James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Dose: King Cash

Thursday, December 05, 2013


If there’s one motherly saying I feel like just about all of us have heard - either directly or through television - it’s the old, “If everyone else is jumping off a bridge/cliff/high place that means likely death, would you do it too?” line.

 

For a long time, I’ve believed that adage fails because of its obviousness. “Of course, I wouldn’t jump off a cliff, but what does that have to do with me getting this tattoo I’ll regret in five years or less?,” young teenager/tween immediately thinks.

 

But what happens if it suddenly becomes normal to jump off cliffs? Eventually, that tragic occurrence would probably be shaken off while people are having their morning coffee(s).

 

That’s kind of how I feel about goalies receiving enormous sums now. Naturally, NHL general managers aren’t destroying their bodies or even ending their lives; they’re just deeply damaging their financial flexibility and bloating their payroll (in most cases).

 

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a $4,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Thursday's NHL games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $1,000. Starts Thursday at 7pm ET. Here's the FanDuel link.

 

For everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News and follow @Rotoworld_ HK+@cyclelikesedins on Twitter.

 

Oh, and there’s still some time to join a Yahoo! Hockey Pool, so get on that.

 

LIVING LIKE A KING

 

Admittedly, Henrik Lundqvist is on the short list of goalies genuinely worthy of taking such a leap that comes with handing a goalie a seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension.

 

As brilliant as he’s been (King Henrik has one Vezina Trophy and three All-Star appearances to his name), it’s his startling consistency that really stands out. Since his surprisingly effective debut in 2005-06, Lundqvist has been in the top 10 in save percentage six times, wins seven times and has collected 47 shutouts (27th all-time, fourth among active goalies). He's never generated a save percentage lower than .912.

 

And let’s face it: he’s frequently been the only bright side to look on for a Rangers franchise that took time to fight through the darkness of a seven-season playoff drought that ended, not coincidentally, when Lundqvist took over the starting job.

 

Essentially, a strange goalie market and Lundqvist’s steady brilliance forced the Rangers off the cliff. That realization (combined with the fact that almost every other franchise is investing big in what they can only hope is a sure thing) makes this risky move easier to understand.

 

It doesn’t mean that this won’t hurt the Rangers in the future. The stupendous Swede has probably been worth $8.5 million most years based on sheer production - let alone box office value - alone, but Lundqvist will be 32 when he receives $11 million in 2014-15. Goalies are easier to depend on as the years climb than snipers (who age in the opposite way of wine), but paying an aging goalie that much money is the stuff of indigestion.

 

THE FANTASY LESSON

 

But, again, it’s easier to justify this move than most of the freefalls general managers take.

 

As much as GMs would like to believe that they know what they’re doing when they’re handing out these big contracts, there’s a stunning amount of upheaval that happens year-to-year in the position. And that’s important to fantasy owners, who don’t have to “sign a contract with anyone” (unless you’re in keeper leagues).

 

Looking at Yahoo’s ranks, here are the 15 highest-ranked goalies who came into this season with little-to-no regard:

 

Josh Harding (third in Yahoo rankings, skaters included): Came into the season with people doubting he could even maintain an NHL career because of his battle with MS. Is making $1.9 million per season.

 

Ben Scrivens (21) - A stunning .943 save percentage for a guy who was an afterthought in the Jonathan Bernier trade. He's making the league minimum.

 

Ben Bishop (24) - It wasn't even clear he'd wrestle the top gig from Anders Lindback. He already has 14 wins, which ties him with Tuukka Rask, who makes $7 million and plays behind Zdeno Chara.

 

Jean-Sebastien Giguere (44) and Semyon Varlamov (48) - Two Avalanche goalies with notable talent, but off years that helped them fly under the radar (even Varlamov was only "O-ranked" at 103 ... higher than Jaroslav Halak, for what it's worth), and they’ve carried Colorado to higher peaks* than anyone really expected.

 

Cam Talbot (57) - Hey, look, it's Henrik Lundqvist's anonymous backup ... ahead of Lundqvist. Wow.

 

Steve Mason (62) - The ultimate disrespected goalie, and a weird microcosm of this argument, as he was once the guy Columbus management over-invested in and then turned things around when many gave up on him. It says a lot that Ray Emery is making $100K more than Mason is this season.

 

Marek Mazanec (73) - The positively unknown Czech has put up better numbers than $7 million guy Pekka Rinne (it never gets old to add that qualifier), who is set to undergo a key MRI on his infected hip today. He’s not getting a ton of wins, but to little fault of his own, considering his outstanding .930 save percentage. If that MRI provides bad news, let’s hope Mazanec finally gets his due (just 30 percent owned).

 

So what does this all tell you? Don’t be like NHL general managers in standing by one or two guys. Always have your eyes open for a hot goalie, even if he might just be the flavor of the month.

 

After all, if you put enough of those months together, you could get a year (or at least six months, which is basically a regular season).

 

Now for some (swifter than usual) game summaries …

 

PHILADELPHIA 6, DETROIT 3

 

 -- Most obviously, you should take a look at Scott Hartnell, who's owned in just 40 percent of leagues. That's priority No. 1. Seriously.

 

 -- If you're more into trendy stuff, though, feast your eyes on the Steve Downie - Sean Couturier - Matt Read line, who have generated 27 points in their last 10 games. To break it down:

 

Downie (43 percent): The most proven fantasy commodity, one of the rarest combinations of scoring and PIM you can find. (Yes, you should get him in deeper stat leagues.)

 

Read (25 percent): An under-the-radar sniper. His .29 goals-per-game average is in the top 100 of NHL players since he came into the league in 2011-12 through today.

 

Couturier (5 percent): He hasn’t been scoring much early in his career, mostly receiving attention for his defensive work. Still, he has a first-round pedigree, and maybe all he needed were the right linemates? He generated four points last night, a regular season career-high. Since Nov. 19, Couturier has scored 10 points (five goals and five assists) in the last nine games. Innnnteresting.

 

Calgary 4, Phoenix 1

 

-- Mark Giordano returned to action on Wednesday after being out since Oct. 21 with a broken ankle. He scored a goal and an assist, which isn’t really his game. (Not that he cannot score.) He logs big minutes - which he didn’t tonight - and does a little bit of everything. He’s a solid depth blueliner.

 

-- Thomas Greiss fell short of going 4-for-4 in wins during rare starts. Still an OK consideration for one-day add/drops, really.

 

Montreal 4, New Jersey 3 (SO)

 

 -- Michael Ryder at least shows up against the Habs. He had a goal and an assist last night and also scored a goal against Montreal on Monday.

 

-- Conversely, Brian Gionta scored a goal and an assist of his own against his former team, the Devils. While his production isn't out-of-this-world, he has five points (one goal, four assists) in his last four games. Maybe he should be on your radar, then.

 

-- No disrespect to Peter Budaj, but it’s pretty cruel that he has five wins to Cory Schneider’s four this season.

 

Click here for a full list of injuries and suspensions.

 

* - Sorry.



James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
Email :James O'Brien



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