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InGoal 2015-16 Preview: Metropolitan Division

InGoal 2015-16 Preview: Metropolitan Division

Metropolitan

It’s October, which means a new NHL season is beginning. To prepare, the InGoal staff took a deep look at every team’s goaltending situation, from starters to backups to the minors and more. Taking into account both statistical and observational evaluations, we give you a look into what might happen for each team.

The statistics in this series are drawn from War-on-Ice.com. Because every goaltender sees a different amount of time on the power play and penalty kill, we are using 5-on-5 stats only. All save percentage figures are for the 2014-15 season only. Age and contract data are for 2015-16 and beyond.

For those unfamiliar with these stats, Adjusted Save Percentage accounts for some differences in the kinds of shots each goaltender faces, mostly location but also some rebounds and rush chances. High Danger Save percentage includes only shots from the slot. This is the part of adjusted save percentage that appears to predict future performance best and thus may tell us the most about individual goaltenders. More information is available here.

Also check out the season previews for the Atlantic and Central divisions.

Carolina HurricanesCarolina Hurricanes

Cam Ward

Age: 31
Contract Status: $6.3M until 2016
Games Played: 51
Save %: 91.28
Adjusted Save %: 91.14
High Danger Save %: 81.48

31-year-old Ward remains the Hurricanes’ number-one goaltender, but only by the skin of his teeth and Eddie Lack’s recent contract extension casts doubt on how much longer that will be the case. After his previous 6-year deal became something of an albatross around the club’s neck, Carolina will expect a significant improvement in the former Conn Smyth winner’s play if they are to consider offering him a new contract.

With Lack signed, that now seems increasingly unlikely. There are now serious doubts over Ward’s future in Raleigh, with many believing the affable Swede would already be Carolina’s starter were it not for the significant financial investment the franchise have made in Ward

The arrival of David Marcoux as Hurricanes goaltending coach last summer did help Ward’s game recover somewhat, with his brutal 89.81 save percentage and 3.06 goals-against average in 2013-2014 rising to a more respectable 91.04 and 2.40 split last season largely due to a significant improvement in short-handed situations, where Ward’s save percentage jumped by 83.04 to 88.08.

Eddie Lack

Age: 27
Contract Status: $1.15M until 2016
Games Played: 41
Save %: 92.09
Adjusted Save %: 92.43
High Danger Save %: 80.51

Popular netminder Lack arrived in Carolina with a legitimate shot at claiming the Hurricanes’ starting job, and his contract extension seems to now all but confirm it.

After making a strong start to his NHL career in British Columbia, the former Vancouver puck stopper is likely to be given every opportunity during the opening weeks of the new season to properly claim the #1 job, as the Hurricanes look to rebuild following a disastrous 2014-2015 campaign.

Other Options

Veteran Drew McIntyre will be hoping to put some pressure on Ward and Lack after cups of coffee with Vancouver, Buffalo and Toronto during his 11-year professional career, but the Hurricanes cupboard is not overflowing with talent.

19-year-old Alex Nedeljkovic ranked 18th in InGoal Magazine’s Top 50 NHL Goaltending Prospects for 2015-2016, but is still a number of years away from being NHL ready.

Off-season Changes

Acquired from Vancouver for Carolina’s 3rd round pick in 2015 (which became Guillaume Brisebois) and Carolina’s 7th round pick in 2016, 27-year-old Lack has the talent to be the next Hurricanes number one, and his two-year extension suggests Carolina feel he is the netminder they wish to move forward with.

Former backup Anton Khudobin, who showed some promise during the 2013-2014 season, was traded to Anaheim in exchange for defenceman James Wisniewski.

Outlook

The Hurricanes finished rock bottom of the the Metropolitan Division last season, and it’s hard to see much changing this term; but a decision already appears to have been made between the pipes, with Lack now afforded time to settle in to the role of starting goaltender.

Columbus Blue JacketsColumbus Blue jackets

Sergei Bobrovsky

Age: 27
Contract Status: $7.425M until 2019
Games Played: 51
Save %: 92.47
Adjusted Save %: 92.09
High Danger Save %: 82.45

Winner of the Vezina Trophy in 2013, Bobrovsky signed a 4-year contract extension with the Blue Jackets in January, cementing his role as starter until 2019.

The Novokuznetsk, Russia native was one of a number of injury casualties Columbus suffered last season, missing a total of 23 games as the organization dropped out of the playoffs. But the 27-year-old has back-to-back 30-win seasons and can be among the game’s best puck stoppers when on form.

Bobrovsky’s influence is particularly critical to a team who gave up 250 goals last season, the third worst record in the league behind Buffalo and Toronto.

Curtis McElhinney

Age: 32
Contract Status: $800K until 2017
Games Played: 32
Save %: 91.29
Adjusted Save %: 91.03
High Danger Save %: 79.81

Journeyman McElhinney did enough in the 32 NHL games he played last season to convince Blue Jackets’ General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen to re-sign him to a new 2-year contract this summer.

The 32-year-old has proven to be a solid depth goaltender over the years, and continues to strive to improve his game, with the London, Ontario native noticeably sharper last season.

Other Options

Anton Forsberg impressed for Springfield in the AHL last season, but struggled in his five NHL appearances for the Blue Jackets, going 0-4-0 with a 86.58 save percentage and 4.69 goals against average. The Swede remains highly rated however, and another strong season in the AHL will put him in a good position to compete for the backup role moving forward.

Oscar Dansk on the other hand seems to have lost his way somewhat. The 31st overall pick at the 2012 NHL Draft struggled to make the transition from junior hockey to the professional ranks, posting mediocre numbers for Springfield and the ECHL Kalamazoo Wings. The 21-year-old will play for Rogle BK in the Swedish Hockey League this season.

Off-season Changes

Dansk’s decision to move back to Sweden will have been a disappointment for an organisation that had high hopes for the 21-year-old, but the Blue Jackets’ lack of major changes between the pipes is not a bad thing with an established starter, solid backup and top prospect in the system.

Outlook

If Bobrovsky remains healthy and McElhinney continues to provide strong relief performances, goaltending is one area Columbus should not have any worries about heading into the new season.

New Jersey DevilsNew_Jersey_Devils

Cory Schneider

Age: 29
Contract Status: $6M until 2022
Games Played: 69
Save %: 93.44
Adjusted Save %: 93.36
High Danger Save %: 85.44

Schneider started a franchise-record 28 straight games to begin the 2014-2015 campaign, finally playing a career high 69 games for the Devils as they finished 21 points short of a wild card berth.

The 29-year-old posted impressive numbers despite the heavy workload though, and represented one of the few high points in an otherwise forgettable season that led to a number of front-office changes in New Jersey this summer.

While the organization still has some way to go to be a serious contender again, in Schneider they do have one of the game’s best starting goaltenders.

Keith Kinkaid

Age: 26
Contract Status: $725K until 2017
Games Played: 19
Save %: 93.70
Adjusted Save %: 93.39
High Danger Save %: 88.76

26-year-old Kinkaid was solid while backing up Schneider last season, going 6-5-4 with a 91.47 save percentage. But the Farmingville, New York native still does not seem to have truly cemented his place as the Devils’ backup goaltender, and it’s hard to envisage New Jersey ploughing forward with the Union College Dutchman alumnus should Schneider go down.

Other Options

Veteran Yann Danis has struggled to secure a regular NHL job, but may get an opportunity with the Devils if Kinkaid falters.

Moving forward, Barrie Colts netminder Mackenzie Blackwood is expected to become an NHL goaltender in the future. Blackwood slipped to 42nd in this summer’s Draft, but possesses good size, standing at 6’4″, and excellent positioning.

Off-season Changes

Bereft of goaltending depth, adding Danis gives New Jersey options, but it is the selection of Blackwood that gives Devils fans something to look forward to in the future, and perhaps the next real challenger to Schneider as #1.

Outlook

Schneider is likely to play 65+ games again this season, though Kinkaid did enough to show he can spell the Massachusetts native when required, which should allow Schneider some additional R&R time this year.

New York IslandersNew_York_Islanders

Jaroslav Halak

Age: 30
Contract Status: $4.5M until 2018
Games Played: 59
Save %: 92.26
Adjusted Save %: 92.65
High Danger Save %: 86.71

Halak recorded a career high 38 wins for the burgeoning Islanders last season, giving the franchise something it had been sorely lacking since Rick DiPietro’s injury woes set in – a bona fide number one.

Stellar through November, the former Montreal and St. Louis stopper also impressed against Washington in the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals.

Thomas Greiss

Age: 29
Contract Status: $1.5M until 2017
Games Played: 20
Save %: 92.21
Adjusted Save %: 92.03
High Danger Save %: 85.58

29-year-old Greiss signed as a free agent after stints with Pittsburgh, Arizona and San Jose.

In 89 NHL games, Greiss has gone 36-30-11 with a 91.3 save percentage and 2.47 goals against average but really seemed to establish himself as a strong NHL backup goaltender during his season with the Coyotes.

Talented enough to push Halak, Greiss should be capable of stepping in when the Slovak needs a break.

Other Options

Montreal native Kevin Poulin was signed to a new 1-year deal over the summer, as the club hoped to turn early promise into something more tangible, but after being claimed off waivers by Tampa Bay opportunities may come for recent arrival Christopher Gibson, while Stephon Williams is considered to be a good prospect – though he is more likely to spend the year adjusting to the pro game after a strong final year with Minnesota State.

Update: The Islanders claimed Jean-Francois Berube off waivers. Selected 95th overall by the Los Angeles Kings at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Berube played 52 games for the AHL Manchester Monarchs last season and looks set to fill the hole created by Poulin’s departure.

Off-season Changes

Neither Chad Johnson nor Michal Neuvirth was truly convincing in the backup role for New York last term. The Islanders brass will hope Greiss can offer number-one Halak a little more support, and in turn a little more respite as the club seeks to make a strong start to life in Brooklyn

Outlook

A strong goaltending tandem will be key to the Islanders progress. While Halak may not truly be among the game’s elite, at his best he can seem unbeatable and, with Greiss, should give the Islanders a solid footing between the pipes.

New York RangersRangers

Henrik Lundqvist

Age: 33
Contract Status: $8.5M until 2021
Games Played: 46
Save %: 92.99
Adjusted Save %: 92.34
High Danger Save %: 83.20

What is there to say about Henrik Lundqvist that hasn’t been said before? One of the game’s elite puck stoppers, the 33-year-old gives the Rangers a chance every single night and has proven to be one of the best big-game players in recent history.

Despite missing 24 games with a throat injury, the veteran Swede still led New York to the Eastern Conference Finals last season and is a difference-maker in the ultra competitive Metropolitan Division.

At this point in his career, the only surprise may be that Lundqvist has never had a 40-win season.

Antti Raanta

Age: 26
Contract Status: $750K until 2016
Games Played: 14
Save %: 94.21
Adjusted Save %: 93.97
High Danger Save %: 90.43

The Rauma, Finland native publicly aired his frustrations about his time in Chicago earlier this summer, making his first season on Broadway all the more interesting.

An unrestricted free agent next July, Raanta put up a solid 20-9-5 record in two years with the Blackhawks and had given up less than two goals per game on average last season before losing his place to Scott Darling.

With strong numbers, his frustration at losing out to Darling is partly understandable, but that very public outburst has put him under the microscope heading into the new campaign.

Other Options

29-year-old Cedrick Desjardins begins his second season with the organisation, but is yet to build on the six NHL games he played whilst with Tampa Bay. Magnus Hellberg also had a cup of coffee with Nashville but the Rangers strength in depth comes from prospects such as Brandon Halverson and Mackenzie Skapski.

Off-season Changes

After an impressive run during Lundqvist’s absence, the Rangers cashed in on Cam Talbot, trading the 28-year-old to Edmonton, and brought in Raanta to back up the Team Sweden #1.

Outlook

Lundqvist’s injury may have proven to be the best thing for the club’s long-term aims last year, with the break allowing New York’s veteran starter to enjoy a prolonged period of rest seldom seen in previous campaigns.

Raanta offers a solid second option for the Rangers.

Philadelphia FlyersFlyers

Steve Mason

Age: 27
Contract Status: $4.1M until 2017
Games Played: 51
Save %: 94.37
Adjusted Save %: 94.11
High Danger Save %: 84.81

Philadelphia may have missed the playoffs last year, but you’d be hard pressed to lay any of the blame at Mason’s feet. The Oakville, Ontario native was one of the few highlights of an otherwise forgettable campaign for the Flyers; his somewhat strained relationship with former Head Coach Craig Berube was one of the low points.

Opting to play Mason when he was supposed to be recovering from injury proved a step too far for former goaltending coach Jeff Reese, who parted company with the organisation, ending a fruitful partnership with Mason which saw the former Blue Jackets puck stopper resurrect his crumbling career.

How Mason gels with new goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh and new bench boss Dave Hakstol could be key to the Flyers future.

Michal Neuvirth

Age: 27
Contract Status: $1.625M until 2017
Games Played: 32
Save %: 92.45
Adjusted Save %: 92.27
High Danger Save %: 84.47

One of the few plus points in Buffalo’s otherwise forgettable 2014-2015 season, former Capitals netminder Neuvirth struggled after being traded to the Islanders, but provides a strong backup option for Philadelphia.

A little on the small side for modern NHL goaltenders, standing just 6’1″, Neuvirth possesses good speed which helps in his recovery, but has sometimes lacked the consistency to be an NHL starter. Nevertheless, he is talented enough to push Mason and create some competition between the pipes.

Other Options

Veteran Rob Zepp remains in the system, but 6’6″ Anthony Stolarz, a 2nd-round pick in 2012 (45th overall), may get a look if he impresses for the AHL Leigh Valley Phantoms this season.

Felix Sandström ranked fourth in InGoal Magazine’s Top 5 Eligible Goaltenders for 2015 NHL Draft, eventually going to Philadelphia in the 3rd round (90th overall), while fellow prospect Matej Tomek was signed to the University of North Dakota by Hakstol before the 47-year-old took the reigns behind the Philadelphia bench.

Off-season Changes

Neuvirth signed a 2-year, $3.25 million deal with the Flyers this summer, after Ray Emery and Rob Zepp struggled to provide adequate cover for Mason.

Outlook

Mason’s improvement since arriving in Pennsylvania has been noticeable, moving from the scrap heap to starter’s role in the space of two seasons. Separating Mason from Jeff Reese could be significant, but Neuvirth’s arrival should at least give the Flyers a stronger second option this term.

Pittsburgh PenguinsPittsburgh_Penguins

Marc-Andre Fleury

Age: 30
Contract Status: $5.75M until 2019
Games Played: 64
Save %: 92.64
Adjusted Save %: 92.85
High Danger Save %: 83.78

Consistently one of the NHL’s best regular-season goaltenders, Fleury also went some way to repairing his battered post-season credentials last term, posting a 92.67 save percentage and 2.12 goals-against average as Pittsburgh were eliminated by the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Quarter Final.

It was a timely effort from the 30-year-old, who was the target of trade rumours prior to signing a four-year contract extension last November.

Jeff Zatkoff

Age: 28
Contract Status: $600K until 2016
Games Played: 1
Save %: 93.33
Adjusted Save %: 96.45
High Danger Save %: 100

28-year-old Zatkoff played just 36 minutes for the Penguins last season, but Thomas Greiss’ departure gives the Detroit native a second bite of the cherry having previously served as backup in 2013-2014.

Zatkoff previously went 12-5-2 for the Penguins, shutting out Columbus but failing to find consistency as Fleury’s deputy.

Zatkoff becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Other Options

21-year-old Matt Murray was the standout netminder in the AHL last season, posting superb numbers for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. But with just one year’s pro experience to his name, Pittsburgh opted to exercise patience with the Thunder Bay native.

Off-season Changes

The Penguins brass preferred to bring Zatkoff back in to the fold, rather than promoting Murray, when the dependable Greiss left via free agency.

Outlook

Pittsburgh secured the second, and final, wild card spot last season – and while their offence has improved, the club still lacks depth and will lean on Fleury to compensate for some of these weaknesses.

Washington CapitalsWashington_Capitals

Braden Holtby

Age: 26
Contract Status: $6.1M until 2020
Games Played: 73
Save %: 92.94
Adjusted Save %: 92.66
High Danger Save %: 86.86

No netminder started more games, faced more shots or made more saves than Braden Holtby last term, and the 26-year-old seemed to thrive with the heavy workload – though whether that is sustainable over the long term remains to be seen.

Signing a new 5-year contract this summer, Holtby also excelled in the post season and must surely be among the game’s top puck stoppers at this point.

Phillip Grubauer

Age: 23
Contract Status: $750K until 2017
Games Played: 1
Save %: 94.44
Adjusted Save %: 96.03
High Danger Save %: 100

After a series of fleeting appearances during the past three seasons, 23-year-old Grubauer looks set to capture the backup role this term.

After signing a 2-year extension this summer, the German international has a high ceiling and will need adequate playing time to continue his impressive progression – though this may suit a Capitals side unlikely to want Holtby to continue to play 70+ games per season.

Other Options

Justin Peters will get the chance to compete with Grubauer at camp, but seems likely to join fellow veteran Dan Ellis in the AHL this year. The pair provide useful depth should Washington run into injury trouble.

Top prospect Ilya Samsonov is signed to Magnitogorsk of the KHL for the next three years, allowing the 18-year-old time to develop in one of Europe’s top leagues before heading to North America.

Off-season Changes

Inking Holtby to a significant extension locks up the Capitals crease for the foreseeable future, with Grubauer seemingly in position to make a more serious foray into the NHL.

Outlook

Holtby has steadily become one of the league’s most reliable puck stoppers, and with Grubauer offering a stronger second options than Peters was able to last season, Washington looks solid between the pipes this term.

About The Author

Rob McGregor

A member of the InGoal Magazine family since 2014, Rob is also Media Manager for the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) in the UK and a former goaltender in Great Britain's third tier National League (NIHL).