In the Crease: Trade deadline targets
In recent seasons, the trade deadline has not made too much of an impact on the goalie landscape, the lone exception being the deal between the Colorado Avalanche and Ottawa Senators that sent Craig Anderson to Ottawa and Brian Elliott to Colorado in 2010-11. Even then, while Anderson played well enough down the stretch to earn a contract extension -- going 11-5-1, with a 2.05 goals-against average and .939 save percentage -- Elliott's work in Denver was pretty forgettable: In 12 starts, he went 2-8-1, with a 3.83 GAA and .891 save percentage.
This season could be different, as two legendary goalies (and one surprisingly effective younger one) are rumored to be on the move. Let's have a look at each case, with an eye on what a deal would mean for each man's fantasy value.
Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames: Kipper has been a workhorse in nine seasons with Calgary, and aside from a brief absence due to injury this season, that's been the case in 2012-13. For those in volume-stat leagues (rewarding high numbers of saves, shots against, etc.), he's been valuable again.
But in the ESPN standard format -- which includes wins, GAA and save percentage -- not so much: In fact, he's the No. 88 goalie on the Player Rater, ahead of only Richard Bachman, Scott Clemmensen and Elliott. Posting just six wins in 17 starts, with a 3.52 GAA and .873 save percentage will do that to a goalie's value. Nevertheless, the Toronto Maple Leafs are reportedly interested enough that they've gotten permission from the Flames to talk extension with Kiprusoff's agents, according to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun. This could be the precursor to a deal, as it's believed that the vet wants another season on his deal in order to agree to any trade.
This situation is a little strange on the surface: The Maple Leafs already have a viable No. 1 in James Reimer, who's gone 13-4-4 (with 2.52/.920 ratios) this season, and a strong understudy in Ben Scrivens (who has a 7-8-0 record, despite 2.59/.918 ratios). But neither has started an NHL playoff game, and Leafs general manager Dave Nonis has indicated to reporters he wants to add a veteran to his goaltending mix.
If the deal is consummated between now and the deadline, Reimer's value will take a hit; it's unclear how much the Leafs would start Kiprusoff in this (as of now) hypothetical scenario, but it would be coming out of Reimer's workload. As for Kiprusoff, his poor statistical production this season has been a combination of his own play as well as that of the defense in front of him. Some new scenery could get him back on track. It's a big leap of faith, though, and only those who have a roster spot to spare should make the move to add Kipper right now (he's available in 68.1 percent of ESPN leagues). If and when we see how he can perform in a Leafs sweater, that attitude may change.
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks: After hibernating for nearly three months, the Luongo-to-Toronto rumors have arisen anew in time for spring. Like Kiprusoff, Luongo is seen as the cool veteran hand who'd be brought in to solidify the Leafs for their first playoff run since 2003-04. Unlike Kiprusoff, Luongo looks like he can still play the position at a pretty high level. The chances of this trade happening seem more remote (LeBrun reports that the two front offices haven't spoken in a week), and that could be an indication that the Canucks want more than the Leafs are willing to give up.
However, a Luongo trade is a far more tantalizing scenario from a fantasy perspective. Not only would he gain a considerable amount of value after being inserted as the new No. 1 in Toronto, but Cory Schneider's value would increase as well (although not too much, given that he's been getting the lion's share of starts anyhow). The only loser in this would be Reimer, who would lose his job by no fault of his own. This deal has bigger ramifications in keeper leagues, as those wily owners who've held on to both Luongo and Schneider all season then would have two top-10 goalies for 2013-14 on their roster.
Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres: Like the other veterans, a deal involving Miller seems a little more far-fetched given his salary cap hit ($6.25 million, according to CapGeek), and trade talks have gotten a little quiet in recent days. Previously, there was a report that Miller had submitted a list of eight teams to which he did not want to be traded, but he denied that report to the Buffalo News. However, we can't rule anything out between now and the deadline, so Miller could well find himself on a new team. Like Kiprusoff, Miller has been a star in recent seasons for fantasy owners playing in leagues that reward volume (this season, he's faced the most shots of any goalie in the NHL). In ESPN's standard format, however, his value has been more as a high-end No. 2: Beside his breakout campaign of 2009-10 (41 wins, 2.22 GAA and .929 save percentage), his ratio stats have been middle-of-the-pack, and wins are partially a function of the team in front of him. On a better team, he'd obviously have a better chance to pick up some W's from here on out, and would be back in the top 20 of my rankings as a result.
Ben Bishop, Ottawa Senators: One of the other goalies moved in recent trade deadline action, Bishop went from being stuck behind the Jaroslav Halak-Elliott logjam in St. Louis last season to being the middle rung in the Senators' organizational depth (between Anderson and future No. 1 Robin Lehner). The situation in Ottawa remains unchanged, except that during Anderson's injury absence this season, Bishop has established himself as a legitimate No. 1-caliber goalie. As a result, the Senators reportedly have fielded some inquiries on the man who's posted 2.45/.922 ratios in 13 appearances and won each of his games that's gone to OT or a shootout. Lehner also has proven himself as a legitimate NHL starter during Anderson's injury (his numbers are actually better than Bishop's), giving the club another option as the No. 2 should a team come in with a strong enough offer for Bishop. With Anderson on the verge of a return (more on that later), Ottawa may believe that adding a top-six forward is more valuable than hanging on to impending RFA Bishop.
The market for Bishop appears to be wider than those listed above. The 26-year-old's best seasons are likely still ahead of him, meaning teams that do not have a long-term answer in goal could be intrigued. Alternately, other playoff contenders could look to shore up their No. 2 slot, which would obviously reduce Bishop's worth to us in the fantasy realm. The one team that has generated the most buzz regarding a Bishop deal is, incidentally, the Flames (with Curtis Glencross coming over to the Sens). If Kiprusoff is also moved, Bishop's value as a true No. 1 would increase somewhat, though I'd have to see some games to get a better hold on his potential while playing for a stripped-down Calgary club. If Kiprusoff remains in Calgary, Bishop's value would be more apparent for keeper league owners, as there have been rumors of Kipper retiring after this season (making Bishop the heir to the Calgary crease for 2013-14). The advice here on Bishop is similar to that on Kiprusoff: Only add him for the potential trade impact if you've got the space. If he remains a Senator -- or goes to another team as the No. 2 -- his value will be limited from here on out. It's only if he lands a No. 1 gig that he'd see a big jump in value.
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 from last week is indicated in parentheses.
1. Carey Price, Mon (2)
2. Tuukka Rask, Bos (1)
3. Antti Niemi, SJ (4)
4. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR (3)
5. Jonas Hiller, Ana (8)
6. Cory Schneider, Van (9)
7. Corey Crawford, Chi (6)
8. Pekka Rinne, Nsh (5)
9. Jonathan Quick, LA (7)
10. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pit (11)
11. Jimmy Howard, Det (10)
12. Craig Anderson, Ott (14)
13. Sergei Bobrovsky, Cls (16)
14. Braden Holtby, Was (12)
15. Niklas Backstrom, Min (17)
16. Martin Brodeur, NJ (15)
17. James Reimer, Tor (20)
18. Kari Lehtonen, Dal (13)
19. Roberto Luongo, Van (19)
20. Devan Dubnyk, Edm (27)
21. Tomas Vokoun, Pit (35)
22. Viktor Fasth, Ana (18)
23. Evgeni Nabokov, NYI (36)
24. Jake Allen, StL (21)
25. Jaroslav Halak, StL (22)
26. Jacob Markstrom, Fla (32)
27. Ray Emery, Chi (23)
28. Jonathan Bernier, LA (31)
29. Ondrej Pavelec, Wpg (33)
30. Dan Ellis, Car (38)
31. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phi (25)
32. Ryan Miller, Buf (28)
33. Mike Smith, Pho (29)
34. Semyon Varlamov, Col (30)
35. Ben Bishop, Ott (26)
36. Anton Khudobin, Bos (40)
37. Ben Scrivens, Tor (34)
38. Johan Hedberg, NJ (37)
39. Robin Lehner, Ott (24)
40. Anders Lindback, TB (39)
Rising and Falling
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators (down three spots to No. 8): Drafted as an elite option by his fantasy owners at the beginning of the season, Rinne started off well enough, carrying a 2.10 GAA and .919 save percentage through 19 appearances. However, March was a rough month for Rinne (and those fantasy owners who kept him active the entire time), as those numbers dipped to 2.72 and .896, respectively. Meanwhile, the Preds continue to have trouble scoring, and remain among the bottom 10 in the league (2.42 goals per game). The scoring woes are unlikely to go away, meaning that any win Rinne gets from here on out will largely have to be on his shoulders. Moreover, four of the Preds' final 12 games come against top-scoring teams (including three more against Chicago). The positive news is that the most recent starts have been quite strong: In the past two games (both OT losses), he's allowed just three goals on 64 total shots (producing a 1.43/.953 ratios). Depending upon your other options (and your comfort with risk), he should be safe to start again.
Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton Oilers (up seven spots to No. 20): Among the goalies in the top 10 in save percentage this season, there's one stat line that sticks out glaringly: Devan Dubnyk, with his .922 save percentage, has a 2.52 GAA, which is considerably higher than the rest. This makes sense after peering at the NHL shots-against figures, as the Oilers have allowed the second-most in the league (only Buffalo has allowed more). It's a testament to Dubnyk's prowess in the crease that he's kept the Oilers in the playoff hunt, and he's coming into his own as a legitimate force in fantasy hockey as well this season. That trend is unlikely to change in the remaining 13 games, with the Oilers facing some of the top offenses in the West. However, they also have Colorado on the docket, as well as Calgary's group of AHLers twice.
Jacob Markstrom, Florida Panthers (up six spots to No. 26): It took a little while, but we're now seeing why the Panthers (and the scouting community) have been so high on Markstrom. In his 11 appearances since being called up to replace Jose Theodore, the 23-year-old has posted a 2.56 GAA and .920 save percentage, all while leading the last-place Panthers to a 5-5-1 mark. Florida may deal some veteran assets before the deadline, but it's clear Markstrom is a key building block moving forward, and is worth considering for fantasy owners down the stretch.
Craig Anderson (owned in 89.7 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues), Ben Bishop (37.6 percent) and Robin Lehner (24.7 percent), Ottawa Senators: We're well past the initial two- to four-week estimate on Anderson's return, but finally it appears that Anderson is on the cusp. The latest reports indicate Anderson could make his return Friday against Buffalo. That's great news for Anderson's fantasy owners (who've been waiting a while); on the other hand, it does limit the value of Bishop and Lehner, depending upon what happens at the trade deadline. If no deal is executed, Lehner likely will return to the AHL, with Bishop sticking on in a limited role as the No. 2. If Bishop is shipped off, Lehner inherits that limited role. Check to see if Anderson's owner got flustered and dropped him, as it appears that was the case in some leagues; from here on out, there's no reason to believe he won't continue to produce elite numbers (though I'll wait to see him actually suit up before boosting his rank).
Marc-Andre Fleury (owned in 100.0 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues) and Tomas Vokoun (84.8 percent), Pittsburgh Penguins: In the past 15 days, there's one team that's placed two in the top three goalie rankings of the Player Rater. Obviously, based upon the names in bold at the start of this paragraph, that team is the Penguins, and those goalies are Fleury and Vokoun. Prior to injuring his neck, Fleury had allowed just three goals in five starts combined, generating absurd 0.64/.978 ratios in that span. Overall in March, he went 9-0-0, with a 1.97 GAA and .928 save percentage. As great as those numbers are, Vokoun has been even better: he's gone 7-0-0, with 1.43/.953 ratios in eight appearances in March. It's unclear how serious Fleury's neck injury is, but given how well Vokoun has played, the Penguins can be a little conservative in their approach here. Fantasy-wise, both are generally strong plays, though Fleury's value is higher down the stretch as he should get more of the work.
Jaroslav Halak (owned in 95.2 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues), Elliott (27.0 percent) and Jake Allen (27.9 percent), St. Louis Blues: After two rough outings in a row, Allen was sent back down to the AHL this past weekend. But, with Halak suffering a groin injury Monday against Minnesota, we may be seeing Allen again soon. "Unfortunately, [recovery from the injury] looks like it's going to be a little while," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock indicated after the game, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Elliott -- who hadn't played since March 5 and was carrying 3.65/.851 ratios into the contest -- came up big in relief, stopping 19 of 20 shots and earning his first W since Jan. 31. It figures to be a rotation between Elliott and Allen while Halak is out; of the two, Allen appears to have more value despite the recent flubs.
Training room roundup
Anders Lindback, Tampa Bay Lightning: After last week's news that Lindback was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, there hasn't been much reported on his condition or a timeline for his return. With four weeks remaining and the playoffs a remote possibility, the Lightning may elect to shut him down soon. In his stead, journeymen Cedrick Desjardins and Mathieu Garon have been taking turns filling in, though neither has shown enough to be worthy of activation in most fantasy formats.
Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes: Smith's upper-body injury landed him on IR (retroactive to March 21), though it appears he's on his way back. The Coyotes' official website reported that Smith took part in some skating with the team Monday, and he could be active as early as Thursday's game against Detroit. Until Smith is back, Jason LaBarbera is filling in. LaBarbera (owned in just 2.4 percent of ESPN leagues) is a viable option for those in deeper leagues that need a short-term fill-in. In the past six appearances, he's posted a 3.03 GAA and .916 save percentage.
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