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Fantasy: Best backup goalies, time-shares

Budaj, Saros, Niemi among top handcuff options; Halak, Greiss worth drafting together

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

The difficult part about fantasy is unpredictability; you're always one injury away from your season being in shambles. For example, take owners who drafted goalie Jonathan Quick last season. If they were unable to get Peter Budaj on the waiver wire, they were left scrambling to replace one of the most consistent starters of the past five seasons.

Even Matt Murray of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had a great season, wasn't always reliable, missing time with injuries. Ben Bishop (Dallas Stars) also was injured last season, as was Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens) in 2015-16. Each of them was expected to be a top-five goalie.

Knowing which teams may have a time-share heading into the season, and who are the best backups to handcuff or own, can be the difference between winning and losing your fantasy matchup. Here are some to keep in mind:


[RELATED: Bold fantasy prediction for each team in 2017-18Impact of 2017-18 NHL schedule on fantasy leagues | NHL Network fantasy hockey special]


New York Islanders

The good news is, the Islanders have two goalies, not three, for the first time in two seasons. The bad news is, it's uncertain how the breakdown of starts will go, although Jaroslav Halak is expected to play more than Thomas Greiss. Halak was 6-1-0 with a .949 save percentage to end the season with the Islanders after playing three months for Bridgeport of the American Hockey League following early-season struggles. Greiss made 49 starts last season to 26 for Halak. Greiss also out-started Halak in 2015-16 (38-36). Despite the gap in starts last season, their numbers were similar: Greiss had a 2.69 GAA and .913 SV%, Halak had a 2.80 GAA and .915 SV%. If you are going to draft Halak (average draft position: 122.1) you would be wise to also select Greiss (ADP: 162.1).

Video: NYI@BUF: Halak scrambles to keep Isles ahead


Winnipeg Jets

Connor Hellebuyck made 53 starts for the Jets last season (26-19-4, 2.89 GAA, .907 SV%), which likely will decrease with the addition of Steve Mason. Last season with the Philadelphia Flyers, Mason was 26-21-8 with a 2.66 GAA and .908 SV% but was 6-1-1 with a .924 SV% in the final eight games of the season. Mason has made at least 48 starts in each of the past four seasons and wasn't signed as a free agent to be a backup. Mason (ADP: 166.9) is going on average 12 spots ahead of Hellebuyck (179.5) and should be the starter to begin the season. It's no secret that the Jets have firepower offensively, which could benefit Mason. However, he could be on a short leash, with Hellebuyck considered the goalie of the future.


Florida Panthers

Roberto Luongo may be the NHL's active leader in wins (453) and shutouts (73), but he's 38 years old and showed signs of his age last year. In 40 starts with the Panthers, he was 17-15-6 with a 2.68 GAA and .915 SV% and played his fewest games in a full season since his rookie season of 1999-00 (24). Luongo dealt with injuries and could yield more starts to James Reimer this season. Reimer, who signed a five-year, $17 million contract prior to last season, was 18-16-5 with a 2.53 GAA, .920 SV% and three shutouts. Reimer (172.9 ) and Luongo (173.6) are being drafted close together, but with the Panthers unlikely to compete for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, having either of them may hurt your team.

Video: STL@FLA: Reimer denies multiple shots in close


Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

The 11 back-to-backs the Predators play are tied for third-fewest in the NHL, but after Rinne started 83 games (regular and postseason combined) and has made at least 61 starts in each of the past three regular seasons, he should receive a reduced workload, especially if Nashville wants to get back to the Stanley Cup Final. Saros, 22, had an impressive rookie season (10-8-3, 2.35 GAA, .923 SV%) and is being drafted in 3 percent of fantasy leagues, a number which should be higher. You know what you're getting with Saros (ADP: 173.5), and Nashville has one of the better defenses in the League.


Antti Niemi, Pittsburgh Penguins

Niemi is owned in 8 percent of Yahoo leagues but is in a much better position to succeed than he was the past two seasons with the Dallas Stars. Last season he won 12 games, the first time in his eight-year NHL career he didn't win at least 24. His GAA has gone up each season since 2012-13 and he had an NHL career-worst .892 SV% in 2016-17. Niemi joins a better team, offensively and defensively, and even if he doesn't start 30 games, he should put up solid numbers. It's worth noting that starter Matt Murray has yet to prove he can stay healthy, and the Penguins play a League-high 19 back-to-back sets.

Video: ARI@DAL: Niemi extends pad to rob Duclair's wrap


Aaron Dell, San Jose Sharks

The understudy to Martin Jones was one of the best backups to own last season. Dell went 11-6-1 with a 2.00 GAA and .931 SV% in 20 games, allowing two goals or fewer in 15 games. San Jose has 14 sets of back-to-back games, meaning Dell should again see his fair share of starts. Although Jones has potential to be a top 10 goalie, Dell is a must handcuff for Jones owners and is one of the last goalies being selected in the top 200 (177.4). He could see increased starts down the stretch if the Sharks opt to keep Jones fresh for the playoffs.


Peter Budaj, Tampa Bay Lightning

A season ago, Budaj was in the American Hockey League but quickly found himself starting for the Los Angeles Kings. Acquired by the Lightning before the NHL Trade Deadline after Ben Bishop was traded, Budaj was 30-21-3 with a 2.18 GAA, .915 SV% and seven shutouts with Los Angeles and Tampa Bay. Now he'll mentor and back up Lightning starter Andrei Vasilevskiy, 23, who's expected to make about 60 starts. Budaj, 35, is on a Cup-contending team, and should Vasilevskiy get injured, he'll become an instant must-own. Even if Vasilevskiy remains healthy, Budaj (ADP: 162.4) is one of the best backups to target.

Video: DAL@TBL: Budaj robs Stars twice with great pad saves


Others to consider: Philipp Grubauer (WSH; ADP: 167.1), Ryan Miller (ANA; ADP: 165.4); Jimmy Howard (DET; ADP: 177.4), Joonas Korpisalo (CBJ; ADP: N/A); Anton Forsberg (CHI; N/A)

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