If you are looking to make a trade, no deals are more impactful than those involving netminders. Unless you've got Lundqvist and Rinne on your team, take a good hard look at how you might improve between the pipes.
Two possible "Sell High" candidates include Jonathan Quick and Tim Thomas. Both are noted in Cam's Second Half Stinkers post. It might seem strange to consider, but the potential return could be just what you need going forward.
On the flip side, there are several goalies who have had down seasons, recently hit rough patches, or are otherwise potentially undervalued, that may nonetheless be primed for strong, championship winning finishes. Cam Ward and Antii Niemi are both tabbed by Cam as Second Half Stars, Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller appear to be returning to their All-Star form, an always stout though underutilized Cory Schneider could get moved at the deadline, and Jimmy Howard just saw his value take a hit due to his recent injury. All may be had at a discount.
NOTE: This will be the final month for in-season rankings as next month we'll only have a few weeks left in the regular season schedule. We hope these rankings help you negotiate deals ahead of the trade deadline. Remember: If you're not in 1st place any deal that doesn't get done only helps the #1 team stay ahead of the pack.
Goaltender Rankings -->> Top 30
1. Henrik Lundqvist (1): Last month, I wrote, "The undisputed #1 heading into December, he also posted the #1 best numbers last month. It is no wonder they call him 'King.'" Ditto. Best numbers yet again this month. Barring a catastrophic collapse, the Vezina will finally belong to Lundqvist. If you own him, count your lucky stars.
2. Pekka Rinne (4): An 11-game win streak and a history of finishing strong vaults Rinne into the #2 spot. On the season, has a 2.41 GAA, .924 Save%, and 31 wins (just 1 behind Howard for the NHL lead). He's a workhorse on a defensively-minded playoff team. Hope you acquired him earlier this season during the short stretch in which he struggled because his price is likely prohibitively high at this point.
3. Jonathan Quick (2): Quick maintained his sparkling .934 Save% and actually lowered his GAA from 1.93 to 1.91 last month, however, he's only won 5 of his last 11 starts. Expect Lombardi to be a buyer at the deadline (Jeff Carter?) in order to bolster the team's offence. One word of caution: Quick has a history of fading down the stretch as his numbers have deteriorated after the break in each of the prior three seasons.
4. Tim Thomas (3): Sell Tim Thomas? Are you mad? Perhaps, but here's the facts: Historically, TT is better before the All-Star break (and in the playoffs) than he is after the break. Not sure why, but the trend is clear and his recent struggles again this season are consistent with that trend. Since 12.31.11, Thomas is 7-6-0, with a 2.77 GAA, and .906 Save%. However, coming off a Stanley Cup victory and two Vezinas in three years, there is no doubt that you could land a handsome return if you decide to move him.
5. Marc-Andre Fleury (8): Fleury dropped last month due to the fact that his team "leads" the league in man games lost to injury. Last month, Crosby, Letang, and Staal were all on IR. This month, Letang and Staal are both back and there is an increased chance that Crosby will return (in a few weeks?). Additionally, Fleury's D-corps is healthy, and the best month of his career is March.
Note: Goaltenders are ranked for their expected performance from this point to the end of the 2011-2012 season using standard scoring leagues categories: Wins, GAA, and Save%. Last week's ranking is noted in parentheses.
6. Roberto Luongo (6): His Save% sits at .920 -- slightly above his career average of .919 -- and his early season woes are behind him. Those of you who held on tightly earlier this year, or bought low at that time, are now seeing your investment pay dividends.
7. Jaroslav Halak (12): Halak continues to reap the benefits of playing in Ken Hitchcock's system. His play since Hitch took over has increased markedly, and -- most importantly -- he is now receiving the lion's share of the starts: 9 of the last 13 (nearly 70%).
8. Jimmy Howard (5): Howard gets bumped down a bit due to his injury (broken finger) and the hot play of back-up Joey MacDonald (4 consecutive wins, 1.72 GAA, and .930 Save%). Of course, Joey Mac's solid play may also afford Howard the time to heal up properly, but either way he is going to lose more starts than pre-injury and there will be some question as to how he will deal with playing through a broken digit.
9. Antti Niemi (7): Since January 9th, Niemi owns a 5-6-0 record to go along with a 2.49 GAA and .914 Save%. Not horrible, but nothing to excite his owners. This could provide an opening to acquire a "Second Half Star" (see above). Niemi has an excellent team in front of him, and history is on his side.
10. Tomas Vokoun (10): Just when things were looking up for Vokoun, he comes down with the flu. Since our last Goaltender Rankings, Vokoun's played very well: 6-3-1 with a 1.98 GAA, .938 Save%, and 3 shutouts. He could easily be a few spots higher. Neuvirth is having a horrible year and Braden Holtby just got shellacked by the Sharks. When he's healthy, the crease is his. Just don't have as much faith in the Caps as I do in Vokoun.
11. Cam Ward (18): The #1 selection by Cam for his Second Half Stars post. Over the last four seasons, Ward has posted a 2.75 GAA and .911 Save% before the AS break and a 2.37 GAA and .922 Save% after the AS break. Moreover, his numbers have improved after the break in each of his past four seasons. Since our last Goaltender Rankings, Ward has held true to form with a 7-2-3 record, a 1.82 GAA, and .944 Save% plus 2 shutouts.
12. Carey Price (13): A month ago, when Price was struggling I said, "he has the talent and Montreal has no other options so look for him to play his way out of his funk." And that is exactly what he did. Since that time, Price has gone 6-5-0 with a 1.99 GAA, .931 Save%, and 2 shutouts. Unfortunately, Montreal is 12th in the conference and are as likely to be sellers as buyers come deadline day.
13. Mike Smith (17): I admit that I was slow to come around on Smith. The nightmare of his two sub-.900 seasons in Tampa still haunted me, but there is no denying that he's playing excellent hockey. On Monday, he was named the NHL's #1 Star of the Week after recording 4 wins in 4 starts and posting a ridiculous 0.74 GAA and .975 Save%. Wins will still be hard to come by in the desert, but he makes for an excellent #2 on any fantasy squad.
14. Miikka Kiprusoff (20): Over his last 14 decisions, Kiprusoff is a stout 9-3-2, with a 1.68 GAA and .943 Save%. He's currently ranked 8th overall in standard formats. Although he is likely fully valued by his current owner, Kipper is another potential buy candidate.
15. Jonas Hiller (off): I had Hiller in my Top 10 prior to the start of the season. He may have still had some issues related to his recurring bouts of vertigo and/or it may have just been that he's historically a slow starter, but Hiller has been playing superb hockey again lately. Since last month, he's a sterling 10-2-2 with a 1.83 GAA and .929 Save%. Wow.
16. Kari Lehtonen (15): Lehtonen was one of the Top 5 goalies in the NHL to start the season. Since then, he and the Stars have cooled off and his wonky groin acted up again. Lehto has been better in his return than most seem to think: 2.34 GAA and .919 Save% with 1 shutout. He's a borderline elite talent on a below average team.
17. Ryan Miller (21): Somewhat similar to the situation with Carey Price in that Miller posted significantly improved numbers over the past month: 6-5-0, 2.23 GAA, and .924 Save% plus 2 shutouts and he's also stuck on a team that's mired in the bottom of the standings.
18. Evgeni Nabokov (28): Aside from Lundqvist, no one has been hotter over the past month. Their numbers are almost identical. Lundqvist: 8-4-0, 1.57 GAA, and .946 Save%. Nabokov 8-4-0, 1.69 GAA, and .945 Save%. On a better and/or more predictable team, Nabokov would have moved up even higher. Just never have any idea what Snow & Co. will do.
19. Brian Elliott (11): Elliott continues to perform at a very high level. In the past month, he's posted a 1.69 GAA and .935 Save%. So why drop him 8 spots? Because he is losing starts bigtime to Halak. He's just 3-0-1 in the past 5 weeks!
20. Nicklas Backstrom (16): Not sure what to make of Backstrom. The Wild may move a goalie at the deadline as they have excellent depth at the position. Backstrom has been inconsistent and the Wild are fading, but he was decent over the past month: 2.27 GAA and .918 Save% with 1 shutout. His 2-4-0 record, however, leaves something to be desired.
21. Jose Theodore (25): He's back from IR, and although we only 1 game to work with it was a good one. Theodore stopped 26 of 27 shots to earn the victory. On the season, he's sporting above average ratios of 2.45 GAA and .918 Save%. Should see a very high % of the Panthers starts down the stretch as they battle for a playoff berth.
22. Cory Schneider (24): So much talent, so few starts. Well, that COULD change if he's dealt at the deadline. Schneider is widely regarded as the #1 goaltending talent not yet in a #1 role. His 2.26 GAA and .928 Save% certainly supports that contention, and his numbers from last season were almost identical: 2.23 GAA and .929 Save%. If you own him, hang on. If not, he makes an excellent trade target in keeper leagues.
23. Tuukka Rask (9): Wow. That was an ugly month: 1-3-1, 3.33 GAA, and .890 Save%. The Bruins, as a whole, are going through some doldrums right now. Rask is still a fine netminder, but when you are only getting limited starts and you are not kicking ass when called upon you are going to drop precipitously in the rankings.
24. Ilya Bryzgalov (30): Won't mince words. This year Bryz has been brutal. He's moved up in the rankings, however, for a few reasons: 1) Great goal support, 2) Bobrovsky just collapsed, and 3) He's strung together a series of good starts. Since last month, Bryz is 3-2-0 (in 9 games) with a 1.84 GAA and .931 Save%. I'm not confident in him, but he is playing better and has the support to do well down the stretch...possibly.
25. James Reimer (off): We knew it would take some time for Reimer to shake the rust--and the cobwebs--after his latest "non-concussion" injury, but shake it he has. Since last month, he is 3-3-0 with a 2.49 GAA and .922 Save%. That's significantly better than Gustavsson over the same time period: 3-5-0, 2.66, and .903. Look for Reimer to dominate the crease in Toronto going forward.
26. Martin Brodeur (29): Similar to last season, Brodeur had a poor start to the season but appears to be coming on strong. Maybe it takes the old dog a few months to drop the beer fat and get it in gear? Whatever the case may be, his numbers since last month are very good: 7-3-0, 1.80 GAA, and .925 Save%
27. Jean-Sebastien Giguere (off): Giguere beat out Varlamov for the #1 spot this season. His numbers on the season 2.12 and .924 are similar to what he posted last month: 2.16 and .923, so there is some surprising consistency here.
28. Ondrej Pavelec (27): Pavelec suffered the ignominious distinction of having coughed up the most goals by any netminder in a single game all season when he surrendered 8 to the Pittsburgh Nealkins on February 11th. On the season, Pavelec has been predictably and wildly inconstent posting a 2.78 GAA, .909 Save%, and coin flip record of 20-20-3.
29. Craig Anderson (22): Last month, Andy had just posted Top 5 numbers for the preceding month. Reluctantly, I moved him up, but I'm not surprised to be moving him back down. He's similar to Pavelec -- lots of starts and wildly inconsistent. On the season, Anderson is 26-19-5, with a 2.95 GAA and .909 Save%. Ho-hum.
30. Devan Dubnyk (off): The Oilers are still experiencing their share of growing pains, and Dubnyk is not exempt from them. That said, his last month was encouraging. DD posted a 5-2-0 record and a 2.76 GAA and .915 Save%. Look for Edmonton to shore up its blueline in the off-season, but for now it is perhaps a bit unrealistic to expect much consistency between their pipes. Keeper league owners might check him out as a 2 or 3 type with some upside.