In a world where the analytics war rages on, few things can bring all sides together. One of them is goaltending.
That was true during the Stanley Cup Finals where Pekka Rinne's .888 save percentage in the six game series fell to Matt Murray's .931, despite Rinne's Predators arguably dominating the first four games of the series.
The Vegas Golden Knights have a rare opportunity.
They don't have their hands tied to bad contracts. They don't need to worry if their young prospect goalie is ready for the NHL. In fact, they likely won't have to worry about the development of a young goalie for the foreseeable future. They won't have to negotiate with another team for their services, regardless of the starter.
But, who to choose? Prior to the protection lists being unveiled, our own Ryan Quigley looked into this very topic.
We now know Marc-Andre Fleury and J-F Berube (NYI) will be two of the picks in the Expansion Draft. I didn’t scout Berube but he has a .900 SV% in limited NHL action and is 25-years old.
Now, let's have a look at some of the other options the Golden Knights have to choose from.
(Note: All 5v5 SV% is cumulative over the last three seasons, and ranks are based on a minimum of 1000 minutes played)
Buffalo Sabres - Linus Ullmark (23)
There isn't much of him at the NHL level but, behind what can best be described as a sub-par team in Buffalo, he has a .917 save percentage. His AHL numbers aren't as encouraging but he is a former SHL Goalie of the Year and one of the top goaltending prospects. And he’s cool.
Just to clarify things. We didn't wear my masks during our ceremony. We used them afterwards 4 our wedding pictures. https://t.co/LD9STBpoAl— Linus Ullmark (@Icebeardude) June 17, 2017
Colorado Avalanche - Calvin Pickard (25)
He struggled last season with the Avalanche (who didn't?) but his career .914 save percentage is respectable. He comes cheap ($1 million for 2017-18), and his play in the World Hockey Championships for Team Canada (.938 save percentage in seven games) can't be ignored. His three-year 5v5 percentage is .924, which is on-par with other players on this list. For the price, at his age, he isn't a bad option for the Golden Knights.
His downside? He has the third least NHL action under his belt of all the goalies on this list (including the alternate options below). He played 50 games in 2016-17, and it was rough. It is hard to evaluate his play in relation to other goalies, just because he was on a bad team.
Detroit Red Wings - Petr Mrazek (25)
All looked good for the future of the Detroit Red Wings in goal.
Mrazek’s save percentage went from .920 to .913 and he has now available.
There is good. His three-year 5v5 SV% is solid at .925 (32nd of 73 goalies ranked). He makes $4 million for one more year which, if nothing else, means they can decide what to do with him after the season. There will be a buyer one would think. He has proven he can handle 50-plus games and, should he play behind a better defensive core then he had last season in Detroit, is a good bet for a bounce back season in 2017-18.
It’s reported he has a bit of a personality issue. Which might explain how he finds himself exposed in the Expansion Draft. And, while it is fair to say most of the goalies on this list are coming off rough years, Mrazek’s was probably the worst. He had a bad year managing just a .901 SV% in 50 games.
New York Rangers - Antti Raanta (28)
Antti Raanta is, perhaps, the perfect backup. He's cheap ($1M for this season), has played on good teams who have made the playoffs (Chicago and New York), has a career .917 percentage and his 5v5 is 4th in the league over the last three seasons (ahead of Devan Dubnyk, behind Matt Murray) at .934.
It’s a small sample, comparatively, though it is still more minutes than Murray or Philipp Grubauer (more on that later) have played in the same period. It's not nothing. He's a solid backup option and his contract is definitely tradeable if the Golden Knights choose that route.
Let's just say, though, he won't be entering the Teammate Hall of Fame anytime soon (NOTE: Raanta has refuted this report so grain of salt)
Pittsburgh Penguins - Marc-Andre Fleury (32)
The man they call "Flower". He's probably the best teammate of all time. Hall-of-Fame-level teammate.
His .909 SV% in 2016-17 is a drop compared to two years ago. He went on to stand on his head for the first two rounds of the playoffs (.924 SV% in 15 games). He definitely got the short end of the stick.
His age (32) plays into the long-term future, and his $5.75 million contract is likely untradeable, as well.
Washington Capitals - Philipp Grubauer (25)
A career .923 save percentage (.926 in 2016-17) on one of the best teams in the league, Grubauer is one who many believe is a starter of the future for some lucky team. Like, say, the Vegas Golden Knights. His .932 5v% SV% is 11th in the league over the last three years.
Like Raanta before him, these numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt. Grubauer's 47-games played over the last three seasons is the least of any goalie on this list not named Ullmark. He has played a 50 game season just once (2014-15 combined between Washington and the Hershey Bears) so we honestly do not know how he would handle a starters workload physically.
Roberto Luongo (Florida)
Roberto Luongo is a good goalie, posting a .919 percentage for his career. He is consistent and solid. He is also paid $5.33M until 2022. He's available, he's engaging on Twitter, but I'm not sure a 38-year old goalie is the way to go. I think he agrees.
Hmmmmmmm such a tough choice man.......... pic.twitter.com/52cB2g2jAa— Strombone (@strombone1) June 19, 2017
Cam Ward and Eddie Lack (Carolina)
Both have reasonable contracts ($3.3M and $2.75M, respectively) and track-records of success in the NHL. But, that is in the past. Cam Ward's last five seasons he has had a .907 SV%, and Lack's last two seasons since leaving the Canucks has been awful (.902).
Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi (Dallas)
Two goalies making a lot of money for less than stellar play. Lehtonen's $5.9M is a hefty price to pay for a goalie who has had a .904 SV% over the last three seasons (167 GP), while Niemi's $4.5M has bought a .900 SV% for Dallas over the last two seasons. Maybe stay away.
Michal Neuvirth (Philadelphia)
There are connections between Neuvirth and George McPhee, though I’m not certain they are enough to have the GM select a goalie coming off a season where he had an .891 SV% and a three-year .912%. Though he only makes $2.5M, there are better, younger, cheaper options available. And Philly has more to offer elsewhere.
Ryan Miller (Free Agent)
He's an option. .924 5v5 SV% isn't bad, it's consistent with a lot of guys on this list. His three years in Vancouver has been league average at .914%. But, he was paid $6M last season, will be 37 before the season begins, and is little more than a solid backup at this stage of his career. I doubt he accepts that role, though.