After taking a look at this upcoming final and the starting goaltenders, the answer would be a no.
Because if you look at who is left playing that position for the Stanley Cup, Chicago’s Antti Niemi cap hit of $0.827 million and Philadelphia’s Michael Leighton at $0.183 million are at the very bottom of the money-makers.
So what happened to all this high-priced goaltending?
Take a look at the top 26 goaltenders who earned (all 2009-10 cap figures) from a low of $2.2 million (Montreal’s Carey Price and Tampa’s Mike Smith) up to the top two of Henrik Lundqvist ($6.875 million) and Roberto Luongo ($6.75 million). Only 11 made it into the first round of the playoffs.
Of these, only three made it past the second round —Evgeni Nabokov, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Tuukka Rask.
What the two finalists have in common are D-men who are studs, as in Chris Pronger, Brent Seabrook, and Duncan Keith. They can play 30 minutes a game, move the puck quickly out of their own zone, and in Chicago’s case, are more mobile.
With the exception of the ‘Hawks Brian Campbell ($7.14 million), the rest of the defense group's total cost was $12.43M.
Philadelphia spent its money on the back end with Pronger ($6.25 million) and Kimmo Timonen ($6.33 million) gobbling up the majority of the $23.14 million total, and in Pronger’s case, one can see why.
He is a mean piece of business to play against, and maybe the ‘Hawks Dustin Byfuglien will finally have met his match.
But I digress —back to the goalie case.
In the last 20 Stanley Cups, only three goaltenders have won the Conn Smythe Trophy with the most recent being Jean-Sébastien Giguère (Ducks, 2002-03), so if a team is paying the top dollar with the notion that this position will lead you to the coveted Cup, then it isn’t working.
Definitely the position is a key on any team but is it really, if you have built a strong defense around him?
Look at the Red Wings with Chris Osgood ($1.417 million) two seasons ago.
Besides having a strong puck-possession team and gifted offensive forwards, the Wings were anchored by six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom and another key gifted D-man, Brian Rafalski.
Yes, last year’s Cup winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was at a $5 million mark, but look at the Pittsburgh collection of quality D-men that played in front of him —Sergei Gonchar, Brooks Orpik, Hal Gill, Mark Eaton, Rob Scuderi, etc.
Which brings me back to the question: Does a top-dollar goalie assure you of a Stanley Cup?
Maybe the answer is building a strong defense, adding an adequate goaltender (who doesn’t cost you 8-10 percent of your cap), and using the extra monies in other areas?
So Mr. Gillis —with Chicago or Philadelphia's budget-dollar goaltending about to win a Stanley Cup —do you still think that signing Luongo to a 12-year, $64 million extension was a prudent move, when it’s the defense that needs an overhaul?