This week we are going to look at some keeper league depth bargains in goal. The idea is to look beyond cheap goalies who are heading into a contract year because they are likely about to get a bigger contract next summer, thus making them less appealing on the cap. Instead, the focus will be put on goaltenders with multiple years left on their current contracts that are cheap, provide good statistics and are not young phenoms who are next to impossible to acquire.
When your keeper league team is hovering around the cap ceiling, your team likely includes a few expensive star players who eat up most of your available space. You will be forced to look for cheap bargains to occupy your depth positions. Winning the championship in a capped league is all about getting the most out of your dollars, so you will need to get good value out of your cheap depth guys to push your team over the top. Unfortunately, the pickings are slim. Here are a few goalies that can help your team:
Johan Hedberg (New Jersey)
1,400,000 / 2 years
If the last three years are any indication, there may not be a better cap bargain than Johan Hedberg. During that span, he has posted 15 or more wins, three or more shutouts and a .912 save percentage or better in each campaign. Those are excellent statistics for a guy who is primarily a backup.
With the injury-prone Martin Brodeur listed as starting goaltender, you could even say that Hedberg has some untapped fantasy potential. One injury to Brodeur could mean that Hedberg plays in excess of 50 games, which would further enhance his value to your team.
With all of that said, you can expect 30-40 starts and 15-20 wins from Hedberg with the possibility of so much more. There is no reason to believe th
at his peripheral stats will change until he proves otherwise. He is not a fantasy monster by any means, but if you own a highly-paid elite goaltender you can get excellent secondary support from Hedberg without hurting your team’s bottom line.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Colorado)
Sitting behind Semyon Varlamov on the depth chart, there are a lot of reasons to like Jean-Sebastien Giguere’s prospects moving forward. Varlamov is a very talented young goaltender but has suffered through injuries and inconsistency. Giguere himself has been an excellent fantasy asset over the years and has a proven track record playing a large volume of games when called upon. He also signed an extension recently meaning that he is under contract to Colorado for two more seasons.
Giguere’s stat line in 2011-12 was excellent with 15 wins in 32 games, a 2.27 GAA and .919 save percentage. Depending on Varlamov’s play, Giguere could see a similar number of starts and the improving Avalanche roster could allow both goalies to pick up more wins.
Scott Clemmensen (Florida)
1,200,000 / 2 years
Scott Clemmensen has a lot in common with Hedberg because he is a backup who can be counted on for 30 appearances and a good save percentage number. However, there are many variables in Florida that will affect his value, both positively and negatively.
On the positive side, starter Jose Theodore simply has never been one to hold onto a starter gig over the long haul. Despite a strong campaign from Theodore, there is a chance that he could stumble, and Clemmensen would surely benefit. On the flip side, there is the presence of Jacob Markstrom in the organization. Once he is ready, he will be promoted, possibly at the expense of Clemmensen seeing a lot of time on the bench.
Another variable at play is the possible acquisition of Roberto Luongo. If Clemmensen is shipped the other way, he would benefit from being the mentor to unproven starting netminder Cory Schneider. If Clemmensen would stay in Florida following the transaction, he would see less starts behind Luongo, a proven workhorse.
With all of the unknowns involved in Clemmensen’s situation, at just over a million on the cap he remains an excellent bargain. You simply cannot expect miracles from goaltenders at this level of pay.
Jonas Gustavsson (Detroit)
1,500,000 / 2 years
Unlike the previous three goaltenders mentioned in this article, Jonas Gustavsson is not entering the final years of his career. In fact, he was once a prospect with a ton of hype. He has not come close to living up to expectations in Toronto, but there is still hope because goalies usually take longer to fully develop.
Now in Detroit, Gustavsson has the benefit of a stronger team in front of him and lowered expectations. With starter Jimmy Howard being a proven workhorse, Gustavsson can focus on doing his job rather than dealing with the pressure of putting a franchise on his shoulders.
Over three seasons in the NHL, he has 107 games of experience but is not expected to see this much action in Detroit. He may only see 20-25 starts but should put up decent win totals and his save percentage should improve from his career .900 number. Consider this a bit of a gamble with some upside for future years.
James Reimer (Toronto)
1,800,000 / 2 years
Ben Scrivens (Toronto)
612,500 / 2 years
James Reimer and Ben Scrivens are paired because the outcome of one affects the fantasy value of the other. The duo is slated to start the season as the tandem of goaltenders in Toronto, and face the tall order of getting the Maple Leafs to the postseason for the first time since the last lockout.
Reimer is the most proven of the two goaltenders after having a great 2010-11 season and playing well prior to suffering a concussion last year. He was not the same goaltender after his return, and nobody in the Leafs’ stable of goaltenders could save the day. Reimer’s body of work suggests that he is a bit expensive by cap bargain standards, but if he can secure the starting gig he will provide great value.
Scrivens is less proven than Reimer but is older and favored by some to win the battle. With a contract barely above the league minimum, there is very little risk that comes with owning him in a league. However, if the team were to acquire a goalie, Scrivens would be demoted to the minors due to his two-way contract for this year.
What we have learned about cap bargain players
Now that we have taken a look at various cap league bargains over the last four weeks, some conclusions can be drawn to help manage your cap league teams. There are plenty of cap bargains entering the final year of their career, but a lot of them are slated to get a raise of several million after the upcoming season. There are plenty of examples of players that signed lucrative extensions over the past couple of weeks. The players who can offer you cap relief for multiple years are truly needles in the haystack.
Simply put, depth players are signed primarily to shorter contracts. This gives the team flexibility in managing the promotion of young players in the organization, and gives the player the opportunity to seek better money if his level of play improves. As a result, your bargain gems will not maintain their status for long, and the onus will be on you to find alternatives to keep your team competitive and within your league’s salary cap.
According to numbers obtained at the capgeek website, the average NHL salary is $2,625,560. The demand for quality players having a below-average cap hit is huge, while the supply is very limited. If you own such players, do not trade them unless there is an overpayment. Having these types of players can go a long way towards being able to fit all of the necessary pieces together for a championship team.
Next week we will begin to look at overpriced players.