Is the price of a back-up goalie going up?
This morning, the Montreal Canadiens acquired Jake Allen from the St. Louis Blues for a swap of future seventh-round draft picks and a 2020 third-round pick.
Essentially, the Canadiens traded a third-round pick for Allen and his 2020-21 $4.35 million cap hit.
At first blush, this seems like a lot to give up for Allen, who lost his starting job to Jordan Binnington last year, but rebounded with a strong 2019-20, albeit in mostly a back-up role. In fact, considering that Montreal cleared significant cap space for St. Louis to re-sign impending UFA Alex Pietrangelo, you can say that the Canadiens did the Blues a big favor.
So how did St. Louis come out with a third-round pick?
“Who knows what next season looks like because of COVID?” Pierre LeBrun told TSN this morning. “But I have to assume, if there’s a season, that it’s going to be a pretty compressed schedule.”
Essentially, LeBrun is suggesting that a team will be facing more back-to-back games on their schedule. Thus, back-up goaltenders will probably be asked to start more games so starters can avoid these back-to-backs. Therefore, you’ll probably want a more established back-up, capable of larger workloads.
So a netminder like Allen, who’s closer to a 1B than a true back-up — he’s just 30, been a starter before, and has even enjoyed playoff success — is probably more valuable now than he would be in a normal off-season.
What Does This Mean for the San Jose Sharks?
Let’s start at the top and assume that Martin Jones is returning as the team’s No. 1.
While like Allen, Jones is 30 and a proven starter — and Jones has enjoyed far greater post-season success — Allen has a $4.35 million cap hit for one more season, while Jones has a $5.75 million cap hit for four more years. In short, you’re still not foisting Jones off on anybody and getting something back.
At back-up, impending UFA Aaron Dell has performed ably over the years on the balance, but he’s never been a starter. He doesn’t look like a 1B.
Besides the threat of a compressed schedule, Jones’s struggles over the last two seasons seem to make it an imperative that San Jose adds at least a 1B goaltender to their mix.
I say 1B because the Sharks, due to a flat cap and their many long-term contract commitments, will be hard-pressed to pursue an expensive, true No. 1 goaltending upgrade like impending UFA Braden Holtby or trade candidate Marc-Andre Fleury.
Basically, San Jose is looking for a goalie like Allen. But the price for such a netminder might be higher this off-season.
The Price of a 1B
The days of the workhorse starting goaltender aren’t over, but it’s getting there.
For example, this year, just 14 of 31 teams featured a No. 1 goalie who started 60 percent or more of their games — 60 percent, over an 82-game season, is 49 starts. A decade ago, in 2009-10, 18 of 30 teams trotted out a true-blue No. 1 who started 60 percent or more of their games.
Another way to look at it: Just one netminder, Carey Price, started over 80 percent of his team’s games in 2019-20. Allen, of course, is expected to alleviate some of Price’s workload. In 2009-10, 10 goalies (Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, Jonathan Quick, Henrik Lundqvist, Craig Anderson, Evgeni Nabokov, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ryan Miller, Roberto Luongo, Fleury) started over 80 percent of his team’s games.
So this already-present trend, coupled with a compressed schedule, might make, let’s call them the middle class of goalies, more valuable than ever.
By my rough count, there are 41 proven 1B or better goaltenders in the league right now — by my definition, any netminder who’s started 40 or more games in a season. I’m discounting Miller and Brian Elliott, ex-starters who have segued into pure back-up roles: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Anton Khudobin, Antti Raanta, Ben Bishop, Holtby, Cam Talbot, Carey Price, Carter Hart, Carter Hutton, Connor Hellebuyck, Corey Crawford, Anderson, Darcy Kuemper, David Rittich, Devan Dubnyk, Frederik Andersen, Lundqvist, Jacob Markstrom, Allen, James Reimer, Jaroslav Halak, Jimmy Howard, John Gibson, Jonathan Bernier, Quick, Binnington, Juuse Saros, Keith Kinkaid, Mackenzie Blackwood, Fleury, Jones, Matt Murray, Mike Smith, Mikko Koskinen, Pekka Rinne, Petr Mrazek, Robin Lehner, Semyon Varlamov, Sergei Bobrovsky, Thomas Greiss, and Tuukka Rask.
There are 31 teams. You can do the math — there might not be enough proven starters around next year, in a year where every team might be wise to have at least two.
Obviously, this list doesn’t encompass goaltenders who are likely to surpass the 40+ starts mark next season — one of the Columbus duo of Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins, and highly-touted prospects like Igor Shesterkin and Ilya Samsonov come to mind. Philipp Grubauer was on his way this year. Also, teams like St. Louis, who appear to be promoting not-as-highly-touted Ville Husso behind Binnington, look to be prioritizing other positions on their roster. So I’m not saying there’s only 41 good goaltenders for 62 spots.
But next year, especially, it makes sense for more teams to look at 1A-1B netminding combos — and I don’t think there are enough No. 1’s around.
Consider also the previous cost of a 1B goalie during the off-season — I’m not counting in-season trades, because there’s a different urgency around goaltending at that time, in part because of injuries. Here were a couple relevant trades for an established 1B netminder with a similar cap hit and term to Allen: In July 2016, Toronto traded Jonathan Bernier ($4.15 million for one more year) to Anaheim for future considerations that amounted to nothing because of how high the bars for those considerations were. Last summer, Florida traded James Reimer ($3.4 million per for two more years) to Carolina for Scott Darling ($4.15 million per for two more years) and a 2020 sixth-round pick.
In that light, St. Louis made out like bandits, getting a third for Allen.
How Will This Affect San Jose Sharks Next Year?
The off-season is young, so we’ll see.
But the Sharks, who appear to be good fits for impending UFA 1B netminders like Khudobin or Greiss, might find more competition for their services than in a normal off-season.
Meanwhile, a Bernier, with just one more year at a $3 million dollar cap hit, might be a more intriguing trade candidate than usual.
All this means less cap space or more assets given up, which the San Jose Sharks can scarcely afford in their quest to return to relevance.
Deep Dive into San Jose’s Prospects, Part 6: NHL Regulars?
As we climb the ladder of San Jose Sharks prospects, we inch ever closer to those who stand a reasonable chance of playing for the big-league club. One of these next three prospects has already logged a few NHL games. All three of them offer promise for the same combination of things that help any prospect: Draft capital, scouting profile, production progression, and lack of competitive options in the Sharks pipeline.
It’s not reasonable to expect any of these players to become top-of-the-lineup material. Their trajectories arc toward complementary players at the professional level, but those are roster spots best filled with young players on cheap deals. This group of three players has a good chance to fill exactly that role even if it’s no certain thing. Welcome — to the borderline NHL regulars group!
Before you dig in, check out the rest of this deep dive into the San Jose Sharks prospects — this series began before the 2020 Draft, so it’s focused on non-2020 Draft prospects.
If you’re new to these, you can check out the introductory explainer article here — this will have all the definitions you need to know.
Part 2 looked at prospects — Jeremy Roy, Jeffrey Viel, and Jasper Weatherby — whose time is already up. And indeed, that’s the case for Roy, at least in the San Jose organization. Roy’s entry-level contract expired two weeks ago, and the the Sharks declined to offer him a new contract, making the 2015 second-round pick a UFA.
Part 3 examined players — Jonathan Dahlen, Thomas Gregoire, Jayden Halbgewachs, Nikolai Knyzhov, Maxim Letunov, Scott Reedy, and Danil Yurtaykin — who likely have just one more year left to prove themselves. Halbgewachs was recently signed to a two-year contract, which Letunov got one year.
Part 4 analyzed prospects — Zachary Gallant, Vladislav Kotkov, Jake McGrew, and Kyle Topping — who still have time left but are otherwise unlikely to become NHLers.
Part 5 focused on some of the more intriguing youngsters in the San Jose Sharks system: Zachary Emond, Joseph Garreffa, Santeri Hatakka, Krystof Hrabik, Timur Ibragimov, Zach Sawchenko, and Yegor Spiridonov.
So who are the Sharks prospects that I project to be borderline NHL regulars?
Lean Bergmann – W
Lean Bergmann played 12 games with the Sharks during the 2019-20 season. He finished the season with the big club, playing four of the team’s last seven games. In those four games he averaged just 7:54 of ice time and took just two shots on goal.
Advanced metrics that adjust for a player’s context don’t show Bergmann in a very bright light, either. It’s too hard to take much away from a sample size of just 96 minutes of ice time, but his impact on even-strength expected goals for & against and shots for & against were all one standard deviation or more worse than average. That’s a difficult feat to accomplish given that the model in question pulls everything back toward average to begin with.
It shouldn’t be terribly surprising that Bergmann struggled in the NHL. He was forced into a situation few 21-year-olds would envy: A team that had lost its high-end forward depth and would struggle immensely to begin a season that ended with a new head coach behind the bench.
Even without that context, it’s difficult to expect much from a prospect who never really got going until his age-20/21 season. As a 17- and 18-year-old in the USHL, Bergmann failed to crack the half-point-per-game mark before returning to Germany. There, he impressed, with a 0.58 point-per-game campaign.
According to Elite Prospects, Bergmann’s scoring rate ranks ninth among 222 DEL forwards to play at least 20 games during a U21 season since 2000-01. We should note, however, that of the eight forwards ranked above him, most either scored at a higher rate at the same age or even earlier. The closest trajectory to Bergmann’s own was that of Marcel Müller. Müller played one game for the Maple Leafs but otherwise spent the better part of two North American seasons with the AHL Marlies.
So why is Bergmann exciting? Not much exists in the way of scouting reports for the undrafted free agent. Those that are floating in the internet ether describe a combination of size, toughness, and shooting ability.
Chris Legg of Dobber Prospects writes of someone who, for his size, “can really dangle and shoots the puck with authority.”
In an interview with The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz, Barracuda General Manager Joe Will spoke of a forward who “showed character, skating, and good physio” despite a lack of production.
A more in-depth scouting report at McKeen’s Hockey describes a player who, “has very quick hands for someone his size, and…can effectively utilize his size and strength to create offensive chances for himself.”
Usually, scouting reports that focus on size and strength aren’t incredibly encouraging. Bergmann, however, has already logged NHL time with the Sharks’ current head coach, however brief. He has skill to go along with his frame, and another year in North America should help him further acclimate to the smaller rink. According to Elite Prospects, Bergmann did score in the top one-third of 20- and 21-year-old forward seasons in the AHL since 2000-01.
Right now, there are probably two or more spots in the San Jose Sharks’ bottom-six up for grabs. Bergmann may not necessarily have an inside track to one of them, but he has the profile and existing NHL experience to earn himself another stint with the big club whenever the 2020-21 season begins.
Dillon Hamaliuk – W
The best thing going for Dillon Hamaliuk is his second-round draft capital. Nearly three-quarters of skaters drafted in the second round play at least one NHL game. A majority of them make it to 10 games. Part of that statistic has nothing to do with the player. NHL teams try their darndest to make expensive investments pan out: Just look at the opportunities the Sharks have given Dylan Gambrell relative to Noah Gregor.
That something out of a player’s hands is the core reason he might make the big leagues isn’t a glowing endorsement. There’s more to the big forward’s chances than draft position, though. Byron Bader’s prospect model compares players’ scoring rates to those of thousands of other drafted players. After his draft season, Hamaliuk had a 45 percent chance to become a regular NHLer.
Only about 40 percent of second-round skaters go on to play 80 NHL games, which we’ll consider makes them “regular.” If we knew nothing but the winger’s scoring rates at the time of the draft, we could safely assume he was following the trajectory of so many other second-round picks before him to the NHL.
Jeremy Davis, formerly of Canucks Army, also built a prospect evaluation model. Davis ranked Hamaliuk as the 2019 draft’s 30th-best prospect. He was involved in more than 21 percent of his team’s 5-on-5 goals but had just a 19 percent chance of making the NHL. This discrepancy hints at Hamaliuk’s play behind the raw scoring totals.
The season before his draft year, Hamaliuk’s impact on his team’s scoring network was poor. In other words, he was overly reliant on strong teammates for his scoring. We can excuse him for that as a young rookie playing in a tough WHL. The concern is that his inability to score without strong teammates has stayed with him.
Highlight reels, which are supposed to highlight a player’s ceiling, quickly become repetitive. Hamaliuk is scoring goals, often from up close and after rebounds and around the blue paint. He is rarely making a pass or creating a play. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Every team needs finishers. His brand of scoring probably just means he’ll need a sharp center to play with if we are to expect exciting goal totals moving forward.
He makes the most of his teammates’ playmaking, however. InStat has tracked shot and expected goal differential since September 2018. Hamaliuk has been on the wrong side of the shot share ledger more often than not. Where he thrives is being on the ice for a high volume of expected goals.
That isn’t a surprise. To quickly peruse a handful of scouting reports, I fed them to a word cloud generator.
(Word cloud algorithm and image from Jason Davies)
You can see that some of the most prominent words in his reports have to do with strength, power, and the net front. There are also adjectives, including “decent,” “effective,” “solid,” and “good.” Those aren’t necessarily bad things, but they aren’t effusive reviews, either.
The 2019-20 season was a challenge for Hamaliuk. Per Sheng Peng, he came down with mono in November and his scoring rates understandably fell. Per Elite Prospects, the power forward scored 0.7 points per game in September and October. In November and December, he scored just five points in 14 games.
In Peng’s interview, Doug Wilson Jr. mentions that Hamaliuk was finally back and healthy three weeks before the interview, which would have been about the beginning of February. During the 15 games between February 2 and the end of the season, Hamaliuk scored 11 points, back at his 0.7 point-per-game rate from earlier. It’s good to see him rebound. It’s hard to get excited about a 19-year-old not cracking the point-per-game threshold in junior hockey.
Hamaliuk’s statistical and scouting profiles point to someone who is good once the puck is in the offensive zone but who may not be helpful getting it there. His calling cards are his size and strength, which aren’t scouting terms that typically portend high-level success. His second-round draft position and the Sharks’ love of power forwards should provide Hamaliuk ample opportunity. Realistically, his NHL career arc is one of an effective bottom-six player.
Alexei Melnichuk – G
San Jose signed Alexei Melnichuk to a two-year entry-level deal in May this year. The Russian goaltender turned 22 one month later and is poised to play spoiler to the other goaltending prospects in the pipeline.
It’s difficult to get a good read on goalies because there is so little information available about those who do not play in the NHL already. The best approach for Melnichuk might be to compare him to another goaltender whom he followed up the ladder in the St. Petersburg program: Igor Shestyorkin (Shesterkin).
Shestyorkin made his triumphant arrival at the NHL level this season for the New York Rangers as a 24-year-old. Melnichuk served as Shestyorkin’s understudy in the MHL, VHL, and KHL, tracking about two seasons behind Shestyorkin.
For example, Shestyorkin played his first KHL games during his age-17/18 season. Melnichuk didn’t see KHL time until he was 19. Here’s a comparison of the two goalies save percentages in the leagues in which they played the most games in a given season.
Shestyorkin’s save percentages are much stronger than the Sharks’ free agent signing up until this past season.
This year, Melnichuk’s 0.930 in the KHL was very similar to Shestyorkin’s 0.933 during his age-20/21 season. The major difference? Shestyorkin accomplished this while playing nearly twice as many games.
If the Rangers’ new No. 1 didn’t make the leap to the NHL until his age-23/24 season, it’s hard to believe Melnichuk will arrive much sooner. This is a very rough estimate, of course, but if Melnichuk is tracking about two seasons behind his older compatriot, then the earliest we should expect him in a San Jose Sharks uniform is the 2023-24 season.
It’s exciting to have a young goalie with a track record of professional success. If Shestyorkin can be a star in the NHL, maybe Melnichuk can be an average goalie? That’s an ideal situation for an undrafted addition at a position of need.
This series covers 33 San Jose Sharks prospects in total, and doesn’t include 2020 Draft picks.
After this installment, eight skaters — about 25 percent of the total prospect pool — remain. Byron Bader’s database of historical draft picks says about 25 percent of all skaters (no goaltenders included) chosen in the Draft become NHL regulars. That places Bergmann and Hamaliuk right on the cusp of future NHL regular material. Melnichuk is in a different category, but his relatively promising track record and immediate access to the San Jose Barracuda’s crease give him a strong chance, as of this writing, of becoming an NHL regular.
There’s nothing certain about this group of players, but it feels safe to call them future borderline NHL regulars.
Get to Know Thomas Bordeleau
Kyle, Erik, and JD look at San Jose Sharks second-round draft pick Thomas Bordeleau. We dig into his statistical profiling and what draft scouts are saying about him (10:00). Then we talk about what he needs to work on before getting to the NHL (14:00) and compare a hard shot vs. an accurate shot (18:30). We then project his timeline for reaching the San Jose Sharks. Check out the podcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Keep up with all things San Jose Sharks here:
BREAKING: Ivan Chekhovich Will Play in KHL for ENTIRE Season
San Jose Hockey Now has learned that Ivan Chekhovich will skate for HC Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod for the entirety of the 2020-21 KHL season.
Chekhovich will not be returning to North America when 2020-21 San Jose Sharks training camp opens.
The Sharks retain Chekhovich’s rights; this is a full-season loan.
— HC Torpedo (@torpedonn_eng) October 20, 2020
The prospect will attempt to find his game in his native Russia after a difficult 2019-20 with the San Jose Barracuda.
Coming off a 105-point QMJHL campaign in 2018-19, Chekhovich was expected to adjust quickly to professional play. Instead, his production and time on ice sagged in his first full professional season. The 2017 San Jose Sharks seventh-round pick scored just four goals and 12 points in 42 games, and according to InStat Hockey, was San Jose’s least-used forward, averaging under 12 minutes per night.
He was also healthy scratched on multiple occasions, as recently as two games before the pause.
Co-head coach Mike Chiasson revealed on March 7th: “I think it’s a compete thing for him right now.”
Chiasson, on scratching Chekhovich tonight: "I think it's a compete thing for him right now." pic.twitter.com/ZkmVA7OQ0J
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) March 8, 2020
It was truly an up-and-down season for the offensive winger. Despite his general lack of productivity, Chiasson and co-head coach Jimmy Bonneau had praised Chekhovich’s coachability and work ethic in February and January:
Tough year for Chekhovich, but Bonneau thinks he's turning corner: "Instead of accepting getting pinned or falling down in traffic, he's fighting through…Been better on wall in d-zone too. When that happens, icetime goes up. When icetime goes up, confidence usually follows." pic.twitter.com/0IjLbETdDo
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) February 18, 2020
Mike Chiasson did rave about Chekhovich's coachability & work ethic: "Everyone's got their own learning curve. Credit to this kid, he comes in everyday & he works…Hopefully, it's not too much longer, he can start to find his confidence."
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 12, 2020
“I can’t find my game, honestly. It’s not the game I want to see,” Chekovich said candidly in January. “Everybody expects way more from me. It’s kind of pressure.”
So now Chekhovich, like fellow San Jose Sharks prospect Jonathan Dahlen, will get a chance to find his scoring touch at home. Dahlen struggled too in the AHL in 2018-19 before returning home to Sweden to play for Timra IK. After leading Allsvenskan in scoring in 2019-20, Dahlen is on fire once again, putting up 12 points in just 5 games so far this year.
“The idea is to play rather than sit around,” Chekhovich’s agent Mark Gandler told San Jose Hockey Now.