednesday, so he allowed just five goals against in his past four games (3-1-0). March also happens to be one of his best months historically, as he is 22-11-6 with a 2.29 GAA and .918 save percentage in his career.