Monday, January 11, 2010

The Goalie Market

Whenever someone important to the Canadiens goes down with a long-term injury, or whenever the team struggles, the demands to start trading for help begin. Unfortunately, the Habs just don't have a lot in the way of trade bait. That's why the mouth-watering banquet of plenty in the goal crease has fans everywhere speculating about what Bob Gainey could get in return for Jaro Halak or Carey Price. We heard he asked Philly for Jeff Carter but Holmgren declined. There's talk of Halak to St.Louis for budding star David Perron, or to Dallas for young James Neal. And that's just Halak, we drool. Imagine what Gainey could get for a thoroughbred like Price! Well, friends, I have to tell you it's not happening. Upon closer inspection, the Habs aren't actually a banquet of trade bait. They're a sun-bleached carcass with a couple of choice tidbits clinging to the bone, and nobody's paying top dollar for them.

I've done a little research on the goalie market. I looked at all transactions involving goaltenders since the lockout and what the teams gave and received. I also looked at the origins of the current crop of NHL netminders, and the supply/demand factor...and I came up with a few facts.

Fact 1: Goalies don't get traded very often.

In the five years since the lockout, there have been 38 trades involving goaltenders. That number includes emergency pickups and throw-ins in larger trades for other players. There are sixty-six goaltenders listed on NHL rosters this season. Of those, 28 were signed as free agents by their current teams. Twenty-six of them were drafted by their current teams. Two were claimed on waivers. Only ten were acquired via trade.

Fact 2: Goalies don't bring a great return when they DO get traded.

Of the ten current NHL goalies who landed with their teams via trade, seven of them were acquired for only draft picks, including two second-rounders. The other three involved trades for actual players. Looking at the wider, five-year activity period, twenty of the 38 goalies traded brought in only draft picks in return. Of that twenty, only three involved first-round picks. They were Tomas Vokoun, who went to Florida for a first and two second-rounders, after eight stellar seasons as a starting goalie in Nashville, Dwayne Roloson, who also had eight very strong seasons starting in Minnesota, Calgary and Buffalo, and Vesa Toskala, who had four good years splitting duties in San Jose before John Ferguson Jr. steeply overpaid a first and two seconds for him.

So, eighteen trades involving a goalie actually brought real players to a team who were not goalies themselves. Twenty-six players were involved in those eighteen trades. Of those, fourteen are still in the NHL. They have scored a total of 219 points in 481 games this year, for an average of 0.455 points per game. And that includes Brad Richards' 52 points in 43 games. Removing Richards from the equation, the other thirteen players traded for goalies have scored just 0.381 PPG. Not exactly stellar.

Fact 3: There's no shortage of goalies.

Of the sixty-six current NHL goalies, twenty-one will be UFA this summer. They include names like Turco, Nabokov, Hiller, Rinne and Chris Mason. Perrennial backups like Lalime, Johnson, Leighton, Legace, Danis and Auld are also up for grabs. Another eight will be RFA. In other words, when you consider the young goalies who will be moving into the NHL sphere looking for jobs, and the free agents hitting the market, there are more than enough goalies to go around.

Fact 4: Nobody's desperate enough to overshoot the value of a young goalie.

Most teams are set in goal this season. Goalies who may have struggled early, like Chris Mason, seem to be settling down, and goalies who were hurt, like Emery, are coming back. There really isn't a desperate team out there. Contenders have what they need and non-playoff teams can afford to wait for the market to open up in the summer. Unless a contender loses a number-one goalie just before the deadline, most teams aren't going to be crazy enough to cough up a ton for a relatively unproven young goaltender. In such a situation, it might be more beneficial for them to look at making an offer of picks for a pending UFA as a rental, rather than cough up players for a gamble on a kid netminder.

So, when you look at the market for either Price or Halak, both current conditions and recent precedent indicate that a trade could still possibly happen. But if it does, we can expect to see no more than a draft pick in return, and probably not a first-rounder. If players come to Montreal in exchange for a goalie, Gainey would have to make it a package deal, likely including prospects or picks himself. And, history shows the players teams get in exchange for goalies, unless dealing with a team that's long-term desperate in net like Tampa, or has terrible judgement in management, again like Tampa, aren't very high quality players. The Richards trade that brought Mike Smith to Tampa only happened because the Lightning were cap-bound and had to dump Richards to Dallas for what they could get. There's not really a similar situation out there now that could return a really good player for a package of a young goalie and picks/prospects.

For these reasons, I think Gainey would be better off to hold onto both goalies for the time being. It may very well come down to a no-choice trade of one of them eventually. But if that ends up being the case, it may as well be later rather than sooner so there's at least a chance a rare deal comes along. Right now both of them are helping the team and by the looks of the goalie market, there wouldn't be enough return for either of them to make a meal out of.


punkster said...

The voice of reason. Thank you.

Olivier said...

I doubt the media hoopla around the goaltending "situation" in Montréal has any impact on the team's decisions, so we shouldn't even think one of them has to go, now or later.

I mean, you make a convincing point about the goalie market being a buyer's market. So this summer may very well be the perfect moment to sign both again. I mean seriously, why sell low? What is their leverage, their bargainning power?

Anonymous said...

To add to your wonderful exposé, one has to look at what the Coyotes paid for Bryzgalov. At the time, the Russian goalie had accomplished a lot more than what Halak has accomplished, so far.

Anyone who thinks the Habs could get a top 6 player forward for Halak, is dreaming. I also think it would take a hell of a package deal (including Halak) to get a top 6 forward, let alone the center we have been looking for ever since Wickenheiser.

Anonymous said...

Thank you,JT!

Shan said...

Brilliantly delineated.

Also... you do research? With numbers?
This might change the hockey blogosphere forever...

J.T. said...

@Shan: LOL! Sometimes. When there's time, like four days without a game. Watch out if the Habs don't make the playoffs!

redbaron said...

Might make sense to wait and see if, at the deadline, some playoff-bound team's starter has a long-term injury, but otherwise I think you're bang on.

Anonymous said...

JT Great analysis on the goalie situation in Montreal. I am not so sure the goalie market is as robust as you make it out to be. Just the other day (yesterday) the Oilers had to "borrow" a goalie from Anaheim to fill a vacancy at goalie for their farm team. They have no goalies in their pipeline. With all these goalies available, what's up with that?