Armchair GM: The Price is Right (For a Backup)

I know I’ve already written a piece on backup goaltenders, and while the analytical results of that are relatively unchanged, the landscape of the league and who might actually be on the trade block has. While it is possible to pick up a backup goalie through free agency – both Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth are UFA – it’s becoming increasingly expensive to do so, and Nill tends to be the kind of GM that counts his pennies.

As I’ve said before, I think it’s unlikely that Lehtonen will be moved this summer, as his stock is very low, and Nill knows he would have to take a hefty hit on any trade with Kari involved, either by getting someone of equal or lesser performance back (think Mike Smith), or eat lots of salary to get someone better (think Craig Anderson). But the Stars are ripe with proven players as well as prospects trying to crack a crowded roster, and that makes trading for a backup a very likely scenario.

There are three main names that keep popping up in trade rumors: Robin Lehner, Eddie Lack, and Cam Talbot.

For context, here are some recent Dallas backups compared to these three. All numbers are 5v5 and are a combined 3 seasons worth of data, where applicable. For High Danger Sv%, know that Red is bad, Blue is good. Adjusted Sv% is a weighted measure that uses Low, Medium, and High Danger Save % to attempt to better quantify a goalie’s actual impact on the game (here’s the official War On Ice definition). Unadjusted Sv% is the Save % you’ll see on NHL.com.

Dallas backups v Trade backups 3 yr 5v5

Robin Lehner

Lehner was the subject of a piece over at THW and even though I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, I wasn’t a big fan of the idea.

Lehner’s numbers are certainly an improvement over what Dallas is used to, with the exception of Enroth, and he’s only 23, which is great for a situation like Dallas’s where we have an aging starter who will have to scale back on his workload soon (especially if last season was a sign of decline and not a weird aberration). Plus Ottawa is currently overloaded with goalies, with starter Craig Anderson likely to keep that spot, Andrew Hammond on a shiny new contract, and impressive college UFA Matt O’Connor signing there this spring.

But the reported asking price for Lehner is a Top 6 forward which is high, especially when you look at the Stars Top 6. Obviously Benn, Seguin, and Nichushkin are right out, which leaves you with Hemsky, Spezza, Ritchie, or McKenzie. For me, it’s too steep, especially when you look at Lehner vs his competition – he’s the lowest in Sv% & Adjusted Sv% of the three, and while he’s posted good HD Sv% he’s actually declining in play year over year.

Lehner YoY

A lot of this probably has to do with the spate of injuries he’s faced, but he’s also played more games recently and it’s showing in his percentages. Not only that, but he’s still dealing with some injury going into this offseason, and while he’s likely to recover fully, for me it’s just not worth it.

Cam Talbot

Cam Talbot is easily the most impressive statistically of all the backup goalies on the block. He’s also a good trade target because the Rangers are pretty hard up against the cap (they have $9.5m cap space, but have RFAs in Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, Jesper Fast, and JT Miller – at least 2 of which are due large raises). They also have a less-than-impressive roster of prospects, as they dealt two of their best in the trade to bring in Yandle for their attempt at the cup this year. They also have young goalie Mackenzie Skapski waiting in the wings, who might be more content to back up Henrik Lundqvist, whose contract doesn’t expire until 2021.

You see, Talbot is already 27, the age at which he should be pushing for a starting job, and he’s putting up the numbers to earn the shot. But he never will behind Lundqvist. Skapski is 20, and will need the extra time to develop his game.

Talbot YoY

Talbot’s largest drawback is that he only has 2 NHL seasons of data, and of that, only 59 games, most of which were played this season while Lundqvist was recovering from injury. Typically, it’s difficult to tell how a goaltender will perform until you hit over 1000 shots, and Talbot is barely at 1200. Still, it’s difficult to find the drawback of a goaltender with a minimum Sv% of of 0.93 who has been mentored by one of the game’s best.

So what’s his asking price? Likely a defensive prospect and a pick, with the Rangers probably wanting the 1st round pick we have this year. Oleksiak seems the most likely to be moved, as he’s been pretty clearly shelved for the play of Jokipakka. If you drop that 1st round to the 2nd round we received from Detroit in the Cole trade, I think that’s fair, if pricey. But Talbot has a ton of potential, and was key in bringing the Rangers the President’s Trophy this year.

Eddie Lack

Which brings us to the third, and in my opinion the most likely, trade option: Eddie Lack.

What makes Eddie the most likely trade option? Well, the Canucks have about $3m in cap space, with 3 FWD RFAs and 2 D RFAs, including Yannick Weber who played very well for them this season. Plus, they have Jacob Markstrom playing very well in the AHL (the Utica Comets are in the Calder Cup Final), meaning they could easily deal Lack and not be stuck in a situation where they are forced to play Miller for 82 games.

Lack YoY

Lack’s numbers aren’t as stellar as Talbot’s, but they’re better than Lehner’s, and very much in line with what we’ve seen from Enroth. Also for the last year, he’s been coached by Willie Desjardins – a name that should be familiar to Stars fans, as he won the Calder Cup with the Texas Stars last year – which can explain the difference in Shots Faced, if not the change in High Danger Sv%. But my favorite thing about Lack is that he’s proven – in both seasons he’s played 41 games (37 & 32 starts respectively), showing he’s ready to split starts at the least, and could become a starter quickly.

The Canucks lack youth in their forward ranks, with the Sedins, Vrbata, Burrows, and Higgins all over 30, and Dorsett and Hansen both over 28. Rumor has it they’re looking for a high level forward prospect and a pick. Especially given Desjardins’ familiarity with our prospect pool, I wouldn’t be surprised if Glennie, a former first round pick for the Stars, would be part of the deal, and of course the Canucks will go for the 1st rounder we have (12 is still a really valuable pick in a draft this deep – after all, we ended up with Honka last year at 14), but I doubt that would be something Nill is willing to part with.

Honestly, I’d like to see Lack as a part of a bigger trade, something along the lines of Lack+Bieksa/Hamhuis for Glennie+Oleksiak+Daley. This would allow for a fair price for Lack (two 1st round prospects), let the Canucks free up some cap space (Bieksa’s cap hit is $4.6m and Hamhuis is $4.5m), and would also let Dallas get rid of a guy who can’t play our game while adding another defensive Dman. Dallas might have to send another pick, probably a 4th or 5th round back that way, but neither team would be making out like bandits, unlike some other trades Nill has brokered.

What do you think?

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