Which goalies should you pay attention to in St. Louis?
This week we learned about Brian Elliott signing a three-year contract extension with the St. Louis Blues. Most of the attention in media circles has been about this signing marking the end of Ryan Miller's brief stint with the club and where he will sign this summer. However, this news goes a lot deeper in the fantasy world especially in the Blues' crease. Simply put, the Blues are an elite team that provide a very friendly environment for goaltenders to thrive especially in fantasy leagues that count GAA, save percentage and shutouts.
The situation is that Brian Elliott is expected to be the lone veteran netminder on the club heading into next year while youngster Jake Allen will be making the jump to the NHL full-time.
$2,500,000 / 3 yrs
While not regarded as a top goaltender, Elliott has posted excellent numbers in three seasons with the Blues including a 55-24-7 combined record and twice achieving a GAA under 2.00. To put his value in perspective, in the popular UHL fantasy league (W/SV/GAA/SV%/SO with deep teams and uses just about every NHL goalie) Elliott ranked 23rd among goalies this past season according to Fantasy Hockey Geek despite just 31 appearances. Meanwhile, Jaroslav Halak, who spent the majority of the year with the Blues and appeared in 52 total games, finished 10th. This gives an idea of how valuable Elliott can be if he gets more starts as expected.
With all of that said, Elliott's cap hit is where his true value lies. His cost of $2.5 million currently ranks 24th among all NHL goaltenders heading into 2014-15. That does not include Miller, Halak, Jonas Hiller and Martin Brodeur who are all expected to sign for more than the amount Elliott will earn. Among all of the prominent goalies in the NHL, Elliott will be one of the cheapest.
$800,000 / 1 yr
While Elliott is expected to be a valuable fantasy goalie over the next few years, his stock could take a big hit if Allen is able to make the jump quickly and start making a push to get the majority of the starts. In any event, with Elliott not established as a workhorse (and not paid like one), Allen should be a safe bet to receive a fair amount of ice time next year.
For next year, Allen's $800k cap hit is golden. You get a talented goalie that costs close to the league minimum while having an opportunity to immediately rise to starter status if the stars align. After that, it all depends on how the season goes. If he rises to the top of the depth chart he could sign a deal similar to Jonathan Bernier. But in the more likely scenario of Allen being brought along slowly, expect him to sign for very cheap for one or two years.
Do not expect Elliott or Allen to take over as full-time starter. Instead, expect something closer to a 50/30 split either way but most likely in the veteran Elliott's favor. There will almost certainly be a lot of frustrated owners that would prefer that a true starter emerge but the peripheral categories along with excellent winning percentages will keep both high on the value scale. Obviously, the best case scenario for next year is to own both goalies so that you can benefit from all of the Blues' starts.
In deeper leagues it is wise to keep an eye on depth charts beyond the NHL goalies. Often times you will find underrated goaltenders that could have a great opportunity to put up good fantasy numbers at least for a short stretch should there be a major injury to the guys on the main roster. In St. Louis, the departures of Halak and more recently Miller really thins out the depth chart. Should disaster strike, the goalie at the top of the depth chart outside the NHL is Jordan Binnington who is still young and raw but developing nicely.
Last week the Calgary Flames signed 24-year-old German forward David Wolf to a one-year entry-level contract that carries a cap hit of $925,000. It may not seem like much and the bust potential is certainly high but in the right kind of league Wolf could pay dividends immediately.
Wolf is big (6'2 216) and brings the toughness that Brian Burke loves in Calgary. Wolf's combined 415 PIM over the last three years for the DEL's Hamburg Freezers are evidence of what he can bring to a team, both in the NHL and in fantasy hockey. Beyond that, Wolf also finished second on his team in scoring in each of the last two years.
If he makes the jump to the NHL, the physical part of his game will translate immediately in the statistical department. His offensive upside at the NHL level is limited but recall that the Flames are not a good team and have a lot of holes up front. There will certainly be opportunities for new faces to climb the depth chart.
Follow me on Twitter @DH_EricDaoust.