Goofy goalie market bodes well for Sens

Stevie Y traded some significant assets for Nashville goalie prospect Anders Lindback the other day – not a bad return for Dave Poile, considering Lindback is a former 7th round pick. Lindback is a big guy (almost as big a Ben Bishop) and has played a combined 38 games in the NHL to date with good numbers, albeit in a terrific defensive system. And so the assumption is that he is ready to carry a team on his own.

This strikes me as flawed logic, but it’s about as conventional a concept as you’ll come across in today’s NHL. We’ve worked up a narrative: a club will have a veteran starter and a young backup. When the backup has a few good games – let’s say he hits 20 games played in a season – the analysts start talking about him being ready to be a starter, and how the club has a decision to make. This creates a little bit of drama to write around, an excuse to use the term “goalie controversy,” and subsequently a market for this new “starting” goaltender.

My fundamental skepticism is derived from the notion that playing a game every other week isn’t the same as playing 60+ games in what seems like the most psychologically demanding position in professional sports. There are plenty of examples of these young goalies being handed the keys to a franchise only to flounder.

Toronto traded for Calder-winning Andrew Raycroft, and immediately signed him; despite a bad season, he had hardware to his name, and was considered not only a solid prospect, but a goaltender young enough to provide stability in the position for a decade. After Raycroft bombed out, the club traded 1st and 2nd round picks to San Jose for Vesa Toskala, with hilarious results. Toskala’s numbers playing behind Nabokov in San Jose were very respectable, but he was considered sub-replacement level with the Leafs.

Mike Smith was traded from Dallas to Tampa Bay after being mentored by Marty Turco, and was a central asset in the package that brought Brad Richards to Dallas. Smith was treated as the solution to Tampa’s longstanding problems in net. (As Lindback is now treated.) The irony being that the most stability the franchise has enjoyed in years was due to a 42 year old Dwayne Roloson standing on his head. Mike Smith was unceremoniously released, and signed on the cheap in Phoenix.

Josh Harding in Minnesota has had trade rumors around him for years, but a few key injuries kept other teams from biting. Likewise, goalies are being mentioned in several of the potential packages for Rick Nash, and I pity to poor soul who gets traded to Columbus and billed as the team’s savior in exchange for their franchise player and captain. Columbus is likely to trade their best player for tomorrow’s Josh Harding.

And it’s not just the desperate clubs, without UFA options or prospects. Some go so far as to call Vancouver’s Cory Schneider not only a starting goaltender, but an “elite” “franchise” player. He played 33 games this season, a career high, with very good numbers. But how does he fare playing twice that, in a market that expects to win a Cup? You can say a lot about Luongo and that terrible contract, but he’s a starting goaltender, and probably top ten in the league. To me, it’s just nuts to think that he’ll be traded for next to nothing when Schneider seems as much as a risk and can probably yield you much more in a trade.

So what does all of this have to do with Ottawa? Well, the Sens are in the relatively novel position of having some prospect depth in net. The club has two exciting young netminders in Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner, and has stated that they intend to draft another goalie this year. And while I’m usually one to go with quantity when it comes to goaltenders, I have to wonder if the market for prospects is getting too good to pass up.

Let’s say this season gets off to a poor start, and Ottawa looks like it will miss the playoffs. (We’ll have plenty of season prediction posts in due time, but it should be evident if you’ve read my soapboxing that I think this is likely.) Bishop is right on the cusp of being considered one of those goaltending prospects just waiting to become a starter. With nothing to lose, the club could get him his experience and drive up his value. In the offseason next year, with Bishop still an RFA, any number of teams who feel they were one quality save away from being where they wanted to be gets a phone call. Could Murray turn the 2nd rounder he gave up for Bishop into something much better, or even make Bishop the cornerstone of some silly package for next year’s Rick Nash?

And then there’s Lehner, who is younger than Bishop but entered some elite company after winning playoff MVP on last season’s Calder Cup winning Binghamton team. I’d hate to see him go, but his stock is definitely on the rise.

Goaltending is so fickle that it’s hard to understand why GMs risk any amount of money or picks on supposed “sure things.” I’d feel about as comfortable heading into a season with a mix of three or four cheap veterans and prospects as I would with an anointed starter on a big ticket contract. But the offseason is here, and GMs are about to get nutty. Ottawa would do well to exploit the panic of others.

4 thoughts on “Goofy goalie market bodes well for Sens

  1. I’ve been thinking about this myself lately (yeah that’s right I can think all by myself!). Though the always loony tunes market could potentially be exploited by dealing one their goalies, if it were up to me (STAY TUNED TO SEE IF THAT HAPPENS!) I would definitely hold steady with the backstops. I think the Sens are in a great position but far from “deep” in net.
    They have a solid, proven starter on contract with Anderson. That’s good (and rare). They have a fantastic AHL goaltender who’s earned his way up and looked awesome in limited starts but still has yet to prove himself in the NHL as backup. Finally, the Sens also possess a very good, raw and very young talent in the minors. To me this looks like the ideal position that any club would want to be in at all times in regard to goaltending.
    I mean if we’re going to talk about plugging holes in the roster this off season, one of the biggest gaps we saw last year was how much Ottawa lacked when it came to reliable backup net minding. Craig Anderson aint going to be able to play all the games every year. As a fan, I absolutely hated watching the pretty much guaranteed losses when Auld would get a rare start. The Sens need a chance when Andy has a night off and it looks like they have that now. We also saw how goaltenders do get injured and how quickly your season could go down the turlet if you are not prepared for this.
    I hear what you’re saying about “selling high” like in the case with Corey Schneider but for me, if Ben Bishop is amazing, I want him playing for the Ottawa Senators. How formidable have the Boston Bruins been the past few seasons with Thomas / Raask? We could have a nice thing going like that in Ottawa. Andy for the next season or two with Bishop on the bench, Lehner playing dominant, FULL SEASONS in Binghamton until further notice.
    Case for Lehner’s development: Bishop is a half decade older than Lehner and is just now cracking an NHL roster. I think because Lehner is brash, incredible at twitter, has played memorably in some NHL games and looks like Odin in goalie equipment that we as fans have become too caught up (read: Impatient) with when he will make the full time roster. I would not be opposed to Lehner spending even a couple more seasons in Binghamton if it means he will be a better NHL goalie. Despite what ROBIN LEHNER HIMSELF says about what’s best for his development, if he is in fact an NHL goalie at age 20 he should be able to put together a dominant season (or TWO) at the AHL level. I’m sorry but a championship playoff followed by a brutal losing season shows me he still needs some time. But the key thing is, we all KNOW he has it. The problem is he does too a little bit. Rather than sell off a valuable asset at one of the hardest/weirdest positions to draft, I say hold on to the power and options. I think that during this rebuild this team needs to keep growing more than it needs to start dealing. Just because Malcolm Subban (who I got the pleasure of seeing the 67s LIGHT UP a number of times last season) went to the Olive Garden with Pierre Dorion and the Sens are “definitely” drafting a goalie at some point this year (as they should every year) has much in the way making an exceptional impact on helping Ottawa get any stronger in net than dealing high ceiling players they have already invested time and money into would.

  2. If Malcolm Subban gets drafted by Ottawa I will not only support but headline the “Get Subban sponsored for Adidas” campaign, in which him and his brother will make rival videos every month to prove that one is better than the other. Upon completing this campaign, P.K will realize that Ottawa is a greater and safer place that Montreal, (the last riot I saw here was when Maroush downtown stopped serving garlic potatoes in which I started the great potato coalition of 2011, no casualties) and will opt for a trade. Kovalev will try to convince P.K not to do it, Malcolm will get upset, and we’ll all have something to blog about.

    In all seriousness though, I’d draft Malcolm just for that security in the future, if the price is right (GREAT SHOW. CLASSIC.) Like worsteverything said, I cringed when Auld got the random starts and would make bets accordingly until we’d get scored on. I’d love to be safe than sorry, but if we’re put in a position to draft a top 6 forward then I’m all in for that.

    Ricky: Why bother with a couple of shit sticks when you can have the whole shit trawler?
    Mr. Lahey: Nice shit analogy Rick.

    Can Friday come any quicker?

  3. Pingback: Senators News: June 19th | eyeonthesens

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