I thought I would wait until after the Free Agent frenzy was over before addressing the Eastern Conference goaltending. Here are the first of two installments:
Starter: Ryan Miller
Projected Backup: Jocelyn Thibault
Outlook: Look for Miller to put up similar numbers as last season. Even though the team has lost Briere and Drury to free agency, they still have a decent group of players in the fold. I expect Miller to improve slightly and the Sabres to decline slightly. A word of caution, Miller’s goals against average was a very average 2.73. The 32-year-old Thibault brings experience to the Sabres.
Starter: Martin Brodeur
Backup: Kevin Weekes
Outlook: Brodeur continues his relentless quest to eclipse Patrick Roy’s career wins record with another 35-40 win season. With Weekes signed on, look for Brodeur to play in less than 70 games during the regular season for the first time since the 1996-97 season. It is possible that if the Devils are fighting for a playoff spot, Brodeur may have to play more games than management would like. I thought Jersey was a strange place for Weekes to sign, knowing that he was going to be Brodeur’s back up. It would have made more sense to sign with a team like Phoenix and at least been in the mix for a starting role.
New York Islanders
Starter: Rick DiPietro
Backup: Wade Dubielewicz
Outlook: DiPietro should start more than 65 games this year, although he did have hip surgery and concussion issues at the end of last season. With the Isles off-season free agent signings not going as planned, coach Nolan may have to implement a more tight checking, low scoring system. That would clearly benefit the Isles goalies stats. Back up Wade what’s his name (say it with me, Dub-eel-uh-wits) earned himself a one way contract, based on his play at the end of last season. When DiPietro went down, Dubber back-stopped the Isles to four straight wins, finishing one point ahead of Toronto for the final playoff spot in the East.
New York Rangers
Starter: Henrik Lundqvist
Projected Backup: Al Montoya/Stephen Valiquette
Outlook: The Rangers have yet to sign the Restricted Free Agent Lundqvist, but it’s only a matter of time (or arbitration). After a relatively poor start last season, Lundqvist, along with the rest of the Rangers really stepped it up in the second half. If he can maintain last year’s second half pace, he is a top five fantasy goalie, especially if goals against average and save percentage matters. The only real question with the Rangers goaltending is, can Montoya step it up and play in the NHL this soon?
Starter: Martin Biron
Backup: Antero Niittymaki
Outlook: Biron gets what he wants, a starting gig. He should do well, 30-35 wins wouldn’t be out of the question, depending on how quickly all the new additions gel. Should he falter or succumb to injury, beware – Antero Niittymaki is no average back up. He played all of the last year with an injury knowing that surgery was required when the season was over. The 27-year-old Finn was named Best Goaltender in the 2006 Olympic Games while helping his team win a silver medal.
Starter: Marc-Andre Fleury
Backup: Danny Sabourin
Outlook: Fleury is solidly entrenched as the starter and should only improve along with the young rising Pittsburgh stars. If your pool values goals against average or save percentage, you may want to look at another option. Those two stats are very much a team stat and the Pens as a team are still a very young, inexperienced group. Last season, Fleury was 26th in goals against average (2.83) and 23rd in save percentage (.906) among goalies who played in at least 27 games. The 26-year-old Sabourin should play in more than the nine games he played in while backing up Roberto Luongo last season. Still, he’s got the best seat in the house, watching Crosby, Malkin, et al every night from the bench.
Projected Starter: Vesa Toskala/Andrew Raycroft
Projected Backup: Andrew Raycroft/Scott Clemmenson
Outlook: Toskala (30) will finally get his shot at being No.1. His career NHL record is a shiny 65-28-10, 2.34, .914 while Raycroft’s is a somewhat more dubious 80-71-21, 2.77, .902. Those numbers can be at least partly attributed to the quality of the teams the two goalies played on while accumulating those records. It is possible that Toskala and Raycroft could end up in a platoon situation, but with the Leafs recent signing of professional back up, Clemmenson, it certainly looks like the writing is on the wall for Raycroft. It wouldn’t hurt the Leafs if both goalies started the season as 1A and 1B and then try to trade one (umm, I mean Raycroft) at or near the deadline.