The recent acquisition of P.K. Subban has probably, in many people’s minds, transformed the Predators from an upper-middle tier team to a legitimate cup contender if they weren’t there already. However, there is an elephant in the room: the performance of Pekka Rinne. In the last three years (excluding goalies that have played less than 3400 minutes, which roughly equals 82 games. It leaves 42 goalies, a reasonable approximation of how many above replacement level goalies there are in the NHL at any given time), Rinne ranks 41st out of 42 goalies in adjusted Fenwick save percentage. This stat uses the shot location and type to estimate the result of a replacement level goaltender, and is then compared to the goaltenders actual results. Rinne is one of three goaltenders in this sample that has a negative value, along with Lehner and Scrivens. On the other hand, Martin Jones, whom many people use an example of only needing an average goalie and good defence to be a successful team, ranks 13th in this metric. To that end, it seems like there is some truth to only needing an “average” (in this case, average for an NHL starting goaltender- not to be confused with a replacement level one) goalie. Nashville has two options; try their hand at the trade market, or pick up a low cost, low risk asset from free agency.
Trading for a goalie is a legitimate option this summer. There are a number of teams either trying to shed cap or prepare for an expansion draft next June, which has led to the goalie market being tilted heavily in favour of buyers.
The Predators have roughly 8 million in cap space for 2016-17, and the only significant RFA left for them to sign is Calle Jarnkrok. On the other hand, the Lightning need to clear cap room to sign free agents next summer as well as protect themselves from losing valuable assets in the expansion draft. Vasilevskiy is more than likely the goalie of the future in Tampa Bay, and his performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins probably makes Bishop expendable for the Bolts. Bishop ranks 26th in adjusted Fenwick save percentage over the past 3 years, and has been a Vezina finalist twice. The downside when it comes to acquiring Bishop is that it will cost assets, unlike a free agent, even though he may not be significantly better than some goalies on the free agency market.
Lehtonen is an interesting case. Dallas will definitely be looking to shed salary so they can pick up another goalie as the Finnish tandem of Niemi and Lehtonen was disappointing to say the least in 2015-16. However, Lehtonen’s results the last few years could also be a result of the hyper-aggressive Dallas style, as his adjusted Fenwick save percentage ranks 21st out of 42. Lehtonen could be a good buy low candidate for Nashville.
Free Agent Pickups
There are a number of interesting names still available through free agency, even if they lack the name recognition of those that could be on the trading block.
Calgary picked up two new goalies this summer; Elliott via a trade with St. Louis, and Chad Johnson from free agency. As a result, Ramo is looking for a new home. Ramo isn’t significantly better than Rinne when it comes to stopping shots, as he only ranks 38th in this category, but he would make a serviceable backup and is a low-risk pickup who can show flashes of strong play.
Enroth is a very appealing free agency target, and for my money is the best guy still on the market. The small frame of Enroth has not stopped him from putting up the 20th best adjusted Fenwick save percentage over the past three years. Enroth played exceptionally well for a Sabres team that wasn’t exactly competitive, as well as playing well with the Los Angeles Kings this past season. He won’t command much term or money, and is perhaps the best option for the Predators this off-season.
In terms of conserving assets and looking for the most bang-for your-buck, Enroth seems to be the most desirable goalie available for Nashville this summer. However, even a replacement level goalie will pay dividends for a team that looks to be even better after a massive roster shakeup when they traded Weber for Subban.
Justification for using Adjusted Fenwick Sv% (sourced from Corsica Hockey): http://www.coppernblue.com/2016/1/8/10726308/redefining-average-goaltending-investigating-corsi-and-fenwick-save