San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov was a victim of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
First of all, these playoffs allowed Nabokov to once again show he’s not a big-game goalie. He just wasn’t very strong.
But also, watching goalies like Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo fail to carry their teams had to register with Sharks GM Doug Wilson.
This year’s playoffs saw some once-anonymous goalies get hot while the big goalie names were merely mortal.
So I’m sure Wilson did the math and realized that an average playoff goalie and a diminished need for a big-name goalie means Nabokov just isn’t worth the money he wants.
I don’t think this is about ability, so much as it’s about money. I suspect a lot of GMs are looking at what happened in this year’s playoffs and are wondering how much sense it makes to commit a lot of money to the goalie position, no matter the ability of the goalie.
The fact that Nabokov has struggled so much under the spotlight of important games makes the decision not to re-sign him a lot easier.
Obviously, it’s very early to tell, but I’m wondering if the future of NHL goaltending is quantity over quality. Rather than invest a lot of money in one player, I’m curious if teams will try and use a greater number of goalies, starting whoever’s hot and/or healthy.
It worked for Philadelphia, who lost about ten goalies to injury, but managed to make it to the Finals on the strength of solid-if-not-spectacular goaltending. And the money the Flyers weren’t spending on goaltending could be put into the defensemen and forwards.
Of course, the Canadians famously traded Jaroslav Halak to put all of their eggs in the Carey Price basket.
On the one hand, that’s the NHL tradition: investing in just one strong, number one goalie.
On the other hand, that could represent the new NHL way: the Habs appreciate Halak’s playoff work, but don’t want to spend a lot of money when they might be able to support Price with more disposable goaltending, the theory being a cheap and solid goalie is better than an expensive and extraordinary one, from a salary cap perspective.
And with all of the free agent goaltending available, there should be a lot of reasonably-priced talent available for the Sharks.
The final test of if NHL teams are adjusting the weight attached to the goaltending position will be to see if Nabokov is signed by another NHL team and how much money he gets.
I’m guessing if another team re-signs him, it’ll be for less than the $5.4 million he made this season.
I’m also guessing they might view Nabokov as more of a regular season option than a strong post-season one.