Are Goalies Worth Elite Pay?

Are Goalies Worth Elite Pay?

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Gerry Broome - ASSOCIATED PRESS

Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward's new contract, worth an average of $6.3 million per year, starts this season.

Cam Ward now with second highest Cap Hit for goalies in NHL

The goalie position has taken a bit of a hit this offseason around the NHL.  Once dubbed the "most important position in all of sports", some teams now appear to be satisfied settling for lower cost options rather than paying for the best goaltender available.

Of course the salary cap is a bit of the driver here as teams struggle to stay under the cap maximum, or within budget limits, but several clubs seem to be making an intentional decision to go cheap in net, regardless of the cap.  Did the postseason success of teams like Montreal, Philadelphia, and Chicago change the way NHL general managers rank the importance of the position?

Stanley Cup finalists Philadelphia and Chicago both made it to the promised land with less then heralded goalies, Michael Leighton and Antti Niemi, in net.  Both goalies were considered second stringers earlier in the season and were making close to minimal salaries.

The Montreal Canadiens rode the hot hand of another backup goalie, Jaroslav Halak, all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.  But rather than pay the goalie a raise this summer to keep him in the fold, they traded his rights to St. Louis instead.

After another disappointing playoff performance, San Jose allowed long time goalie Evgeni Nabokov to sign in the KHL.  Now they are supposedly going with Tampa Bay's part-timer last season, Antero Niittymaki at a fraction of what they previously paid Nabokov.

Other teams who were counting on their higher paid netminders for success ended up leaving the playoffs early or not making the postseason at all.  Henrik Lundqvist, Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Miikka Kiprusoff, Nicklas Backstrom, and Ryan Miller, among the highest paid goalies in the league, each failed to either make it to the postseason, or play deep into the playoffs.

Perhaps the big money is better spent elsewhere?

The Carolina Hurricanes will not be one of the teams who are going cheap in net.  As a matter of fact, they have already committed to going the opposite way.  Cam Ward's new six year contract kicks in this season and his cap number of $6.3 million is the second highest for a goalie in the entire league.

While a couple goalies have longer term deals, only one is making more on average than Ward.  The following list is from NHLNumbers.com.

 

 

Ward has certainly made a name for himself regarding postseason play as he is undefeated in game seven's, has won a Conn Smythe, and has backstopped a Stanley Cup Championship, but so far he's been less than consistent during the regular season and has yet to be nominated for a Vezina, which is one of the stepping stones to being considered an elite goalie in the league.

Now that his cap number puts him in elite status, it is more important than ever that he performs like one of the best goalies in the league during the coming regular seasons.  Being a smaller market team, the Canes take in less income than many of their counterparts and hence are usually a budget minded franchise.  Each contract is very important and they need maximum value for every dollar spent. 

Teammate Eric Staal sometimes faces criticism because his results are not deemed to be worth his $8.2 million dollar cap hit.  Will Ward face the same scrutiny?

Last season was an injury riddled fiasco and one the goalie would probably rather forget.  His 18 wins placed him at 28th in the league, his .916 save percentage was 14th best, and his GAA of 2.69 was rated at 26th in the league.

The previous year would probably be a better measuring point.  In 2008-09, he won 39 games which was third most in the league, his save percentage was .916, again at 14th best, and his GAA was 2.44 ranked at 12th in the league.

In order to be nominated for a Vezina, he probably needs to have all of those stats be in the top five in the league.

This coming season will be a big one for Ward.  Not only will he need to be more consistent, improve on his numbers, and steal a game for his club once in awhile, (zero shutouts last season), he will also have to prove that he can play the majority of the season and stay injury free.  Now with two separate reported episodes of "back pain" on his resume, trainer Pete Friesen will be watching him closely.

Will Cam Ward and his highly compensated fellow thoroughbreds in the NHL dominate and return the goalie position to being known as "the most important position in all of sports", or will the lesser known and lower paid netminders rule the roost again this season?  

If you were a GM, who would you put on your team?

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Cam's contract

As the new contract kicks in, it does provide one season of ramp-up relief.

Although Cam’s cap hit of $6.3M ranks him second, only behind King Henry’s $6.875M and just slightly ahead of Ryan Miller’s $6.25M, his cash flow hit for this season is not quite so lofty.

Sorting by goalie position and ‘10-’11 salary (not cap hit), slots Cam at #12 among the NHL goalies under contract for next season.

It’s the following season, ‘11-’12, in which his contract mirrors his cap hit at $6.3M, moving him rapidly up the list to #3 that season, behind only Lundquist and Luongo (assuming that contract is allowed to stand).

Cam’s definitely Ryan Miller good, which I’m sure was used in determining his contract.

And, despite the need for certain GM’s to “go cheap” in the goalie department in a salary-cap world (especially one where they may have made some bad decisions elsewhere within the budget), I think your goalie is still going to be a huge factor in just how far you go in a season…especially once the second season begins.

Here we are now...entertain us.

by Elsker on Aug 16, 2010 8:49 AM EDT reply actions  

by the time his cap hit and salary match themselves, i dont htink he will be #3 anymore. with the way signings are happening. we shall see

"a bit of love"

by chrisj on Aug 16, 2010 9:40 AM EDT up reply actions  

Excellent post Bob! I for one think Cam is worth pretty much whatever it takes to keep him at this point in his career. He’s a beast in the playoffs and can win games we don’t have any business winning. Obviously we would all like to see his regular season play improve, but I think the biggest reason Cam doesn’t have numbers like some is because of our defense. IMO, if we had a big, bad, stay-at-home d-man to help Timmy out, it would likely make Cam’s job much easier.

I’ve been re-watching games from this past season and it seems like Cam was left out to dry on his own far to often. If we had a defense that was Blackhawk-like, I’m convinced a healthy Cam Ward would be a standout in the league every year…

by caniac4ever on Aug 16, 2010 8:57 AM EDT reply actions  

Agree but no easy to get that stay at home d-man when money is shelling out to a goalie w/ a bad back that “needs” this D-man to be a star and a Captain who ’needs" a binky to achieve his elite status….

by max creek on Aug 17, 2010 12:15 PM EDT up reply actions  

Very Good Bob

While i too may think that Cam Ward does need to step it up a notch or 2, but we fans must never forget, that a goalie is only as good as those who are back there with him helping him…and last year several goals during the dreaded slump were preventable IF again I say IF Cam ward get beter support from the D squad…but that is another topic for another day…but to answered Bob’s questions of Who I’d chose IF I was a GM ?? I’d look at several of the AHL premire goalies and see what they have,what they did …again I’d looking to see & not necessarily actively shopping…:-}

And if it Aint Hockey,It Aint Nothin !! That Checkers 3rd Sweater ROCKS !!!

by CaniacSteve on Aug 16, 2010 9:34 AM EDT reply actions  

Wardo

Cam Ward is worth every dollar they pay him. He is at his best in the playoffs . People forget that he put the ’Canes on his back and carried them to the Eastern finals in 2009. No Carolina fan will forget his play in the 2006 Cup run. He is capable of putting up 50 regular season wins with a solid D to play in front of him (unlike last year where the D and lack of forward support left him in a shooting gallery).

The 2010 finals were a bit of a fluke. If Leighton had played better (especially in Game 1) they would have the Cup on Broad Street. Chicago’s goalie was not much better. In the long run, goaltending wins championships ….. plus Wardo is a solid team guy. You never hear about him creating an issue in the lockerroom.

by JohnSS on Aug 16, 2010 10:05 AM EDT reply actions  

Cam Ward is worth every dollar they pay him. He is at his best in the playoffs . People forget that he put the 'Canes on his back and carried them to the Eastern finals in 2009.

Gotta disagree with this. Clutch goals carried us to the Eastern Conference finals. Cam played well, but I don’t remember him carrying the team. I do remember him being part of the total team meltdown in the ECF though.

Cam has the potential to be one of the elite goaltenders in this league, I expect and hope him to live up to his new contract extension. Certainly part of his numbers being down last year were the weak ass defense we had in front of him for the better part of the year. Cam was sidelined by injuries by the time the team started playing better.

by Iggy Reilly on Aug 16, 2010 10:38 AM EDT up reply actions  

I also disagree that Cam was a victim of the defense last year. Was he “left out to dry” by the defense? On occassion, yes. Every goalie is, regardless of the “big, bad, stay-at-home d-man” in front of them. Last year there were many occassions where the D did it’s job, and Cam left them out to dry. Cam has to pick up his game and show he’s worth his money, consistently. We enjoy poking fun at Brodeur, but he has stood up for a long time, and you rarely, if ever, hear him blaming his defense. Cam needs to reach that same consistency for us to be successful.

by ncyankee on Aug 16, 2010 11:01 AM EDT reply actions  

Not blaming all his troubles last year on the D, but come on, it was miserable for the first few months.

by Iggy Reilly on Aug 16, 2010 11:04 AM EDT up reply actions  

Yeah, but so was he.

by ncyankee on Aug 16, 2010 3:00 PM EDT up reply actions  

Fair enough if you see it that way.

I think you’re giving the D way too much credit but /shrug

by Iggy Reilly on Aug 16, 2010 3:01 PM EDT up reply actions  

A great goalie is like a good starting pitcher in Baseball. They give your team a better chance at winining each and every game.

Given our lack of investment at other positions, it seems logical the ’Canes would spend money on a backstop that gives our team a better chance of winning.

Bob’s statistics show that you can win the ‘Cup without an ’Elite’ goal tender, however how many ’Cups would NJ have won without Martin Brodeur?

by Mullett on Aug 16, 2010 11:33 AM EDT reply actions  

Cam.....

has a few things he needs to work on, but the new belief that you really don’t need a great Goalie is not his fault. At the time this was signed, this looked like a decent deal, especially considering JC himself could have come down from the Heavens and offered to play goal for a dollar and JR would have still said Cam was better. Ward = Fleury right now. He is better than Niemi and, keep in mind I have been a critic too, I believe he has better upside that Marc Andre. I think he has peaked, Wardo can still get better.

He needs to be come a better one on one goalie, he looks freaking lost in shoot-outs. He also has to stop having the " Cam Ward Shutout "(Where he allows an extremely soft goal at some point in the game but nothing else). I think these things can come with age.

I think he is worth the money, especially considering the Org was going to spend it on him any way.

it always burns within the downward spiral never ends when driven into sin your salvation's found in a sinner's deed

by Douchebag St John on Aug 16, 2010 11:59 AM EDT reply actions  

I’ll start by saying that I’m a huge Cam fan. I love to watch goalies, and Cam doesn’t disappoint when it comes to amazing saves. I’ve been saying for a while that Cam could be in the top five goaltenders in the league. He has the talent. Better than Fluery – without a doubt. Better than Miller – not yet., in my opinion I dread when they head into a shootout. Does anyone have stats on his career with shootouts? I’d be interested to know if my concerns are all perception or reality. I believe he is worth the money and wouldn’t trade him for anyone. BUT, just like our other star needs to work on faceoffs, Ward needs to practice shootouts. Perhaps Jussi and Cam should spend some quality time together. I just hope he can stay healthy so he can live up to his potential because this team needs an elite goaltender to win championships.

by sunshine12 on Aug 16, 2010 12:43 PM EDT up reply actions  

Stat

I believe this is it:

http://www.nhl.com/ice/app

by Go_Shelf on Aug 16, 2010 1:52 PM EDT up reply actions  

That’s one of those Java pages, or something like that, so doubt we can provide direct links to the sorted results.

But, if you click on Stats at NHL.com, and then Individuals, you get a very useful table that allows filtering, via the drop down menus (so you can select categories like Years=2009-2010 and Position=Goalie and Report=Shootout).

Then the top of each data column is a link that will sort the entire list by that column if you click on it.

So, having done all of that, we see that Cam is ranked 40th among NHL goalies in shootout save percentage at 0.600 (with 10 shootout shots taken for 25th among goalies on shots faced).

Here we are now...entertain us.

by Elsker on Aug 16, 2010 2:14 PM EDT up reply actions  

oops, that right. I did notice the stat, not very good.

by Go_Shelf on Aug 16, 2010 2:47 PM EDT up reply actions  

Just to throw my opinion in…I really think Cam is a goalie that is essential in winning in the playoffs. I don’t necessarily think that his regular season stats are going to jump leaps and bounds (and I also think he needs to split more time playing with Peters) but he takes his performance level output during the playoffs and just plays at a whole new level. Also in regards to his performance last year I will blame most of it on the defense. I mean look how awfully Leighton played with us last year. NO one assumed that when he went to another team that he would actually play well and well guess what? When he got a stellar defense in front of him he backstopped the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals.

by rabidwolf123 on Aug 16, 2010 12:01 PM EDT reply actions  

Is Cam Ward worth elite pay?

In a word, HELL YEAH.

I guess technically that’s two words.

Phoblographer and Finn Aficionado SISU

by LTD on Aug 16, 2010 12:01 PM EDT reply actions  

I have always been amazed that everyone here seems to be more apologetic for Ward’s shortcomings, but very critical of Staal’s by comparison.

 The Goalie position is such that a bad day for a goalie is almost always a loss, where as a bad day for any skater, be it your star captain or your 4th line winger, can be overcome by another skater rising to the occasion.

I have often felt this organization has been too high on Cam, and that it may be there eventual undoing…….

by wylde4canes on Aug 16, 2010 12:05 PM EDT reply actions  

I have always been amazed that everyone here seems to be more apologetic for Ward's shortcomings, but very critical of Staal's by comparison.

That is an interesting observation because I think you are right. There are a ton of Ward apologists out there and Staal does seem to get the short end of the stick…well the shortest end that any player gets on a board for dedicated homers.

I wonder why that is the case. Perhaps it is the sympathy and empathy one can get from such a stand alone position. Even the most novice fan could see how God awful our D has been the last few years. I have a hard time holding Wardo responsible for a lot of that, and I feel like I have higher expectations than most.

it always burns within the downward spiral never ends when driven into sin your salvation's found in a sinner's deed

by Douchebag St John on Aug 16, 2010 1:49 PM EDT up reply actions  

“well the shortest end that any player gets on a board for dedicated homers”. Great line.

I agree, he didn’t have horrible numbers for a losing record, he actually kept his SA% the same as the year before, which kind of says he was about the same. The difference being the GAA which is usually thought of as a team stat.

by Go_Shelf on Aug 16, 2010 2:05 PM EDT up reply actions  

GAA.....

Can be completely misleading. Its not always a Team stat, but it can be. This year it was completely a team stat. In the first two months of the season Cam was the lone shining star. He save % at one point was .92something…..on a team that was in the midst of what would be come a 14 game losing streak. That says A LOT.

it always burns within the downward spiral never ends when driven into sin your salvation's found in a sinner's deed

by Douchebag St John on Aug 16, 2010 5:25 PM EDT up reply actions  

I guess you and I have different memories about last year. I remember Cam coming in from the Team Canada tryouts injured, and struggling to start the year. He was symptomatic of the team’s problems, not the exception to them.

by ncyankee on Aug 16, 2010 5:45 PM EDT up reply actions  

Thru the first 8 games of the season Cam was at a 0.922 sv %. This was four games in to the 14 game losing streak. His numbers dipped from there as he got rode out for every game.

Is it possible to be addicted to hockey?

by C-Leaguer on Aug 16, 2010 5:58 PM EDT up reply actions  

Thru the first 8 games of the season Cam was at a 0.922 sv %. This was four games in to the 14 game losing streak. His numbers dipped from there as he got rode out for every game.

I knew I could count on " Captain Stat " to verify my facts. I will be using your own facts against you in a later argument however…..

it always burns within the downward spiral never ends when driven into sin your salvation's found in a sinner's deed

by Douchebag St John on Aug 16, 2010 6:07 PM EDT up reply actions  

The Canes struggled to score goals during some of their worst play; and it is hard for any NHL team to consistently win scoring one or two goals. I do agree, however, that Ward was struggling physically during much of the year.

by abramsdoug on Aug 16, 2010 11:01 PM EDT up reply actions  

It’s because Staal doesn’t move his legs in an animated motion to give an appearance of fast skating while actually moving at 2/mph, like Chad LaRose. It’s the same reason people hate Pitkanen. If Cam Ward had the same stats while simply standing idly in net and nonchalantly gloving point-blank one-timers out of the air, he’d be “lazy” too.

by Kahz on Aug 16, 2010 1:50 PM EDT up reply actions  

Effort, character, how much fun they appear to be having at practice and how often they smile >>>> results on the ice. The cardinal rule of Carolina Hurricanes fandom.

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