Since the addition of the salary cap after the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, the way General Managers go about facilitating their cap space has become more important in each passing year. General Managers are faced with tough decisions each off season on what kind of players they should be heavily investing in.

In the era before the salary cap goaltenders were able to carry a team through the NHL playoffs due to the close quartered trapping nature of the league. A player like Dominik Hasek was able to take a Sabres team that was dramatically overmatched on paper all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999. Jean-Sebastien Giguere was able to backstop an underwhelming but plucky Ducks team to Game 7 of the Final in 2003 on route to winning the Conn Smythe.

Fortunately those days are long gone as the game has opened up with the new rule changes. Given that goaltenders can no longer take a team on their back to championships, where do they fall in the grand scheme of things as it pertains to cap management?

In the near future we will be seeing goaltenders like Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller, Jaroslav Halak, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Cory Schneider all up for contract extensions. What is fair value? What value makes sense for teams moving forward at the goaltender position?

I am going to try and answer those questions by analyzing goaltender cap hits since the lockout. I will look at the goaltenders during the year they won the cup, I will look at some of the more recent long term goalie contracts, and I will look at the EVSV% leaders from last season.

Stanley Cup Winning Goaltenders Since Lockout

Season

Goalie

Cap Hit

05-06

Cam Ward *

684k

06-07

Jean Sebastian Giguere

3.99M

07-08

Chris Osgood

800k

08-09

Marc Andre Fleury

5.00M

09-10

Antti Niemi

827k

10-11

Tim Thomas *

5.00M

11-12

Jonathan Quick *

1.80M

12-13

Corey Crawford

2.66M

*Conn Smythe winner

 

The highest cap for a starting goaltender to win the Cup has been 5M.

Average cap hit for Cup winning goaltenders since the 2004-2005 lockout is 2.56M.

That figure is fairly low and it has provided the Cup winning GM’s the ability to reinvest their cap space in the team in front of the goaltenders. As each year passes it has become more and more about constructing the best team and less and less about having a goaltender carry the entire load.

On the chart above the three highest paid goalies in their Cup year (Fleury, Thomas, and Giguere) were on teams that had the luxury of having quality players still on their entry level contracts. Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Kris Letang, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Dustin Penner, Brad Marchand, and Tyler Seguin were all playing well below market value for their teams which allowed for the increased cap hit of their goaltender. If those players were not on entry level deals it is very likely that somebody from the roster would have been forced off, thus negatively impacting the roster and putting their championship season in jeopardy.

Let’s now take a look at some of the more recent contract extensions given out to goaltenders:

 

Goalie

Cap Hit

Term

Contract exp.

EVSV% Last 6 years

Pekka Rinne

7.00M

7 years

2019

.929 (6th)

Tuukka Rask*

7.00M

8 years

2021

.933 (2nd)

Carey Price

6.50M

6 years

2018

.924 (21st)

Cam Ward*

6.30M

6 years

2016

.924 (22nd)

Corey Crawford*

6.00M

6 years

2020

.925 (19th)

Kari Lehtonen

5.90M

5 years

2018

.925 (18th)

Jonathan Quick*

5.80M

10 years

2023

.923 (23rd)

*Stanley Cup Champion

 

There are some very good goalies on this list, including multiple former Cup champions. The thing to notice is that all the cap hits on the chart are well above the 2.56M cap hit from the previous chart and they are all over the 5M cap hit which was the high water mark for a Cup winning goaltender.

The terms are long and the money is high. Is it worth paying big money and big term to lock in quality goaltending?

Here are the EVSV% leaders from the 2012-2013 season along with their cap hits:

 

Goalie

EVSV%

12-13 Cap Hit

Sergei Bobrovsky

94.18

1.75M

Craig Anderson

94.03

3.19M

Jimmy Howard

94.00

2.25M

Tomas Vokoun

93.90

1.80M

Jonathan Bernier

93.78

1.25M

Jonas Hiller

93.71

4.50M

Tuukka Rask

93.65

3.50M

Henrik Lundqvist

93.61

6.88M

Nikolai Khabibulin

93.38

3.75M

Robin Lehner

93.23

870k

Corey Crawford

93.15

2.66M

Braden Holtby

93.09

572k

Antti Niemi

93.09

3.80M

Marc Andre Fleury

92.96

5.00M

Corey Schneider

92.87

4.00M

 

The average cap hit for the top 15 goalies in EVSV% for the 2012-2013 season was 3.05M. That average is not too far off from the average salary of Cup winning goaltenders in the year that they won it all.

I think this goes to show that you do not need to invest heavily into the goaltending position in order to get quality results. There are certainly examples of higher priced goalies that perform extremely well but it does not seem to be commonplace. Henrik Lundqvist is the only goalie in the top 15 of EVSV% last year that carries a cap above the 5.0M water mark.

The salary cap ceiling will continue to go up as time goes on under the current CBA. This will provide more wiggle room for General Managers, but the data shows that GM’s do not have to use that space on goaltenders.

It is also worth noting is that GM’s no longer have the ability to artificially lower the cap hit on long term deals which we saw with Marian Hossa, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Sidney Crosby deals. The new contracts for star players will carry a higher cap hit as you have seen with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Phil Kessel. The higher salary cap might not give GM’s as much free space to play around with as previously thought.

The small sample size in the cap era has provided a few examples of goaltenders who have received long term big money contracts, most namely Rick DiPietro and Ilya Bryzgalov. Both of those goalies have since been bought out and their contracts could be filed under the disaster category.

Roberto Luongo is another example. Luongo is still playing at a quality level but his long term contract caused much strife and turbulence in Vancouver and became a distraction. The reason was because the Canucks had a cheaper and more viable option that made more sense from a cap management stand point. I don’t blame the Canucks for wanting to go with the more advantageous cap situation. It clearly made the most business sense.

It will be interesting to see if the trend of lower paid goaltenders winning the Cup continues and if that has any impact on how teams allocate their cap space for the goaltending position.

This information is just something to think about when Henrik Lundqvist, Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller, Jaroslav Halak, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Cory Schneider are all up for their extensions in the near future

Thanks for reading!

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