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Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Updated: January 11, 12:56 PM ET
And the top 40 goaltenders are ...

By Tim Kavanagh
ESPN.com

The last time we met in this space -- the post-free agency rankings update back on July 10 -- the focus of many in the hockey world was on where Roberto Luongo was going to be shipped via trade. I had a look at which of the three rumored destinations -- Toronto, Florida or Chicago -- would be best for his fantasy value. Now that the lockout is finally over, that question lingers, with a fourth outcome of him sticking around in Vancouver being a distinct possibility, as well.

Roberto Luongo
Roberto Luongo (left) and Cory Schneider are both in Vancouver ... for now.

Luongo's fate may be the biggest unknown at this point, but there are many other unanswered questions. For instance, how much rust should we expect out of the goalies who didn't take a job in one of the overseas leagues (or the AHL) during the lockout? Do Ilya Bryzgalov's struggles in the KHL foreshadow another rough season in Philly? Is Richard Bachman's new mask (as depicted here) the best we've ever seen?

As was the case for colleague Sean Allen in his Front Line column Tuesday, there isn't a lot of moving and shaking in the rankings, as there hasn't been too much to alter our opinions on many of these players as of yet. In general, the netminders who played at the professional level during the lockout will be in better shape to hop right back into the swing of things, whether that work came in the minor leagues in North America or over in Europe. But it's not like the others were sitting around drinking beer and playing video games all day. The modern NHL goalie maintains a rigorous physical fitness regimen both during the season and after it, so while they may take a little time to adjust to the speed of the action, they're not coming in totally cold.

So that's the rub on the majority of players. For some, however, the time away has resulted in a tweak in our rankings. Let's have a look.

Rising and Falling

Top 40 Goalies

Note: Tim Kavanagh's top 40 goalies are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN Standard Leagues. ESPN standard stats include wins, goals-against average and save percentage. The ranking at the start of the 2011-12 season is indicated in parentheses.

1. Jonathan Quick, LA (1)
2. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (2)
3. Pekka Rinne, Nsh (6)
4. Jimmy Howard, Det (4)
5. Mike Smith, Pho (3)
6. Jaroslav Halak, StL (5)
7. Tuukka Rask, Bos (8)
8. Cory Schneider, Van (7)
9. Ryan Miller, Buf (9)
10. Roberto Luongo, Van (10)
11. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (11)
12. Cam Ward, Car (12)
13. Braden Holtby, Was (15)
14. Kari Lehtonen, Dal (14)
15. Carey Price, Mon (13)
16. Niklas Backstrom, Min (16)
17. Semyon Varlamov, Col (17)
18. Craig Anderson, Ott (18)
19. Martin Brodeur, NJ (19)
20. Devan Dubnyk, Edm (20)
21. Ondrej Pavelec, Wpg (21)
22. Antti Niemi, SJ (22)
23. Brian Elliott, StL (23)
24. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phi (24)
25. Anders Lindback, TB (25)
26. Josh Harding, Min (26)
27. Jonas Hiller, Ana (27)
28. Corey Crawford, Chi (28)
29. Sergei Bobrovsky, Cls (32)
30. Jacob Markstrom, Fla (29)
31. Evgeni Nabokov, NYI (30)
32. Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy (31)
33. Tomas Vokoun, Pit (33)
34. Jose Theodore, Fla (34)
35. Richard Bachman, Dal (35)
36. Jhonas Enroth, Buf (36)
37. Ben Bishop, Ott (37)
38. Johan Hedberg, NJ (38)
39. Ray Emery, Chi (39)
40. Henrik Karlsson, Cgy (41)

Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (still at No. 1): A little misleading to stick him in the "Rising and Falling" category, but hey, it's my column, and I'll make an exception here. After signing a 10-year contract over the summer, Quick underwent back surgery in August. It's quite possible that had the season started on time, he would've missed significant work in the early months (and we might've seen whether Jonathan Bernier actually is a No. 1-caliber goalie). It's unclear exactly when he would've been able to return had the season gone as planned, but we don't have to deal in hypotheticals anymore: The L.A. Times reported earlier this week that Quick has been cleared to play. And he's still the top choice in fantasy, with a slight edge over New York Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist.

Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators (up three spots to No. 3): Sure, Rinne and the Preds lost Ryan Suter to free agency this offseason, but they retained Shea Weber, as well as a young corps of promising talent up front. So why would Rinne actually rise amid the uncertainty? Well, among the elite netminders in his neighborhood of the rankings, he was one of only three that got significant work in overseas leagues during the lockout. Cory Schneider played eight games in the Swiss league, while Tuukka Rask had a similar run in the Czech league. (The only other goalie from the elite group to head overseas was Jaroslav Halak, who appeared in just one game in the German league.) Rinne's work also came in the KHL (for Dynamo Minsk), against the best of what the locked-out hockey world had to offer. This could lead to a fast start for Rinne in comparison to the others.

Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals (up two spots to No. 13): The reason many NHL 'tenders didn't simply lace up in the AHL during the lockout is that they were ineligible contractually. But Holtby, who came to prominence during the Caps' postseason run following the 2011-12 season, was able to go back to suiting up for the Hershey Bears, the place where he began his previous three campaigns (and the inspiration for the roller coaster-themed mask he used last season). So how does a player who posted a sparkling 1.95 GAA and .935 save percentage in 14 NHL playoff games do against AHL competition the next season? In 25 games this season, he did almost as well, posting a 2.14/.932 split. He's on track to get the No. 1 gig in Washington this season, and as with Rinne, many of the players in his neighborhood of the rankings did not face pro competition during the lockout. Holtby appears ready to roll.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets (up three spots to No. 29): Stop me if you've heard this one before: Unlike a number of similarly ranked players, Bobrovsky got significant time in a pro league during the lockout. OK, so that's certainly going to be a theme here in the early going, and we'll see if the lack of rust on certain netminders is really a benefit once the puck drops on Jan. 19. But the reason Bobrovsky gets an additional uptick in the early going is not only his excellent work for St. Petersburg SKA in the KHL -- including an 18-3-2 record, 1.94 GAA and .932 save percentage -- but the fact the Blue Jackets should be improved in 2012-13 (though the bar is, admittedly, low).

Time-shares

Blackhawks vs Coyotes
When last we saw Corey Crawford, he was allowing four goals in Game 6 in a conference quarterfinals loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, Chicago Blackhawks: Crawford and Emery are an interesting case study in two very different problems that can plague goaltenders. Crawford has struggled with inconsistency during his NHL run, and this is a problem that snowballed to calamitous effect in 2011-12 for Chicago (especially in the postseason, when he gave up multiple questionable goals). As for Emery, he has had injury troubles throughout his recent NHL campaigns, and though he has been better than Crawford at times, he can't help too much if he's injured. The Blackhawks were reportedly interested in signing Martin Brodeur this offseason, but that deal fell through, and it'll be the Crawford-Emery show in the early going. If the above-mentioned problems persist, however, expect the team to explore an addition prior to the trade deadline.

Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner, Ottawa Senators: Though Anderson is certainly locked in to the No. 1 spot for this season, the Sens have a pair of good fallback options should he be injured (or if they elect to use a buyout on his contract). Bishop appeared to be ahead in the organization's mind as of the end of last season, but Lehner has been posting better stats thus far while the two of them get their work in for the AHL affiliate in Binghamton. In 20 games, Lehner has gone 13-5-1, with a 1.94 GAA and .944 save percentage; meanwhile, in 12 appearances, Bishop has gone 8-3-1, with a 2.66/.928 split. The brief training camp that will begin this upcoming Sunday will provide another opportunity for a battle, but the team might be leaning toward Lehner on the strength of those relative numbers.

Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues: Some assumed that, based upon how the Blues' postseason ended -- with Elliott allowing 13 goals in four games to the Kings -- Halak was back on track to being the team's unquestioned No. 1 as 2012-13 began. However, prior to the lockout beginning, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock hinted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the time-share would continue. That could change if one of the two gets hot, of course, but in the early going, owners of the two will just have to keep an eye on the situation from game to game.

Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks: For now, both of these No. 1-caliber goalies are on the same team, and while Schneider was bestowed with the official starter's title at the tail end of last season, one would assume we'll see Luongo on the ice at some point early this season (if a deal isn't done between now and Jan. 19), and a good performance or two might help bring about some movement on the trade front. If Luongo does stay on the roster long-term, it's going to do harm to both goaltenders' spots in the fantasy rankings, as Schneider's workload (and perhaps, his psyche) will be damaged with the former starter hanging around.