2013 Outlook: For those who hadn't been paying much attention, Jonathan Quick's meteoric rise into the history books as one of the top playoff goaltending performers ever this past postseason may have come as a surprise. For those who have watched his ascension closely, it was plain to see the Connecticut native was something special. For the three seasons starting in 2009-10, Quick improved his season-long ratio stats by leaps and bounds: his GAA went from 2.54 to 2.24 to 1.95 while his SV% went from .907 to .918 to .929. In those first two seasons, he had 10 shutouts total. He added 10 more in 2011-12. Before the 2010-11 season and again prior to 2011-12, the offseason chatter was that he was supposedly set to be in a timeshare with 'future franchise goalie' Jonathan Bernier. There hasn't been much of that chatter this offseason, even as Quick underwent back surgery (he's been cleared to play as of Jan. 8). Meanwhile, the Kings return much of the same roster that just ran roughshod over the league en route to the Stanley Cup. Quick is about as dependable an elite fantasy goaltending option can get, and he should be under consideration as a first-round pick in drafts this season.
2013 Outlook: The NHL's fourth-best GAA (1.97) and SV% (.930), along with the third-most wins (39) earned Lundqvist his first Vezina Trophy in 2011-12, but he's our No. 2 in the ESPN fantasy world looking ahead to the 2012-13 season. (You may have heard something about the guy ahead of him, Jonathan Quick). Still, one can't go wrong with using a high draft pick (even a first-rounder) on the Rangers' dominant netminder, especially now that the team has added Rick Nash to a team that has acquired Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik in recent offseasons. While the firepower up front should help Lundqvist take aim at the league lead in wins, it's the Blueshirts' defensemen (and defensive zone mindset) that will keep those ratios in strong shape. Lundqvist has been remarkably durable over his seven-year NHL career as well, averaging 66 starts per season; that puts him in the range of at least 38 starts in this shortened campaign. With reliable understudy Martin Biron on the roster (and another long postseason run in the Rangers' plans), the team may dial it back a bit for Lundqvist, but that won't keep him from another season amongst the elite fantasy netminders.
2013 Outlook: Rinne didn't quite match his resplendent ratios from 2010-11 (2.12 GAA and .930 SV%), but he did reward the Predators organization after they doled out a massive, seven-year contract to him in November. His 2.39 GAA put him in the No. 14 spot league-wide, while his .923 SV% was good for seventh; add his league-leading 43 wins, and you've got the No. 7 goalie on the Player Rater for 2011-12. The loss of Ryan Suter is big, but the fact that the organization matched the offer sheet on Shea Weber will pay dividends both in solidifying the defensive corps as well as making Nashville an attractive spot for free agents for seasons to come -- after all, who wouldn't want to play on a team with Weber and Rinne for (at least) the next seven seasons? Rinne is one of the goalies in fantasy that can be taken early on in the draft, with his drafter knowing full well that he or she will get legit No. 1 production out of him, despite some struggles (3.08/.897 ratios split) in the KHL during the lockout.
2013 Outlook: Whenever a player's performance is notably different from one season to the next, we're left to wonder which of the two is the 'real' version of that player. This was our puzzle prior to 2011-12, and Howard proved that the all-around elite edition of himself -- with a 2.12 GAA and .920 SV% as evidence -- is the one that we should expect moving forward. The loss of Nicklas Lidstrom will be huge, and the fact that the Wings didn't land Ryan Suter to replace him is disappointing. But this is still a team that figures to be quite strong on both ends of the ice (as long as Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are around), and Howard should retain his spot amongst the No. 1s in fantasy.
2013 Outlook: A reunion with his former coach in Dallas, Dave Tippett, was cited by some as a reason for optimism for Smith's first season in the desert. (And it didn't hurt that Tippett's system has yielded very strong results for goalies in recent seasons). Even so, no one foresaw Smith's exquisite 2011-12 season coming to fruition as well as it did: Smith dropped his GAA from 2.89 to 2.21, and raised his SV% from .899 to .930; he also tallied 38 wins, just two shy of his output from the three seasons prior combined. He got even better in the postseason, with a 1.99/.944 split in taking the Coyotes to the Western Conference final. The Coyotes' future in Arizona is still a matter of some consternation, but on the ice, the team brought back reliable D-man Zbynek Michalek this offseason. It should be another elite campaign for Smith in the fantasy world, but those acquiring him will not be able to wait until the middle of the draft to do so, as they did prior to 2011-12.
2013 Outlook: During the 2011-12 season, the St. Louis Blues had one of the more effective timeshares in recent memory, with Halak and Brian Elliott both winding up as top fantasy performers by season's end. Halak -- who finished sixth amongst goalies on the Player Rater -- had 26 wins in 46 appearances, with a 1.97 GAA and .926 SV%; Elliott (who was the No. 1 on the Player Rater) managed 23 wins in 38 appearances, with a league-leading 1.56 GAA and .940 SV%. Halak was Blues coach Ken Hitchcock's slightly preferred option down the stretch, starting 19 games from February through April to Elliott's 14. Of the two, Halak seems like the better investment option for fantasy owners as the dawn of the 2012-13 season approaches, but Hitchcock has hinted recently that both men will see time (at least in the early going).
2013 Outlook: After a 2009-10 performance where he put up 22 wins in 39 starts, a 1.97 GAA and .937 SV%, Rask was expected to be one of the top netminders for 2010-11 (and many seasons thereafter). Funny thing happened on the way to perpetual Vezina Trophy contention; teammate Tim Thomas emerged as one of the league's top netminders instead. With Thomas entrenched, Rask has been strong as his understudy -- strong enough, in fact, that he has been rostered in most fantasy leagues, as his occasional starts are typically brilliant (2.05 GAA and .929 SV% in 22 of them in 2011-12). With Thomas taking time off in 2012-13 -- a vow he reiterated even after the new CBA was reached -- Rask is bestowed with the Bruins' goaltending crown. The primary question is the Finn's durability: he's battled health issues over the past few seasons, and will be expected to start at least two-thirds of the team's games this season (if not more). But as long as he's on the ice, he's an elite option.
2013 Outlook: There are some future franchise goaltenders who keep the 'future' part of that title in perpetuity (ask Jonathan Bernier). And there are others who get to drop that part, as is the case this season with both Tuukka Rask in Boston and Schneider out in Vancouver. Though nothing is official until Roberto Luongo is shipped off, the Canucks have already inked Schneider to a new three-year, $12 million deal this offseason. In 25 games in 2010-11 as Luongo's backup, Schneider had a 2.23 GAA and .929 SV% -- any team would be happy to have such production out of its impending starter. But in 2011-12, things went even better for the native of Salem, Mass.: in 33 regular-season appearances, he had a 1.96 GAA and .937 SV%. After he supplanted Luongo in the club's playoff series against L.A., he had a 1.31 GAA and .960 SV% over the three remaining contests. Vancouver is moving forward with Schneider as the franchise goalie of the present, and fantasy owners should expect elite production out of him from the get-go.
2013 Outlook: After another solid but unspectacular campaign -- 31 wins in 61 appearances, with a 2.54 GAA and .916 SV% -- landed him in the No. 17 spot on the Player Rater by season's end, it's become apparent that the goalie we saw during the 2009-10 season (and in the Vancouver Olympics in the midst of that effort) was the outlier, not a start of something new. To wit, that season's stats -- 41 wins in 69 appearances, 2.22 GAA and .929 SV% -- are markedly better than his career averages for the other seasons since the lockout -- a little over 34 wins, with a 2.61 GAA and .913 SV%. Miller has remained pretty durable (at least when Milan Lucic isn't bowling him over), and his statistical dependability is worth something in fantasy -- just not a high draft pick.
2013 Outlook: Six seasons as an elite goalie for the Canucks has earned Luongo a ticket out of town, as he's reached a mutual agreement with the club to trade him this offseason; of course, the part where they actually do deal him hasn't happened yet, with the season primed to start on Jan. 19. Though we'll have to wait for Luongo's exact destination, his rumored next stops (primarily, the Panthers and Maple Leafs) both appear to be on the rise offensively. Luongo will miss out on backstopping one of the NHL's elite teams (and the huge win totals that are a result of this), but has proven that he can post great ratios no matter what the team in front of him is doing. Pencil him in as a lower-end No. 1 for 2012-13 if he gets dealt; if not, he'll have limited value as a backup to Schneider.
2013 Outlook: Fleury had an absolute meltdown in the playoff series against Philly this spring -- 26 goals allowed in six games, which led to a 4.63 GAA and .834 save percentage -- and the Pens indicated that fatigue was a factor in wrecking their franchise netminder. Bear in mind that his 64 starts in 2011-12 were similar to his regular season workload the three campaigns prior, and he'd been much better in the postseasons that followed. Whatever the reason, the Pens elected to give Fleury some real competition behind him on the depth chart for 2012-13, trading for the rights to veteran Tomas Vokoun, and inking the veteran to a multi-year deal. When he's on top of his game, Fleury is one of the most valuable goalies in real life and in fantasy, but he's had his struggles, too: a 2.50 GAA and .912 SV% over the past four seasons indicates that there are rough times to go along with the stretches where it seems he can't be beat. To wit, those ratios would've ranked No. 22 (GAA) and No. 30 (SV%) had he put them up this past season. Though he typically racks up the wins as well as just about anyone, those ratios account for two-thirds of his value in ESPN standard leagues. Based upon where he plays -- and those big win numbers -- someone will draft him as a No. 1 in fantasy, ahead of where he should be taken. Don't let that overdrafter be you.
2013 Outlook: One of the NHL's true iron men in the crease, Ward's only extended time off (aside from the lockout) in recent memory came due to a freak injury; in 2009-10, a skate blade caught his leg and he started only 45 games that season. Otherwise, he's been a dependable source of production, especially in leagues that use the 'counting stats' like saves and minutes played. In ESPN standard leagues (with Wins, GAA and SV%), Ward has also excelled, as his high number of starts typically put him amongst the league leaders in Ws, and he's maintained reasonably strong ratios as well. While the 'Canes went through a bit of a rebuilding season in 2011-12, the front office went for the jugular this offseason, trading for Jordan Staal and signing Alexander Semin. More importantly, Carolina's defense will be bolstered by a healthy Joni Pitkanen, who missed the bulk of this past season but returns healthy this fall. Ward should rank amongst the No. 1's in fantasy throughout 2012-13.
2013 Outlook: Just as Jonathan Quick's rise to superstardom during the Kings' Stanley Cup run was not surprising to those who'd been following his exploits closely as fantasy owners the past few seasons, such was the case -- to a much lesser degree, of course -- with Holtby. In 21 appearances during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, he went 14-4-0 with a 2.02 GAA and .929 save percentage; so while the 1.95 GAA and .935 SV% for this past postseason run speak volumes to his ability under pressure, this was foreshadowed by earlier success. Ultimately, Holtby's role specific workload will be determined by new Capitals coach Adam Oates and his staff. However, his work for the AHL club in Hershey during the lockout -- including a 2.14 GAA and .932 SV% -- would seem to indicate that he's ready to be the full-fledged No. 1. He can be drafted as a second-string goalie for fantasy teams, but he could wind up with numbers worthy of a No. 1.
2013 Outlook: Never much of a ratios whiz during his time in Atlanta or Dallas, Lehtonen busted the door down in 2011-12, finishing with a 2.33 GAA and .922 SV%, good for tenth and eighth, respectively, in the NHL. Add his 32 wins into the mix, and you have the No. 10 goalie on our Player Rater for last season. So, the million dollar question is: Was 2011-12 the start of a new trend, or an outlier on the career trajectory? The Stars invested big money on free agents in the summer prior to last season, and most of them return for 2012-13. The club was busy this offseason again, trading away Mike Ribeiro and Steve Ott, but getting Cory Eakin and Derek Roy in return, as well as signing Jaromir Jagr. Cautious optimism is the play here on Lehtonen; draft him as your second goalie and hope for another big year.
2013 Outlook: Price's sparkling new contract he signed this offseason (six years, $39 million) will carry through to the time he's 30, and he has high hopes for his prospects in that time: 'I'm hoping by then to have a couple of Stanley Cups and have a good re-negotiation when I'm 30,' he said thereafter. For 2012-13, fantasy owners will settle for a bunch more regular-season wins. Price saw his GAA, SV%, W's (and shutouts) all go in the wrong direction in 2011-12, and while 26 wins, a 2.43 GAA and .916 SV% aren't too shabby, it's well behind the expectations of elite production that have been established for the former first-rounder after a wonderful 2010-11. Price's 'off' campaign in 2011-12 means that he'll be undervalued for 2012-13; he's got No. 1 upside and should be available later than the rest of the 'tenders in that cohort.