I have a few general rules when it comes to building a team in a fantasy hockey keeper league. One of the more important ones is to not plan beyond a two or three year window. You are not building a real NHL club, and too often fantasy hockey poolies place an emphasis on youth and prospects over proven veterans with gas still left in the tank. So using my general rule, take a look at your team(s). Can you realistically say you will have a shot at winning the league at some point within the next two or three seasons? If not, time to scrap the rebuild and start adding proven NHL talent.
Keeping my rule in mind, I have compiled a list of the top 10 keeper league goalies to own (assuming standard keeper league rules and scoring categories). Using the two or three season scope, I had to balance proven production with young players on the verge of breaking out. I hope you enjoy!
For comparisons sake, check out the list put together by our goaltender expert Justin Goldman (although his list has a one-year focus). The goaltending position is far and away the toughest to predict in terms of development, which is why my list has more veterans than any of my other previous lists. It is too risky to rely on a young goalie compared to a young forward or defenseman. Additionally, many goalies can play at an elite level well into their late 30’s and early 40’s, unlike most forwards and defensemen. How the list works – since it is “in order,” my point is that I wouldn’t trade the second ranked goalie for the third ranked goalie in a standard, non-salary cap keeper league pool.
I also included where each of my picks ranks on Dobber’s Top 100 Goalies list. Don’t forget that his list accounts for playoff wins and trade carry-overs. Read his full criteria by clicking the link above.
1. Roberto Luongo
Contract: $5.33 million per season, signed through 2021-22*
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 1
The Canucks have vastly improved their defensive group since the 2009-10 season ended, adding Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis this summer. Both players can log minutes in all situations. Most importantly, however, both are incredibly durable. Vancouver’s blue line seems to get ravaged by injuries each and every season, and Luongo is usually the player who seems to get hit the most stats-wise. Why does he deserve the top spot after a mediocre 2009-10 season? I’ll break it down in point form:
- At 31, he has a lot of hockey left in him
- After two disappointing postseason exits, the motivation to win is extremely high
- The Northwest Division has quietly become arguably the weakest in the league. Vancouver will feast on division rivals over the next few seasons, which means more wins and better numbers across the board for Luongo.
- He boasts the second highest all-time save percentage (.918) among all goalies who have played in more than 250 games
You can call be a homer and/or biased if you want, but if you give me Luongo above any other NHL goalie if I want to win my league at some point over the next three seasons, I’ll be a happy camper.
One year upside: 45 wins, 10 shutouts
Three year upside: 48 wins, 10 shutouts
*Pending league approval, even though the league already approved the contract last season…. (Figure that one out!)
2. Henrik Lundqvist
Contract: $6.8 million per season, signed through 2013-14
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 2
Lundqvist’s goals-against-average jumped from 2.23 in 2008-09 to 2.43 last season. The Rangers still struggled to score on a consistent basis, even with the acquisition of Marian Gaborik. Lundqvist did all he could to get them into the playoffs, but their end-of-season shootout loss to the Flyers summed up the season pretty well.
Glen Sather finally went out and got a capable back-up goalie for Lundqvist, who has played too many games over the past few years. Martin Biron is a massive upgrade over the likes of Steve Valiquette and Chad Johnson. He’ll play 15-18 games at most, but he will give the team more confidence to win in games where King Henrik operates the bench door instead of the space between the pipes.
One year upside: 40 wins, 10 shutouts
Three year upside: 45 wins, 12 shutouts
3. Ryan Miller
Contract: $6.25 million per season, signed through 2013-14
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 5
Miller was the league’s most valuable player in the eyes of many people last season (especially those living in Buffalo). He led the Sabres to a Northeast Division title, and he almost led the American team to a Gold Medal at the 2010 Olympics. Like the two goalies above him, he is extremely durable, consistent, and of course, a phenomenal goalie. Look for Miller to take a step back this season, as the Sabres have downgraded on defence.
Gone are Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder. Tallinder was a steady influence on his defensive partner Tyler Myers. Both Lydman and Tallinder are consistent top-four defensemen. To replace them, Buffalo has signed Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrisonn, both of which represent downgrades (and in Morrisonn’s case, a significant one).
One year upside: 40 wins, seven shutouts
Three year upside: 45 wins, eight shutouts
4. Tuukka Rask
Contract: $1.25 million per season, signed through 2011-12
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 7
It looks like the Bruins will be unable to trade Tim Thomas (at least for now), so don’t expect Rask to be starting 60+ games just yet. He is already one of the most technically proficient goaltenders in the league, and he plays behind a very strong defensive group in Boston. He has no weaknesses and he is very mentally tough.
Don’t worry about a sophomore slump with Rask. He isn’t Steve Mason or Andrew Raycroft. Justin Goldman absolutely loves Rask, and I defer to him most of the time with regards to goaltender evaluations, projections, and general analysis.
One year upside: 35 wins, nine shutouts
Three year upside: 45 wins, 11 shutouts
5. Jaroslav Halak
Contract: $3.75 million per season, signed through 2013-14
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 4
Halak’s save percentage each season since he turned pro is unbelievable: 932 (ECHL), .926 (AHL), .932 (AHL), .906 (NHL), .929 (AHL), .934 (NHL), .915 (NHL), and .924 (NHL). Some are worried that Halak’s performance this past spring was simply a hot streak. However, he has proven doubters wrong every step of the way during his development, and that won’t be changing any time soon. He has been praised for his work ethic, attention to detail, and willingness to put the work in to improve. Those three things are essential to becoming (and remaining) an elite goaltender. Many skilled goalies have hot streaks but they are unable to maintain the quality of play because they don’t put the work in.
Halak has never been handed anything. He was a (very) late round draft pick, and had to earn his ice time in the QMJHL, ECHL, AHL, and NHL. He’s still only 25, and the Blues are a team with a lot of potential for the future. They possess a wealth of talent both up front and on defence, and now in goal as well. Look for Halak to cement his place as one of the game’s best goalies with the Blues in 2010-11 and beyond.
One year upside: 40 wins, eight shutouts
Three year upside: 45 wins, 10 shutouts
6. Tomas Vokoun
Contract: $5.7 million per season, signed through 2010-11
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 25
The Panthers will struggle in 2010-11. Because of that, Vokoun probably won’t get as many wins or have the kind of numbers that one would hope from my sixth ranked goalie. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vokoun doesn’t last the year in Florida. The Panthers are clearly rebuilding, and star prospect Jacob Markstrom is the goalie of the not-so-distant future. Vokoun is a UFA next summer and the odds that he re-signs in Florida are slim at best.
We saw this summer that the goalie market was very unforgiving to veterans like Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco. However, Vokoun is a significantly better goalie than both Turco and Nabokov, and there will be quite a few teams who will need a starting goalie next summer. Look around the league at how many teams have goalies signed to one-year contracts, or goalies who aren’t starter material in the starting position (Michael Leighton, anyone?). Vokoun is one of the best goalies in the league, and probably the best second-half goalie in the game today. Teams will be lining up to acquire him for the stretch run next spring (Dwayne Roloson lead the Oilers to the Cup Final in 2006 after being acquired at the deadline). Washington, Philadelphia, San Jose, and Chicago are all teams who will have interest in Vokoun next deadline as a rental.
Over the past five seasons, his lowest save percentage is .919. He’s only broken the 30-win plateau twice in that time (both with Nashville). He has never really played for a contender, and if/when he gets the opportunity, look out. When Vokoun is on his game, he is close to unbeatable.
One year upside: 35 wins, eight shutouts
Three year upside: 42 wins, nine shutouts
7. Martin Brodeur
Contract: $5.2 million per season, signed through 2011-12
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 14
The happiest man after seeing Anton Volchenkov’s massive six-year contract with the Devils had to be Brodeur (aside from Volchenkov, of course). New Jersey upgraded their defensive group in a big way by adding Volchenkov. They did lose Paul Martin, who was inarguably the steadiest defenseman over the past few seasons in the Swamp. However, they also missed Martin most of last season due to injury, and were able to pick up most of the slack with what they had on the roster.
Henrik Tallinder is the other defensemen they added. He is mobile, sound positionally, and a good veteran presence. With a few rookies hoping to crack the roster (most notably Matt Corrente and Tyler Eckford), Tallinder is the perfect partner for whichever one makes the team. The Devils also signed a capable backup goalie in Johan Hedberg. Brodeur still runs the show in New Jersey, so don’t expect him to start many less games unless he requests it (something I can’t see happening).
One year upside: 45 wins, 10 shutouts
Three year upside: 45 wins, 10 shutouts
8. Miikka Kiprusoff
Contract: $5.8 million per season, signed through 2013-14
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 19
Kiprusoff had forgettable 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons from a statistical standpoint (a 2.69 GAA with a .906 save percentage, and a 2.84 GAA with a 903 save percentage, respectively). However, he got his game back on track last season, posting an impressive .920 save percentage with a 2.31 GAA. He has compiled an incredible 201 wins over the past five seasons with the Flames. Like Vokoun, he didn’t emerge as a starting goalie until later in his career, so don’t expect his game to tail off any time soon.
Calgary will be a better team this season. In 2009-10, almost all of their core players struggled, and the odds of that repeating itself is not great. Their long-term outlook for the Flames isn’t great, but over the next three years they should be a middle-of-the-pack team at the worst. Kiprusoff will play a lot, and I’m not ready to write him off as one of the best goalies in the world.
One year upside: 35 wins, six shutouts
Three year upside: 45 wins, eight shutouts
9. Ilya Bryzgalov
Contract: $4.25 million per season, signed through 2010-11
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 6
Bryzgalov was the best goaltender in the Western Conference last season. He brought consistency to the Coyotes, and really thrived behind Dave Tippett’s defensive system. He has only one year left on his contract, but with the uncertainty of the free agent goalie market, look for him to sign an extension to stick around with Phoenix.
Bryzgalov isn’t the quickest goalie, but he is an imposing figure in the net and he plays very sound positional hockey. That’s about as far as my goalie analysis will go; I leave the real work up to Mr. Goldman! Phoenix has a lot of young talent, especially on the back end. If Bryzgalov does re-sign, expect him to play a lot, and to put up very good numbers across the board.
One year upside: 42 wins, eight shutouts
Three year upside: 46 wins, eight shutouts
10. Carey Price
Age: 22 (23 on August 16th)
DobberHockey Keeper Ranking: 12
Price hasn’t been able to regain the form that he showed in 2007-08 with the Canadiens (24 wins, .920 save percentage). He has struggled off the ice dealing with the pressures of playing in Montreal, and on the ice he hadn’t been able to out duel Halak for the starting position. With Halak now in St. Louis, Price has a stranglehold on the starting position (provided he signs a contract sometime before the season begins).
There are goalies below Price on this list who are more proven. However, I don’t believe there are any goalies below who have Price’s upside over the next three seasons.
One year upside: 35 wins, seven shutouts
Three year upside: 43 wins, eight shutouts
Honorable Mentions (in no order):
This isn't a full list, as there are a few other goalies who could be considered to be in the mix.
Marc-Andre Fleury – Mr. Inconsistency’s numbers will be improved with Pittsburgh’s two defensive acquisitions, but he doesn’t get enough shutouts or have the peripheral stats to make owning him worthwhile
Craig Anderson – needs to prove last season wasn’t a fluke. If he can, he’ll find a way onto the list
Semyon Varlamov – in a great situation with the Caps, but facing some stingy competition from…
Michal Neuvirth – the other half of Washington’s two-headed goaltending monster. I favour Neuvirth personally, but it’s tough to pick one
Pekka Rinne – great goalie, now firmly entrenched as the number one in Nashville. Can the Predators score enough for him to win games?
Jonathan Bernier – check back in a couple of years, he’ll find a way into the top 10
Jacob Markstrom – best goaltending prospect in the world
Cam Ward – young workhorse on a team that isn’t as bad as many think