Assessing Metropolitan Division Goalie Tandems For 2020-21 NHL Season

Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NHL’s free agency period has seen a number of moves involving goalies, and many of those signings have come in the Metropolitan Division.  Several teams have young netminders with bright futures ahead, some moved to solidify their tandems, and others locked in extensions for players they see as their long-term netminders. NoVa Caps takes a look at the projected goalie tandems for all eight teams in the division for the upcoming season.

Rankings

  1. Columbus Blue Jackets

2019-20 tandem save percentage: .917 (Elvis Merzlikins: .923, Joonas Korpisalo: .911)

After losing Sergei Bobrovsky in the 2019 offseason due to free agency, the Blue Jackets’ young tandem shined in 2019-20 as Korpisalo played solid in his first season as the starter, going 19-12-5 with a .911 save percentage, a 2.60 goals-against average, and two shutouts in 37 games. At five-on-five, the 26-year-old posted a .926 save percentage, a 2.09 goals-against average, a 5.28 goals-saved above average, a .835 high-danger save percentage, a 1.10 high-danger goals-against average, and a 2.15 high-danger goals-saved above average, according to Natural Statrick. He also recorded an .875 save percentage on the penalty kill last season. Korpisalo went 3-5 with a .941 save percentage, a 1.90 goals-against average, and two shutouts during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

When Korpisalo missed nearly two months of the 2019-20 season due to injury, Merzlikins shined after a slow start to his NHL career. In 33 games during his rookie season, the 26-year-old went 13-9-8 with a .923 save percentage, a 2.35 goals-against average, and five shutouts. After Korpisalo went down, Merzlikins went 13-5-4 with a .935 save percentage and a 1.97 goals-against average. He posted a .931 save percentage, a 2.14 goals-against average, a 9.63 goals-saved above average, a .845 high-danger save percentage, a 0.99 high-danger goals-against average, and a 3.39 high-danger goals-saved above average. Like Korpisalo, Merzlikins posted an .874 penalty-killing save percentage in 2019-20. In two Stanley Cup Playoff appearances, Merzlikins went 1-1 with a .946 save percentage and a 1.96 goals-against average.

There have been rumors that the Blue Jackets could deal one of their young goaltenders for a forward before the 2020-21 season starts. Korpisalo will likely be the one moved if they do in fact trade a goalie.

Other goalies in the system:

  • Matiss Kivlenieks, 24: 9-8-3, .904 save percentage, 2.96 goals-against average, one shutout in 24 games with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters and 1-1-2, .898 save percentage, 2.95 goals-against average in six games with Blue Jackets in 2019-20
  • Veini Vehvilainen, 23: 10-18-4, .901 save percentage, 2.76 goals-against average, three shutouts in 33 games with Monsters in 2019-20 and 1-2-0, .870 save percentage, 3.67 goals-against average in three games with SM-liiga’s JyP HT Jyvaskyla in 2020-21
  • Daniil Tarasov, 21: 11-17-9, .899 save percentage, 2.72 goals-against average, one shutout in 41 games with SM-liiga’s Assat Pori in 2019-20

2. New York Islanders

2019-20 tandem save percentage: .929 (Semyon Varlamov: .924, Ilya Sorokin: .935 in KHL)

The Islanders’ goalie tandem once again exceeded expectations in 2019-20 after losing Robin Lehner in free agency thanks to the good work of “goalie guru” Mitch Korn, the team’s director of goaltending. Varlamov shined in his first season on Long Island, where he went 19-14-6 with a .914 save percentage, a 2.62 goals-against average, and two shutouts. At five-on-five, the 32-year-old posted a .924 save percentage, a 2.26 goals-against average, a 5.27 goals-saved above average, a .827 high-danger save percentage, a 1.39 high-danger goals-against average, and a 1.02 high-danger goals-saved above average. He recorded an .875 save percentage on the penalty kill last season. During the Islanders’ run to the Eastern Conference Final, Varlamov went 11-7 with a .921 save percentage, a 2.14 goals-against average, and two shutouts.

Sorokin, 25, was selected 78th overall by the Islanders in the 2014 NHL Draft and went 26-10-3 with a .935 save percentage, a 1.50 goals-against average, and nine shutouts in 40 games with the KHL’s CSKA Moscow last season. He has recorded a save percentage of at least .929 and a goals-against-average of 1.61 or better in each of the past five seasons in the KHL.

The Islanders’ back-up netminder, Thomas Greiss, signed a two-year contract that carries a $3.6 million cap hit with the Detroit Red Wings as an unrestricted free agent earlier this week. New York signed Schneider for the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers for some insurance with a rookie back-up projected to be on the roster this season.

Other goalies in the system:

  • Jakub Skarek, 20: 3-10-1, .888 save percentage, 3.27 goals-against average, one shutout with Soundtigers and 3-9-2, .879 save percentage, 3.73 goals-against average with ECHL’s Worcester Railers in 2019-20
  • Corey Schneider, 34: 3-6-2, .887 save percentage, 3.53 goals-against average, one shutout with Devils and 7-7-0, .903 save percentage, 2.71 goals-against average with AHL’s Birmingham Devils in 2019-20

3. New York Rangers

2019-20 tandem save percentage: .921 (Igor Shesterkin: .932, Alexander Georgiev: .910)

After posting a save percentage no lower than .933 save percentage and no higher than a 1.69 goals-against average in each of his final three seasons in the KHL, Shesterkin shined to start the season with the AHL’s Hartford Wolfpack, where he went 17-4-3 with a .934 save percentage, a 1.90 goals-against average, and three shutouts before getting called up to the big club. In 12 games with the Rangers, the 24-year-old impressed as well, going 10-2-0 with a .932 save percentage and a 2.52 goals-against average. During his brief NHL stint during the regular season, Shesterkin posted a .931 save percentage, a 2.44 goals-against average, a 4.19 goals-saved above average, an .857 high-danger save percentage, a 1.38 high-danger goals-against average, and a 3.05 high-danger goals-saved above average at five-on-five. On the penalty kill, Shesterkin recorded a .915 save percentage. He stopped 27 of 30 shots faced in his lone Stanley Cup Qualifier start this past August.

Georgiev went 17-14-2 with a .910 save percentage, a 3.04 goals-against average, and two shutouts in 34 games in 2019-20. At five-on-five, the 24-year-old posted a .918 save percentage, a 2.64 goals-against average, a -0.80 goals-saved above average, an .828 high-danger save percentage, a 1.42 high-danger goals-against average, and a 0.80 high-danger goals-saved above average. On the penalty-kill, Georgiev posted a .887 save percentage.

The Rangers bought out the final year of Henrik Lundqvist‘s contract at the end of September.

Other goalies in the system:

  • Adam Huska, 23: 11-8-6, .894 save percentage, 3.03 goals-against average with AHL’s Wolfpack and 1-2-0, .943 save percentage, 2.04 goals-against average with ECHL’s Maine Mariners in 2019-20
  • Tyler Wall, 22: 18-8-6, .931 save percentage, 2.10 goals-against average, two shutouts with H-East’s UMass-Lowell in 2019-20
  • Keith Kinkaid, 31: 1-1-3, .875 save percentage, 4.24 goals-against average with Montreal Canadiens and 5-8-4, .900 save percentage, 2.84 goals-against average with AHL’s Laval Rocket/Charlotte Checkers in 2019-20

4. New Jersey Devils

2019-20 tandem save percentage: .916 (MacKenzie Blackwood: .915, Corey Crawford: .917)

After 17 years in the Chicago Blackhawks organization, Crawford signed a two-year contract that carries a cap hit of $3.9 million with the Devils after the teams’ .9008 team save percentage in 2019-20 was 19th in the NHL last season. Crawford went 16-20-3 with a .917 save percentage, a 2.88 goals-against average, and one shutout during the 2019-20 regular season. At five-on-five, the 35-year-old posted a .926 save percentage, a 2.50 goals-against average, a 7.52 goals-saved above average, a .864 high-danger save percentage, a 1.42 high-danger goals-against average, and a 13.19 high-danger goals-saved above average. Crawford recorded a .853 save percentage while shorthanded last season. After testing positive for COVID-19, he went 4-5 while posting a .907 save percentage and a 3.31 goals-against average in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In his rookie season, Blackwood was solid as he went 22-14-8 with a .915 save percentage, a 2.77 goals-against average, and three shutouts. The 23-year-old posted a .926 save percentage, a 2.44 goals-against average, an 8.41 goals-saved above average, a .870 high-danger save percentage, a 1.00 high-danger goals-against average, and a 12.44 high-danger goals-saved above average last season. Blackwood recorded .864 shorthanded save percentage during his rookie season.

They bought out the final two seasons of Schnieder’s contract prior to free agency.

Other goalies in the system:

  • Sean Giles, 24: 17-7-2, .901 save percentage, 2.77 goals-against average, one shutout with AHL Birmingham and 0-1-0, .902 save percentage, 3.42 goals-against average with Devils in 2019-20
  • Evan Cormier, 22: 2-8-1, .883 save percentage, 3.70 goals-against average in 11 games with AHL Birmingham and 3-5-6 with .885 save percentage, 3.50 goals-against average, one shutout with ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder in 2019-20
  • Scott Wedgewood, 28: 13-8-2, .893 save percentage, 3.01 goals-against average, one shutout with AHL’s Syracuse Crunch

5. Washington Capitals

2019-20 tandem save percentage: .909 (Ilya Samsonov: .913, Lundqvist: .905)

The Capitals made a huge change in the goal crease as salary cap considerations forced them to part with unrestricted free agent Braden Holtby, who signed a two-year contract that carries a $4.3 million cap hit with the Vancouver Canucks. Washington then signed Lundqvist, who ranks sixth on the NHL’s all-time wins list (459), to a one-year contract worth $1.5 million, to team with Samsonov. While facing an average of 33.2 shots-per-game, the 38-year-old netminder recorded a .917 save percentage, a 2.62 goals-against average, a -1.19 goals-saved above average, a .850 high-danger save percentage, a 1.43 high-danger goals-against average, and a 5.27 high-danger goals-saved above average at five-on-five in 2019-20. He also posted a .839 save percentage on the penalty kill. In 30 regular-season games this past season, Lundqvist went 10-12-3 with a .905 save percentage, a 3.16 goals-against average, and one shutout. In two Stanley Cup Qualifier games, he stopped 64 of 71 shots faced (.901 save percentage).

Samsonov, 23, shined during his rookie season as he went 16-6-2 with a .913 save percentage, a 2.55 goals-against average, and one shutout, but he faded at the end as he went 1-4-1 with an .873 save percentage and a 4.11 goals-against average after the All-Star break. At five-on-five, Samsonov posted a .927 save percentage, a 2.15 goals-against average, a 4.34 goals-saved above average, a .835 high-danger save percentage, a 1.27 high-danger goals-against average, and a 1.51 high-danger goals-saved above average. He also recorded an .874 shorthanded save percentage. Samsonov missed the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs due to a tweaked nerve but it is expected to be ready for action at the beginning of next season.

Other goalies in the system:

  • Vitek Vanecek, 24: 19-10-1, .917 save percentage, 2.26 goals-against average, two shutouts with AHL’s Hershey Bears in 2019-20
  • Pheonix Copley, 28: 17-8-6, .905 save percentage, 2.47 goals-against average, two shutouts with Bears in 2019-20

6. Philadelphia Flyers

2019-20 tandem save percentage: .907 (Carter Hart: .914, Brian Elliott: .899)

The Flyers have one of the best young goalies in the NHL in Hart, who went 24-13-3 with a .914 save percentage, a 2.42 goals-against average, and one shutout in his sophomore season. At five-on-five, the 23-year-old posted a .920 save percentage, a 2.26 goals-against average, a 1.15 goals-saved above average, an .835 high-danger save percentage, a 1.21 high-danger goals-against average, and a 2.56 high-danger goals-saved above average. While shorthanded, Hart recorded an .849 save percentage. During the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he went 9-5 with a .926 save percentage, a 2.23 goals-against average, and two shutouts.

The Flyers re-signed goaltender Brian Elliott to a two-year contract extension that carries a cap hit of $1.5 million before the 35-year-old was set to hit the unrestricted free-agent market. Elliott went 16-7-4 with an .899 save percentage, a 2.87 goals-against average, and two shutouts during the 2019-20 regular season and 1-1 with a .911 save percentage and a 2.15 goals-against average in three Stanley Cup Playoff games. While playing at five-on-five during the regular season, Elliott posted a .908 save percentage, a 2.66 goals-against average, a -6.63 goals-saved above average, an .806 high-danger save percentage, a 1.56 high-danger goals-against average, and a -3.14 goals-saved above average. Elliott recorded an .840 save percentage while on the penalty kill.

Other goals in the system:

  • Alex Lyon, 27: 11-14-5, .913 save percentage, 2.69 goals-against average, one shutout with AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms and 1-1-0, .890 save percentage, 3.55 goals-against average with Flyers in 2019-20
  • Kiril Ustimenko, 21: 1-3-1, .889 save percentage, 3.84 goals-against average with Phantoms and 19-4-5, .919 save percentage, 2.40 goals-against average, two shutouts with ECHL’s Reading Royals in 2019-20
  • Felix Sandstrom, 23: 13-11-1, .885 save percentage, 3.27 goals-against average, two shutouts with Royals in 2019-20

7. Pittsburgh Penguins

2019-20 tandem save percentage: .913 (Tristan Jarry: .921, Casey DeSmith: .905 in AHL)

After the Penguins tried to trade Jarry, the 25-year-old had a breakout season as he went 20-12-1 with a .921 save percentage, a 2.43 goals-against average, and three shutouts during the 2019-20 regular season and allowed just one goal on 21 shots against in his lone start of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. At five-on-five during the regular season, he recorded a .927 save percentage, a 2.22 goals-against average, a 6.44 goals-saved above average, a .802 high-danger save percentage, a 1.49 high-danger goals-against average, and a -4.26 high-danger goals-saved above average. Jarry recorded an .865 save percentage while his team was on the penalty kill.

In 41 games with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barrie Scranton Penguins last season, DeSmith went 18-18-2 with a .905 save percentage, a 2.92 goals-against average, and three shutouts. He did not appear in a game with the big club during the 2019-20 campaign. In 50 career NHL games, the 29-year-old is 21-15-6 with a .917 save percentage, a 2.66 goals-against average, and four shutouts.

After the Penguins traded Matt Murray to the Ottawa Senators on October 7, the net is definitely now Jarry’s to lose. GM Jim Rutherford told the media after Murray was traded that he was comfortable with DeSmith as the No. 2 goaltender.

Other goalies in the system:

  • Emil Larmi, 24: 2-3-4, .883 save percentage, 3.55 goals-against average with AHL’s Penguins; 4-7-0, .908 save percentage, 3.55 goals-against average, one shutout with ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers in 2019-20
  • Alex D’Orio, 21: 12-15-2, .892 save percentage, 3.43 goals-against average with Nailers in 2019-20
  • Maxime Lagace, 27: 22-7-3, .919 save percentage, 2.37 goals-against average, five shutouts with AHL’s Providence Bruins in 2019-20

8. Carolina Hurricanes

2019-20 tandem save percentage: .909 (Petr Mrazek: .905, James Reimer: .914)

Following a strong first season in Carolina, Mrazek took a step back in 2019-20, where he went 21-16-2 with a .905 save percentage, a 2.69 goals-against average, and three shutouts. At five-on-five, the 28-year-old recorded a .912 save percentage, a 2.46 goals-against average, a -5.45 goals-saved above average, an .824 high-danger save percentage, a 1.41 high-danger goals-against average, and a 0.20 high-danger goals-saved above average. Mrazek posted an .833 shorthanded save percentage during the regular season. He went 2-3 with a .929 save percentage and a 2.08 goals-against average in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

In his first year with the Hurricanes, Reimer was solid, going 14-6-2 with a .914 save percentage, a 2.66 goals-against average, and three shutouts. He also played well during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he went 2-1 with a .934 save percentage and a 2.36 goals-against average. At five-on-five, the 32-year-old posted a .920 save percentage, a 2.41 goals-against average, a 0.83 goals-saved above average, an .800 high-danger save percentage, a 1.85 high-danger goals-against average, and a -3.90 high-danger goals-saved above average. While shorthanded, Reimer recorded an .867 save percentage.

There have been rumors that the Hurricanes have been in trade talks with teams about potentially upgrading at the position before the start of the 2020-21 season.

Other goalies in the system:

  • Alex Nedeljkovic, 24: 16-10-2, .906 save percentage, 2.49 goals-against average, four shutouts with AHL’s Charlotte Checkers; 1-2-1, .887 save percentage, 3.05 goals-against average with Hurricanes in 2019-20
  • Jeremy Helvig, 23: 14-15-3, .903 save percentage, 3.60 goals-against average in 33 games with ECHL’s Jacksonville Icemen/Greenville Swamp Rabbits

Depth Chart 

TEAM STARTER BACKUP FARM
BLUE JACKETS Merzlikins Korpisalo Kivlenieks
Vehvilainen
Tarasov
CAPITALS Samsonov  Lundqvist Vanecek
Copley
DEVILS Blackwood Crawford Giles
Cormier
Wedgewood
FLYERS Hart Elliott Lyon
Ustimenko
Sandstrom
HURRICANES Mrazek Reimer Nedeljkovic
Helvig
ISLANDERS Varlamov Sorokin Skarek
Schneider
PENGUINS Jarry DeSmith Larmi
D’Orio
Lagace
RANGERS Shesterkin Georgiev Huska
Wall
Kinkaid

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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