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Baker: Meet the five best backup goalie bargains

by Ken Baker

There are few joys in life that compare to obtaining a pricey item at an insane discount. You know, the kind of bargain-bin steal that leaves you feeling lucky (and a little guilty) for walking out of the store with something that you clearly shouldn't have gotten for so cheap.
That's how a lot of NHL coaches, general managers and owners should feel early this season for getting fat-paycheck performances out of goalies who are making much less scratch than super-size salaried elite goalies.
Thanks to a perfect storm of injuries, starter slumps, balanced playing time designed to rest a No. 1, and the penny-pinching reality of the post-lockout salary cap, so far this year we've seen more "blue-collar backups" than ever before.
How much of a deal are NHL teams getting with these affordable goal guardians?

Although the average NHL goalie salary stands at close to $3 million, the top five bargain backups ranked below make just $3.125 million combined!
Here are the top goalies who, if they keep playing like they've been, could go from wearing a blue collar to seeing a lot more green after their next contract negotiation.
Thomas Greiss
Goalie - SJS
RECORD: 3-3-0
GAA: 2.15 | SVP: 0.919
No. 5. Thomas Greiss ($550,000) -- In the first couple of weeks of the San Jose Sharks season, with starter Antti Niemi and backup Antero Nittymaki both struggling or hampered by injuries, the journeyman German (the best goalie you've probably never heard of) has shown all the brilliance of a frosty Bavarian beer stein. Suddenly, for the first time since Sharks' Nabokov-Kiprusoff days, the Sharks have depth in goal.
No. 4. Brent Johnson ($600,000) -- At 34, Johnson is the elder statesman of bargain backups. But in his role as Marc-Andre Fleury's No. 2, Johnson is pure money. Johnson's reliable play gives the Pens the most consistent – and economical – goalie tandem in the League.
No. 3 Brian Elliott ($600,000) -- As troubled as the St. Louis Blues have been this season, they'd have a Columbus-like record if it weren't for the surprisingly solid play of Elliott. Considered by many to be something of a disappointment during his four seasons in Ottawa, Elliott has looked reborn in the role as the No. 2 behind the Blues' $4-million man, Jaroslav Halak.
No. 2 Josh Harding ($750,000) -- The "richest" on our list, Harding's been the wildest story to come out of Minnesota, posting the best start of his career, a year after sitting out last season with a scary knee injury. When compared to the $6-million salary of the Wild's erstwhile No. 1, Niklas Backstrom, Harding's low-income play has been richer than one of those sugary double chocolate donuts at Tim Hortons.
No. 1 Jhonas Enroth ($625,000)  -- Too short at 5-foot-10! Too young at 23! Critics had doubted the Swedish scrapper's ability to relieve All-Star Ryan Miller's 60-plus-games-a-season burden. But, with five wins in five starts, the battler in Buffalo has managed to cast a shadow of his own on the Sabres' crease. Enroth just might have those doubters chanting a new mantra: Too cheap!
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