NHL Finals: High Priced Goalies - a Thing of the Past?

Nucks IceMan@nucksiceman@twitter.comCorrespondent IMay 28, 2010

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 30:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers tends net against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum on March 30, 2010 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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 roundEvgeni 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.

All’s this guy has done in three out of the last five years is take teams to the Cup finals like Edmonton, Anaheim, and now Philadelphia.

He is a mean piece of business to play against, and maybe the ‘Hawks Dustin Byfuglien will finally have met his match.

But I digressback 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 himSergei 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. Gilliswith Chicago or Philadelphia's budget-dollar goaltending about to win a Stanley Cupdo 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?


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