Armchair GM: The Backup Goalie Situation (Again)

Well, folks, our year is pretty much done, so with no post-season hockey in sight, it’s time for Stars fans to do what we always do: look to next year.

You know when media outside of Dallas are talking about Dallas’ goaltending, it has gone past issue and straight into catastrophe. Kari is taking most of the blame for the goaltending woes, and as the starter, he definitely deserves a fair chunk of it, but the Stars have had a string of disappointing back up goalies as well. In fact, until Enroth’s win on 4/4 against Nashville, a backup hadn’t won a game they started for the Stars in over a year.

Much talk has been about trading Kari, but the truth of the matter is that he has a 5.9m contract, and that’s difficult to trade on a good year. Trying to move him in the off season this year would be like trying to sell stock in Barnes & Nobles – you’re not going to get a return anywhere close to the price you paid for it.

But with Enroth going UFA after this season, we do have a good chance to affect our back up situation going forward. And this year there are an intriguing mix of young up and comers and veteran goaltenders to look at.

First, let’s set the bar: The following chart is most of the guys who are not likely to get traded this season. Cross them off your wish list, they aren’t going to settle for being a back up, and no one, not even the Stars with their acres of cap space, can afford two $6m/yr goalies.

4.7 Backup Goalies - No Move

The Save % numbers are all 5v5 and span 3 seasons of data (2012-current). I chose to highlight Score Adjusted Sv% (a weighted Sv% of high, med, and low danger shots) and High Danger Sv% (shots from the slot and low slot, aka shots from right in front of the net – as defined here), because those are the two numbers  that are the most replicable by goalies over time.

This chart is sorted, however, by Weighted Wins per 60 minutes. Weighted Wins is a ranking I came up with to better level set the competition. The formula closely follows how teams earn points, as goaltending can frequently ‘steal’ wins or be key factors in losses (not that Stars fans know anything about that). The formula is as follows:

Weighted wins/60 = ((Total Wins*2  + Total OT Losses – Total Losses*0.5)/Time On Ice)*60.

Wins get 2 points just like the league, because good, consistent goaltending gives a team more wins.

OT Losses get 1 point, just like the league, because without the goalie keeping the game close (Stars vs the Red Wings is the exception that proves the rule, ok), there would be no chance for overtime.

But, there does need to be a penalty for regulation losses, as bad goaltenders will have worse records. Because bad defense is more likely to adversely affect the outcome of a game than good defense is to win a game, I’ve weighted losses less than wins. So we only subtract half a point per loss.

Since not every goaltender has played the same amount we convert this weighting into a time based rate, and voila – Weighted Wins per 60.

Unsurprisingly you’re seeing excellent Weighted Win numbers from goaltenders who recently received big contracts (Bishop, Crawford, MAF). Rask remains top of the heap with the best Adj Sv% and HD Sv%.

So knowing what we’re looking for, we can take a look at the other goalies available via free agency or trades. I had to pull out some players the Stars just won’t be able to afford, like Hiller, Mason, and Niemi (all over $4m/year), and also several UFA who will likely start bidding wars, like Ramo and Neuvirth (current salaries 2.9m and 2.6m, respectively). Both Bernier and Holtby are RFA this summer, and it’s hard to imagine they won’t receive qualifying offers from their current teams.

4.7 Backup Goalies - All

Again, this list is sorted by Weighted Wins, and is 3 seasons worth of data (when applicable. Obviously, some of these guys are rookies). I trimmed off anyone who’s High Danger Sv% was less than 81%, as again, that’s a very telling stat: the average Adjusted Sv% of that group is 91.4%, 1.6% lower than the group you see here. That took off some current backups like Tokarksi and Gibson, and cut off others who are going UFA this season like Anders “Been There Done That” Lindback or Dan “It Happened Once In A Dream” Ellis.

Unfortunately, many of these goalies are not very likely to be on the trading block, or are likely to be resigned by their current team. I mean, can you really see Ottawa giving up on the Hamburglar after all they’ve been through this year?

So to pare it down further, let’s look at the realistic options for signings or trades.

4.7 Backup Goalies - Reality

Starting at the bottom of this group, you’ll notice that the lowest 7 goalies have all been affected by teams who are consistently in the bottom of the NHL in points. Lieuwen and Hackett are both inexperienced goalies currently in the Buffalo system, so their numbers are bound to improve, but aren’t a good choice for a team like Dallas who needs consistency from a backup now. LaBarbera is currently playing for Anaheim’s AHL affiliate, and throughout the last three years has only managed to rack up 27 NHL games, even though he’s one of the oldest guys on the list at 35, so we can cross him out, too.

Khudobin, Reimer, and Scrivens have all posted similar Weighted Wins, and each plays for a team currently in the McEichel race. They are all making similar money with a year left on their contracts, and have plenty of experience. The big difference between all three of them is Reimer’s much better High Danger Sv%. Khudobin faces 6.86 High Danger Shots per 60 minutes, Scrivens faces 6.59, but Reimer faces 8.32 per 60, and is still posting the better Sv%.

Both Calvin Pickard and Philipp Grubauer are RFAs, which means their current teams would have to decline extending a qualifying offer before they can go into free agency, but both are currently playing in the AHL. They are relatively untested with only 16 and 20 NHL games respectively. I would expect them to stick with their current clubs.

Greiss has stellar 3yr numbers, and a 9-6-3 record with the Penguins, but his weighted wins are troubling, given that he has the highest OT Loss % of any goalie listed with over 30 games. If he were signed by the Stars for 1.5m or less, I wouldn’t complain, but he hasn’t yet dealt with a defense as shaky as Dallas’s has been.

The most interesting choices on this chart are closer to the top. Dubnyk is obviously the Cinderella story of the 14/15 season, and even though he’s been bounced around a lot, his 3 year numbers are very respectable. With how low his salary is currently, and how much of the workload he’s been shouldering for Minnesota, it’s not hard to imagine he’s due for a huge pay raise – and do the Stars really want to give him that? If Minnesota makes it past the 1st round of the playoffs, and they might this year, I could see him bringing in a $3 million contract easily, even if it is just for one or two years.

Raanta and Emery seem to be benefiting from their time with the Blackhawks, as each have started trending in the wrong direction, despite their solid 3yr numbers. Raanta is currently playing in the AHL, having lost his backup job to Scott Darling. Emery is a bargain, and hasn’t posted the numbers like Dubnyk to deserve a huge payday, but he’s also 32, and would just be another stop-gap measure while the Stars try to find a long term solution.

Chad Johnson and Jake Allen are probably the most intriguing prospects on the board. Johnson is 28 and posted a great year with the Bruins before being traded to the Islanders where he went a disappointing 8-8-1 (a record Stars fans would kill for – 17 more points would have us safely in the playoffs). Then, at the trade deadline, he was sent to Buffalo for a “playing better than expected” Neuvirth in a trade that solidified the Sabres commitment to tanking. Johnson hasn’t yet played a game for Buffalo as he’s been out with a lower body injury since March 6th. With a year left on his contract, and very few other goaltending prospects, Buffalo may be forced to make him or Lindback their #1 next year. Still, the Sabres could use some bottom 6 scorers (Garbutt) or an offensive Dman (Daley) to help flesh out their McEichel driven offense next year.

Jake Allen is an RFA, so there’s a very real chance the Blues extend him an offer. That said, Brian Elliot is still their number one, and this has caused some friction on the team, as Allen is hungry for starts. If Allen becomes available, I think the Stars would be crazy not to throw their hat in the ring to try to sign him.

As an Armchair GM, you have to give a little bit of the benefit of the doubt to guys like Jhonas “Currently Doing That” Enroth, who came from Buffalo as a starter and gave Dallas their first two backup starting wins in over a year. He also remains perfect in relief when Kari is pulled, though frequently the damage is already too much for the Stars to earn the win.

So who do we sign? Well, If I were to pick up a UFA, I would probably go Greiss (sorry Jhonas, don’t kill me) or Allen, if the Blues won’t put a ring on it. Neither are likely to break $2-2.5m/yr on the open market. Also, they’re in a good age range to really make a push at a starting job if they can put up the play to support it.

If we’re making a trade, you know my favorite refrain is Reimer for Sceviour (or even better, Garbutt), but Chad Johnson is certainly a notable option. However, Reimer is more used to working with a loosey-goosey defense, and he still puts up good numbers. Add in the offense of the Stars, and he would have a lot more wins under his belt.

The goalie market is going to be a hot one this offseason, so cross your fingers and pick up those lucky pennies, because lord knows the Stars need the help.


Note: All numbers come from War-on-ice, and all salary data comes from


2 thoughts on “Armchair GM: The Backup Goalie Situation (Again)

  1. 1st time viewing your blog. this was a very informative and well written article. great read! count me in as a regular reader from here on out. looking forward to your insight and opinions over the long off season. keep up the good work! !


    • Thanks! We try to keep things fun, but we care a lot about our stars, too, (and I’m such a stat nerd) so there will definitely be more articles like these.


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