Most Valuable Backup Goalies

In my latest entry to the fantasy section, we will take a look at the backup goaltenders in the league with almost as much worth as the typical starter.

Brian Elliott

1. Brian Elliott – St. Louis Blues
2011-12 Season Totals – 36GS/23W-10L/9SO/1.56GAA/.940%
2013 Stats – 3GP/2-1/2.75GAA/.875%

Although Elliott displayed unreal consistency throughout the 2011-12 season, the workload he shared with Jaroslav Halak negated any real consideration for a Vezina nomination. Despite this, he was a true gem among goalies, in part because of Ken Hitchcock’s traditional defensive oriented system that rewarded this responsibly calm goaltender with 23 wins, 9 shutouts, and a 1.56 GAA/.940 Save % in 38 games played. With St. Louis likely to improve further this year, Elliott (and Halak) are guaranteed to repeat last season’s totals while the Blues themselves try to live up to increased playoff expectations.

JoshHarding

2. Josh Harding – Minnesota Wild
2011/12 Season Totals – 30GS/13W/12L/2SO/2.62GAA/.917%
2013 Stats – 2GP/1-1/2.56GAA/.902%

Harding is an exceptionally athletic goalie that has had been held back from reaching his full potential the past several seasons because of his many misfortunes with injury, most particularly in his knees. He suffered a torn ACL and MCL injury in 2010 which ruled him out for the entire season and his recent MS prognosis last November only adds to the risk. Regardless of these serious issues, Harding is still worthy of high consideration due to his improving save percentage and goals against average as he has grown more experienced. The Minnesota Wild now have Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to help change the dynamics in the team’s offense and defense, which should assist goaltending fortunes as well, so keep watch of both Harding and Niklas Backstrom, who has also struggled with durability as of recent years. His recent 24 save shutout performance against Dallas in his first start this season was fine evidence of his athleticism and perseverance.

TomasVokoun

3. Tomas Vokoun – Pittsburgh Penguins
2011-12 Season Totals – 46GS/25W-17L/4SO/2.51GAA/.917%
2013 Stats – 2GP/1-1/3.03GAA/.908%

A well respected 13 year NHL veteran, Vokoun, 36, is heading toward the end of his career and has been quite desperate to play for a winning team after humbly toiling away in Nashville and Florida. His stint with the Washington Capitals lasted just one season, which resulted in lingering injury problems that caused him to miss a chunk of not just the second half of the regular season but the entire postseason as well. His regular season stat numbers were adequate to his standards, however there was a greater influx of inconsistency and 4+ goals allowed games than in previous seasons. Following an offseason trade to Pittsburgh, which could easily be determined as a reactionary move toward Marc-Andre Fleury’s embarrassing goaltending display against the Flyers in last season’s playoffs, Vokoun now has all the opportunity given to him to succeed on an always Cup contending Penguins team with few roster issues or weaknesses. There aren’t any faults or negatives to Vokoun barring any sudden injuries so if he’s available in deep leagues, add him to your bench and let the good times roll.

MartinBiron

4. Martin Biron – New York Rangers
2011-12 Season Totals – 20GS/12W/6L/2SO/2.46GAA/.904%
2013 Stats – 1GP/0-0/1.94GAA/.950%

As a former starting goaltender for 14 NHL seasons with Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Long Island, Biron struck luck with a two year deal from the Rangers, who were coincidentally searching for a solid backup to share a portion of Henrik Lundqvist’s heavy workload. A very confident and agile goalie, Biron’s prior tendencies of slumping are fewer in between now and has thankfully brought him great success as a Blueshirt. With a more than steadfast offense and reliant defense in front of him this year, he should surely wind up in any top 30 fantasy goaltenders list.

JSGiguere

5. Jean-Sebastien Giguere – Colorado Avalanche
2011/12 Season Totals – 30GS/15W/11L/2SO/2.28GAA/.919%
2013 Stats – 1GP/0-0/0.00GAA/1.000%

No longer the Conn Smythe stud he once was, Giguere may have finally found his place back into relevancy with the Avalanche based on his obvious bounceback statline last season compared to his previous mediocre tour in Toronto. There is still reason to believe he could sufficiently protect the net as well as he did last season, nevertheless the high risk of injury and team regression might be a modest warning sign to most fantasy owners in small leagues and thus make him not worth considering, especially if Semyon Varlamov takes up more than 70% of the team’s starts. But for now, I’d recommend him as a legit quick pickup and drop after goaltender.

Ray Emery

6. Ray Emery – Chicago Blackhawks
2011/12 Season Totals – 27GS/15W/19L/2.81GAA/.900%
2013 Stats – 1GP/1-0/4.00GAA/.862%

Emery has had plenty of experience and success mainly as a starter in his career, but as of the past few seasons his durability has regressed dramatically over this time and he’s now relegated to solely backup duty. Now with the Blackhawks, Emery has a fine opportunity of shaking up the goaltending situation further as Corey Crawford continues falling out of favor with Joel Quenneville after each poor start. A best case scenario would be a 50/50 rotation similar to what Ken Hitchcock adopted with St. Louis if the team can no longer depend on Crawford without actually removing him from the starting role. For a team consisting of numerous elite forwards and defensemen, Emery’s outlook should be bright this season. When healthy, that is…

JohanHedberg

7. Johan Hedberg – New Jersey Devils
2011-12 Season Totals – 23GS/15W/12L/3SO/2.38GAA/.912%

Not just the the oldest goalie on this list, but also the most reliable backup in hockey since the 04-05 lockout. What’s interesting about Hedberg is that his fantasy numbers for the past few seasons tell a more exciting story than his actual performances on the ice, which could be described as “standard”. Since joining the Devils in 2010, Hedberg has accumulated 32 wins and 7 shutouts as Martin Brodeur’s primary backup and occasional emergency starter. It is in the latter’s case that Hedburg gains additional value and consideration with Brodeur’s health becoming more of an issue nowadays. There may be chances of him posting a bad start, however he’ll certainly be rolling on all cylinders throughout this short regular season.

Honorable Mentions

Viktor Fasth – Anaheim Ducks
2013 Stats – 1GP/1-0/1.85GAA/.905%

Mathieu Garon – Tampa Bay Lightning
2013 Stats – 1GP/1-0/1.00GAA/.972%

Dan Ellis – Carolina Hurricanes
2013 Stats – 2GP/1-0/1.20GAA/.963%