2013 Outlook: Backstrom is a few seasons removed from the last time he was an elite fantasy netminder -- specifically, the 2008-09 campaign where he posted 37 W's, a 2.33 GAA and .923 SV% -- but perhaps he's got one more strong season left in him to welcome Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and some of the Wild's impressive array of young prospects into the organization. To be clear, Backstrom's 2011-12 wasn't awful by any means: his 2.43 GAA put him in the No. 19 slot in that category, while his .919 SV% landed him in the No. 13 spot there. If he stays healthy -- a big 'if,' especially considering his plans to play in the KHL during the lockout were thwarted by another lower-body injury -- he's got No. 1 upside, and will be available on draft day as a No. 2.
2013 Outlook: Injuries and inconsistency plagued Varlamov throughout his tenure with the Washington Capitals, though there was always that brilliant talent lurking just below the surface. Varlamov was on the ice for 53 games in 2011-12 -- nearly doubling his career appearances from the three seasons in D.C. -- and while his overall numbers weren't outstanding (26 Ws, a 2.59 GAA and .913 SV%), he was a monster down the stretch. From Feb. 11 through the end of the season (a run of 22 games), Varlamov posted a 1.87 GAA and .934 SV%, while picking up 12 wins. Can he put together a full season (or at least 35 games or so, during this shortened season) like that? It's unclear, based upon what we saw with the Capitals; then again, in 16 games for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in the KHL this season, he went 8-4-3, with a 1.74/.943 ratios split. He's a player who will be available as a No. 2 in fantasy that may well end up amongst the No. 1's by season's end.
2013 Outlook: It was unlikely that Anderson's first full season as an Ottawa Senator would match the ridiculous rate at which he started his tenure in Canada's capital; after being traded from the Avalanche during the 2010-11 campaign, he managed an 11-5-1 record in 18 starts, with a 2.05 GAA and .939 SV%. He didn't come close to matching that pace in 2011-12, ending up at 33-22-6, with a 2.83/.914 ratios split. Anderson dialed it up in the Sens' seven-game series against the Rangers, improving his marks to 2.01 and .933. But for our regular-season fantasy purposes, his projection puts him smack in the middle of the No. 2s, with a chance that he'll end up near the lower end of the No. 1s if things fall the right way.
2013 Outlook: After leading the Devils to the Stanley Cup finals this past postseason amid rampant retirement rumors, Brodeur gave the team's fan base a considerable scare as it was announced that he would explore his value on the free agent market. A few tense days later, he was back with the only team for which he's played as a professional and ready for another run in 2012-13. Brodeur's play this postseason -- which generated ratios of 2.12 GAA and .917 SV% -- are all the more impressive considering his regular-season figures were 2.41 and .908, respectively. Furthermore, while he appeared as good as ever on some nights, he looked befuddled on other occasions, and gave up a significant number of starts to Johan Hedberg. Seeing as we're projecting fantasy value just for the regular season here, Brodeur finds himself amidst the fantasy No. 2s heading into 2012-13.
2013 Outlook: An early-season hot streak by veteran Nikolai Khabibulin delayed Dubnyk's ascension to the No. 1 role in Edmonton, but inevitably, that streak came to an end and Dubnyk took his rightful place. Dubnyk remained fairly consistent throughout the campaign, but did ramp up his play after the All-Star break; in 24 appearances down the stretch, he improved his GAA from 2.87 to 2.48 and his SV% from .910 to .919. Looking ahead to this season, the Oilers added another No. 1 pick this offseason on offense, and at some point, this club will transmogrify into a monster of offensive production; on defense, there is still something to be desired. Nevertheless, Dubnyk has been productive with the current group of blueliners, and that trend should continue; now with all the offensive firepower on the other end, he should pick up more wins. He can be drafted as a No. 2 but has the chance to be a lower-end No. 1 this season.
2013 Outlook: One of the more impressive young goalies to watch on the ice -- as well as one of the more frustrating to own in fantasy -- Pavelec has signed on for five more seasons with Winnipeg. Overall in 2011-12, Pavelec produced 29 wins in 68 appearances, with a 2.91 GAA and .906 SV%. But that doesn't tell the whole story (and here's where the frustrating part comes in): in 36 games played at home, he went 19-12-4, with a 2.47/.917 split; his 32 appearances on the road produced a 10-16-5 record, with a 3.42/.895 split. The Jets invested in some offensive help this offseason -- adding veterans Olli Jokinen and Alex Ponikarovsky -- so Pavelec has the chance to pick up a few more wins. Whether he can solve whatever produced that blatant home-road discrepancy will determine if he makes the jump to lower-end No. 1 status in fantasy or remains with the No. 2s.
2013 Outlook: Though his overall numbers have been good in two seasons in San Jose -- 35 wins, a 2.38 GAA and .920 SV% in 2010-11; 34 wins, a 2.42 GAA and .915 SV% in 2011-12 -- Antti Niemi's had more streaks than an improperly cleaned window. For those who play in a head-to-head format, this can be exceptionally frustrating, as he'll fall off a cliff with no prior warning -- meaning he's on the active roster for a bad game or two before he can be benched -- and manage to climb back up fairly quickly as well -- meaning he's still sitting on the bench when he posts that 32-save shutout. In roto format, this is less of an issue. With a similar team hitting the ice for the Sharks in 2012-13, Niemi's fantasy value is influenced by which style of scoring your league uses -- a potential low-end No. 1 in roto; he's more in the 15-20 range for H2H.
2013 Outlook: Elliott was probably the biggest surprise of the entire 2011-12 season, at least from the fantasy angle. Undrafted in most leagues, he finished as the league leader in GAA (1.56) and SV% (.940), also winding up as the No. 1 overall fantasy commodity on ESPN's Player Rater by season's end. The big question, of course, as the 2012-13 season approaches is whether Blues coach Ken Hitchcock will continue to run a timeshare with Elliott and Jaroslav Halak. Elliott didn't suffer a meltdown on the level of Marc-Andre Fleury in the playoffs, but he did come back to Earth, posting a 2.38 GAA and .904 SV% in eight games played, and generally looking less confident in the crease than he had in the regular season. If that leaves a bad taste in Hitchcock's mouth, Halak may be given an edge in their relative starting frequencies (and pushing Elliott's value down). For now, it appears that both men will have a shot, but their early work could have a bigger impact given the shorter season.
2013 Outlook: The fans in Philly were pretty jazzed up about their team's prized acquisition prior to the 2010-11 season; Bryzgalov had put up a 2.54/.917 ratios split over four seasons with Phoenix, along with 32.5 wins per season in the desert. For a team that'd been searching for stability in the net ever since Ron Hextall's final season, Bryz seemed like a fine solution, and he came with an outsized personality to boot. Unfortunately, Bryzgalov has also had a penchant for letting in untimely (and sometimes questionable) goals in recent campaigns, something that became ever more present in 2011-12. Of course, we in the fantasy realm don't always concern ourselves with how a player generates his stats, just that they're effective. When it comes to goalies, as long as a guy is performing well -- and not in danger of losing his job due to untimely or soft goals -- we're in. Bryz did appear to lose part of his grip on the starting gig in Philly this past season, but a 33-win season (with 2.48 and .909 as his final ratios) isn't too shabby. During the lockout, a failed stint in the KHL -- he was demoted to third-string prior to leaving CSKA Moscow -- is disconcerting, but not the end of the world, as others struggled in that spot too. For 2012-13, the pressure isn't off him in the least; but at least in the fantasy realm, he'll be going later than last season in drafts, so the expectations won't be so astronomical.
2013 Outlook: In need of an upgrade in the crease this past offseason, the Lightning acquired Lindback, the latest in a long line of impressive netminders developed by the Predators. The Swede allowed 32 goals in 16 appearances for Nashville last season, posting a 2.42 GAA and .912 save percentage, considerably better than what Tampa Bay got from Dwayne Roloson, Mathieu Garon or Dustin Tokarski. It would stand to reason that he'll be the undisputed starter at the outset of the season, but it remains to be seen what effect Guy Boucher's system has on those figures. What we do know is that the Lightning should continue to be one of the league's top-scoring teams, giving Lindback the opportunity to rack up some wins if he can handle things on his end. He'll be available as a No. 2 in fantasy drafts, but could wind up as a low-end No. 1 if things fall right.
2013 Outlook: Harding had a choice this offseason: explore the uncertain waters of free agency and hope to find himself a No. 1 gig somewhere, or re-sign with the Wild knowing that veteran Niklas Backstrom had just one season left on his contract, and had battled a series of injuries in recent seasons. Harding elected to go with Door No. 2, and his faith paid off as Minnesota also reached new contracts with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter this offseason. As the projected understudy -- or, at best, part of a timeshare -- there is a ceiling on what Harding will accomplish in 2012-13, and thus, a ceiling on his value in fantasy. For now, he slots in as a rotational option, with No. 2 upside. For those in keeper leagues, that value is slightly higher, as his anointing as the No. 1 for 2013-14 is all but official. Though Harding has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he intends to manage the disease and continue his career.
2013 Outlook: Prior to the start of the 2011-12 season, Hiller's projections were shrouded in mystery: would he be the elite version we'd seen at times in the past, or would his continued battle with vertigo rob him of his talent on the ice, both in a real-world and fantasy sense? While Hiller was able to start a whopping 73 games for Anaheim this past season, it appeared that he was still getting his bearings between the pipes. His 2.57 GAA ranked No. 25 in the league by season's end, and his .910 SV% was No. 32. And unlike some of the other high-usage netminders -- who have jacked-up win totals as a result -- Hiller managed just 29 W's. Though Hiller is now further removed from his vertigo problems, Anaheim has not made any notable improvements this offseason and Hiller did not sign to get work with any team overseas, so it's hard to project major improvement.
2013 Outlook: Crawford has been a frustrating player to own in fantasy leagues recently. It's been a lot of high highs and low lows, which is maddening when consistency is the name of the game for players chosen to round out a goalie rotation. The Blackhawks made a run at Martin Brodeur this offseason, and while some believe this could shatter Crawford's confidence, the more likely scenario (had they landed the veteran) is that it would have been a timeshare situation (as it was in the Chicago nets in 2011-12 with Ray Emery). Looking ahead, Crawford is still fairly young -- he turned 28 on Dec. 31 -- so there may still be some room to grow for the Montreal native. The 'Hawks hope that the No. 50 they saw in March and April is the one that'll take the ice in 2012-13; for fantasy owners, he's too risky to be a surefire starter, but if he's still on the board as a third option, he's well worth taking in that spot.
2013 Outlook: The Columbus Blue Jackets were in the hunt for a new starting goaltender this past offseason, which led to fervent rumors that they were going to be in the mix for Roberto Luongo, Jonathan Bernier and others. Instead, they landed Bobrovsky, and while he may not have the resume of Luongo or the pedigree of Bernier, there is reason to believe he can deliver (at least better than the gents the team has been trotting out in recent seasons). Bobrovsky's rookie campaign ended with 28 wins in 54 appearances with a 2.59 GAA and .915 SV%; some believed he was robbed of being named a finalist for the Calder Trophy (as rookie of the year) that season. The playoffs following that campaign bore witness to a bit of a meltdown for Bobrovsky, however, and the Flyers signed Ilya Bryzgalov to be their new starter. Given what 'Bob' was able to accomplish over in the KHL during the lockout -- where he posted an 18-3-2 record, along with a 1.94/.932 ratios split for SKA St. Petersburg -- it appears that he's gotten his mojo back. Though he may well rank high amongst the No. 2's in fantasy by season's end, and his price tag will be that of a No. 3 on draft day. Strike accordingly.
2013 Outlook: The Panthers were the No. 1 team in ESPN's organizational rankings list -- which was based upon depth of developmental talent -- heading into 2011-12, and Markstrom was a big part of the reason why. In 2009-10, he led the Swedish Elite League in GAA (2.01) and SV% (.927), and turned 20-years-old during the course of that campaign. For those who keep abreast of the top goaltending prospects, his performance in 2011-12 (including a 2.66 GAA and .923 SV%) wasn't a huge surprise, and now that he's recovered from another knee injury, he's looking good to go for the start of the 2012-13 campaign. The only problem: Jose Theodore has another season on his contract, Scott Clemmensen was re-signed this offseason, and Florida is one of the teams rumored to be in the Roberto Luongo trade market. All of this means that Markstrom is likely sticking with San Antonio of the AHL -- where he's been putting in good work during the lockout -- unless or until one of the vets ahead of him gets injured.