One had to move on, but the series wasn’t pretty in goal.
Corey Crawford had an .878 save percentage, allowing 26 goals in seven games.
Jonathan Quick wasn’t much better at .889 and 23 against, but at least his team advanced to the final and will play for another championship.
Combined, these two have two of the biggest goalie contracts in the league, with Crawford signed for $6-million a season until 2020 and Quick locked up for $5.8-million a year all the way until 2023.
Both have won a Stanley Cup in the last two years.
Neither deserve that kind of commitment.
The thing is, Chicago and Los Angeles are two of the best run teams in the league. They manage their cap well, draft well and have two of the smarter GMs in charge.
But Stan Bowman and Dean Lombardi fell into the trap that remains the biggest pitfall for a manager in the NHL these days and that’s falling in love with a decent goalie to such an extreme that they get one of those enormous deals.
The reality with Crawford and Quick is that they’re fairly close to average starters, overall. The last three years, Crawford has a .913 save percentage and Quick a .919, putting them pretty close to the average of .916 (for goalies with 100 games played in that span).
Save percentage isn’t a perfect stat, but with a sample size of 150 or more games, it gives you a pretty good indication of talent level, at least behind a good defensive team.
There are very few goalies that are able to consistently produce well above average numbers – with Henrik Lundqvist being one – and average performance really shouldn’t cost you a whole lot in cap hit or term.
A good illustration of this is to look back three or four years at who the top goaltenders were. In 2010-11, for example, some of the names up there were Tim Thomas, Pekka Rinne, Roberto Luongo, Jonas Hiller, Cam Ward, Tomas Vokoun, Ilya Bryzgalov, James Reimer and Antti Niemi.
All had save percentages of better than .920.
Three years later, none of those goalies managed that in a year when 17 goalies did, a list that includes random newcomers like Anton Khudobin, Ben Bishop, Frederik Andersen and Ben Scrivens.
All four could be starters next year.
Hiller’s an interesting one to consider, in particular, if we ignore how injuries and age have affected some of the others like Rinne, another goalie on an absurdly long deal. Hiller had some big years for the Ducks, but they didn’t go nuts on a new deal, merely giving him a four-year contract for $18-million that expires this July.
Now they’ve got Andersen and John Gibson ready to take over for dirt cheap, and they could well provide better goaltending than 32-year-old Hiller, whose market value is now limited.
Shorter term bought them flexibility – and they’ll be a better team for it.
The NHL wiped out contracts longer than eight years in the last lockout, but there’s so much unpredictability when it comes to goaltenders that it doesn’t make sense to sign anyone outside of the truly elite more than three or four years if you can help it.
Having a development pipeline in net like the Ducks obviously helps.
The Kings did their deal with the ultra-long-term devil with Quick to keep his cap hit down, and if they can remain an elite team with him in goal, it’ll be hard to quibble with that.
But you look at his postseason this year and have to ask: Is he really driving the bus on those results enough to justify his salary now – never mind in six or seven years?
And if you’re the Blackhawks, could you not use some of Crawford’s contract dollars at other positions – especially when he’s not exactly providing a statistical upgrade over other goalies potentially available this summer for a fraction of his cost?
That’s the trouble with these long goalie deals: More don’t work out than do. Bryzgalov is one example. Rick DiPietro another. And there’s always a few unknowns that show up every year eager to take one of the 30 starting jobs for marginal cost.
Like Dustin Tokarski.