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Trades, signings create uncertain goalie situations

by David Satriano /

Three weeks after the NHL season ended, trades and free agent signings have already made for some interesting goalie situations that are sure to affect fantasy hockey this season.

Fifteen goalies have changed teams so far (seven in trades, eight in free agency). Some will get a chance to be a No. 1; others may have to adjust to a time-share.

Though things may change in the months leading up to the 2015-16 season, here are five goalie situations worth monitoring:

Buffalo Sabres

Robin Lehner, the odd man out after the Ottawa Senators rode Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond the second half of last season into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, was traded to the Sabres on June 26.

The 23-year-old was 9-12-3 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .905 save percentage last season. He sustained a concussion in February but has recovered. He should eclipse his NHL career highs in starts (30, in the 2013-14 season) and wins (12, in 2013-14). Sabres general manager Tim Murray said Lehner was their No. 1 target and that he would be their No. 1 goalie.

In 86 NHL games, Lehner is 30-36-13 with a 2.88 GAA, a .914 save percentage and two shutouts. Buffalo used five goalies last season, and Lehner will bring stability. If the Sabres offense (ranked 30th at 1.87 goals per game last season) scores a bit more, Lehner can be a sneaky draft option in later rounds.

Backup Chad Johnson was subpar last season with the New York Islanders (8-8-1, 3.08 GAA, .889 save percentage) and didn't play a game with the Sabres after he sustained a lower-body injury in practice shortly after he was acquired in a trade.

Carolina Hurricanes

Cam Ward has been in Carolina for 10 seasons, tied for the second-longest tenure among active goalies with one team (Henrik Lundqvist has been with the New York Rangers for 10 seasons; Marc-Andre Fleury has been with the Pittsburgh Penguins for 11 seasons).

Ward has been consistent throughout his career when healthy, having started 67 or more games in four of five seasons from 2007-08 through 2011-12. Ward, 31, has an NHL record of 246-191-58. Last season, he was 22-24-5 with a 2.40 GAA and .910 save percentage in 51 games.

However, his playing time likely will decrease with Eddie Lack now in the fold. Carolina acquired Lack, who has played in 41 games each of the past two seasons, in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks during the 2015 NHL Draft. Lack was 18-13-4 with a 2.45 GAA and .921 save percentage and started 20 of the Canucks' final 23 games last season after Ryan Miller sustained a knee injury. Lack is 27 and in the prime of his career, so don't be surprised to see him eventually surpass Ward in starts.

Dallas Stars

Dallas GM Jim Nill said after he traded for Antti Niemi's rights and signed him that he wants Niemi and Kari Lehtonen to push each other and that he likes having two veteran goalies. That likely will lead to the dreaded goalie time-share.

It will be interesting to see if either starts each game of any of the Stars' 12 back-to-back sets this  season. Lehtonen played 65 games with the Stars last season; Niemi played in 61 with the San Jose Sharks. Each goalie is 31 and used to being a starter, and they have known each other for years, having played together on Finland's national team.

Niemi has started at least 60 games in each of the past four full NHL seasons; he started 43 of 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. He has a 2.39 GAA and .916 save percentage in 338 NHL games, and he has averaged 31.5 wins and more than five shutouts the past six seasons.

Lehtonen has been a starting goalie since 2006-07, dating to his days with the Atlanta Thrashers. His NHL numbers aren't quite as good as Niemi's (2.70 GAA and .914 save percentage, with 32 shutouts in 510 games, the same number Niemi has in 172 fewer games), but Lehtonen has been very good with the Stars for the past six seasons, going 154-101-38 with a 2.58 GAA and .915 save percentage.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers defense has been a weakness for years, and that's had a negative impact on the wins, goals-against averages and save percentages of Edmonton's goalies. Last season, Ben Scrivens played 57 games and was 15-26-11 with a 3.16 GAA and .890 save percentage. Backup Viktor Fasth was 6-15-3 with a 3.41 GAA and .888 save percentage.

The Oilers acquired Cam Talbot from the New York Rangers during the 2015 draft, making Fasth likely the odd man out, with Talbot and Scrivens competing for the No. 1 spot or perhaps being in a time-share, although the offseason edge appears to go to Talbot.

Talbot was outstanding last season, particularly when Lundqvist missed nearly two months with a vascular injury in his neck, going 21-9-4 with a 2.21 GAA, a .926 save percentage and five shutouts. Talbot is 33-15-5 with a 2.00 GAA, a .931 save percentage and eight shutouts in his NHL career.

Though Talbot's GAA may increase and his save percentage decrease in Edmonton, he proved when he started 23 of 25 games in Lundqvist's absence that he can handle a No. 1 role. Plus, the Oilers signed veteran defenseman Andrej Sekera and traded for Eric Gryba. Having Connor McDavid around to score a few goals won't hurt either.

San Jose Sharks

Martin Jones, acquired in a trade with the Boston Bruins less than a week after he was traded by the Los Angeles Kings, will get his chance to be a No. 1 goalie in San Jose after the Sharks traded Niemi's rights to the Stars.

Jones, 25, was seemingly underused in Los Angeles, where he spent two seasons. He started 11 games last season (Jonathan Quick started 71 despite struggling at times) and was 4-5-2 with a 2.24 GAA, a .906 save percentage and three shutouts. Those may not be eye-popping numbers, but he was 12-6-0 with a 1.81 GAA, a .934 save percentage and four shutouts in 19 games when given more playing time in his rookie season of 2013-14. He had three shutouts in his first six NHL starts.

Jones joins a more offensively talented team that can score three or four goals a game, meaning he should pick up his fair share of wins.

Alex Stalock, who was Niemi's backup last season, has played in 49 NHL games (37 starts). His numbers are very favorable: a 21-14-5 record, 2.23 GAA and .917 save percentage. However, he was 8-9-2 with a 2.62 GAA and .902 save percentage last season, far worse than his 2013-14 season (12-5-2, 1.87 GAA, .932 save percentage). Stalock definitely is worth considering because he should see plenty of time, especially if Jones falters early.


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