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Ramblings: Lundqvist to Miss Season, Steen Retires, Goalie Quality Start Percentage (Dec 18) – dobberhockey.com

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Let’s get the bad news about Henrik Lundqvist out of the way. The newly-signed Capitals goalie will miss the 2020-21 season because of a heart condition. He was expected to push up-and-coming Ilya Samsonov for starts, but because he signed a one-year contract, it’s possible that he never plays for the Capitals. Hopefully we see him in an NHL uniform again one day, but for now his health is the main priority.

It’s possible that one of Vitek Vanecek or Pheonix Copley move into the backup role. Vanecek posted the better AHL numbers in 2019-20 (2.26 GAA, .917 SV%), so he may have the upper hand should the Capitals decide to promote internally. The Capitals, who are in win-now mode, could also sign a leftover 35+ year-old veteran such as Ryan Miller, Craig Anderson, or Jimmy Howard. A trade for a goalie on the market like Marc-Andre Fleury is another option. For now, the unavailability of Lundqvist would mean more starts for Samsonov.

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Alexander Steen has announced his retirement after 15 NHL seasons and over 1000 games. Steen has already gone on LTIR, and he won’t be going on the voluntary retired list. Because the Blues can bury his remaining one-year salary on LTIR, it should just be a matter of time before they sign RFA Vince Dunn. They may even be able to fit in another inexpensive veteran.  

Steen recorded four 20+ goal seasons and five 50+ point seasons in over a decade with the Blues, so fantasy owners should no doubt be familiar with him. All the best to him in his retirement.

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Russia has been banned from using its name, flag, and anthem at the next two Olympics. Athletes who were not implicated in doping or covering up tests can still participate, so some Russian athletes will still be able to compete. This has hockey implications, as this ban includes the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Expect uniforms to say something like “Olympic Athletes From Russia” as they did during the 2018 Winter Olympics.

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The Panthers broke the month-and-a-half freeze on significant player signings on Thursday, inking free agent Anthony Duclair to a one-year contract worth $1.7 million. You can find out more in the Fantasy Take.

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With restrictions continuing across North America as COVID continues its spread, the idea of an all-Canadian division may not become a reality after all. Ever-changing government regulations likely play a part in why the NHL hasn’t announced a schedule or a start date for the 2020-21 season. If the governments of the five Canadian provinces that host NHL teams don’t sign off on the NHL’s return to play, Canadian teams may be forced to move to the US, where the health restrictions are less stringent in some states. If Canadian teams have to come to the US, then another realignment would be necessary.

After all the previews and prognostications about Canadian division standings, it would be a shame if this all-Canadian division never got off the ground. However, if US teams had to travel to Canada for the 2019-20 postseason bubble, then Canadian teams relocating to the US for the 2020-21 season would make things even, I suppose.

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According to Sports Business Daily, the NHL is likely to approve helmet ads soon. The idea of ads on jerseys has gained steam over the past few seasons, even though most hockey fans would strongly oppose an ad on a revered jersey. However, the economic struggles created by the pandemic have made this a necessity for teams searching for other revenue streams.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that this arrangement could be permanent, as there would be no incentive for the league to turn back once they start relying on that money. I just hope that NHL teams don’t eventually go the way of some European teams whose uniforms look extremely garish with ads taking up so much space. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the appearance of those uniforms detracts from the quality of the product.

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As we make our way into the regular season, I’ll continue to discuss stats that are on Frozen Tools that you may not be familiar with. Today, we’ll examine quality start percentage for goalies.

If you follow baseball, you may be familiar with the concept of a quality start from a pitcher. To earn a quality start, that pitcher must pitch at least six innings while allowing three earned runs or fewer. In Frozen Tools, a quality start is given when the goalie’s save percentage is above the league average.

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Not surprisingly, goalies with the highest amount of quality starts tend to be the high-volume goalies. Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck led the league with 36 quality starts in 2019-20, followed by Andrei Vasilevskiy and Carey Price, who each recorded 31 QS. By examining quality start percentage, however, we may be able to find some potentially undervalued goalies.  

Here are the quality start percentage leaders from 2019-20 (minimum 15 starts):

Name Age Team GP QS QS% QS Pace
DARCY KUEMPER 30 ARI 29 22 75.9 26
TUUKKA RASK 33 BOS 41 28 68.3 33
ANTON KHUDOBIN 34 DAL 30 19 63.3 23
COREY CRAWFORD 35 CHI 40 25 62.5 29
CONNOR HELLEBUYCK 27 WPG 58 36 62.1 42
BEN BISHOP 34 DAL 44 27 61.4 32
ANDREI VASILEVSKIY 26 TB 52 31 59.6 36
JAKE ALLEN 30 STL 24 14 58.3 16
CARTER HART 22 PHI 43 25 58.1 30
JACOB MARKSTROM 30 VAN 43 25 58.1 30

Darcy Kuemper

Kuemper was the runaway winner here with a 75.9% QS%. In other words, you can sleep easier knowing that your fantasy team’s starting goalie will earn a quality start three of the four times he suits up. Kuemper was on his way to a Vezina Trophy nomination (2.22 GAA, .928 SV%) before a lower-body injury sidelined him just before Christmas. As a result, he didn’t even finish among the top 10 in total quality starts.  

Last week I discussed goals-saved above average. Not surprisingly, Kuemper was near the top of that stat, finishing fourth with 16.65 GSAA and second with 0.57 GSAA/60 (minimum 15 games). Backup Antti Raanta was not far behind in GSAA and GSAA/60 either, which is a testament to the strong defensive system of the Coyotes. Kuemper should provide solid value in fantasy drafts, as he’ll probably still be available once the big names are off the board.

Corey Crawford

Crawford’s play over the final month of the season had a lot to do with his spot on this list. He finished the season with quality starts in eight of his last ten games. That string of success also vaulted him into the top 10 in overall quality starts (25). That quality of play, combined with the fact that the Blackhawks don’t have anyone else with significant starting experience, makes their decision to part ways with him in the offseason all the more surprising.

Fantasy Take: The Devils Land Crawford

Crawford moves to a New Jersey team that won’t help his fantasy value. The rebuilding Devils will be facing some stiff competition in what could be the league’s strongest division. In addition, he will likely be sharing starts with Mackenzie Blackwood. Still, Crawford could provide solid value as long as you don’t invest a high pick in him.

Jake Allen

After sinking toward below-average starting goalie numbers, Allen reinvented himself in 2019-20 as an above-average backup goalie. Allen went from two seasons of ratios in the ballpark of 2.80 GAA and .905 SV% to a 2.15 GAA and .927 SV% in about half the number of games. The arrival of Jordan Binnington didn’t destroy Allen’s confidence. In fact, it did the opposite and took a weight off his shoulders.

Now in Montreal, Allen should cut into Carey Price‘s high volume of starts. This could make for a more effective Price if he is more well-rested and less burdened to carry the team. Price himself finished third in total quality starts (31) while tied for the league lead in games (58). Conversely, Price was also the league leader with 11 really bad starts, so Price owners probably felt like Price either gave them a great start or a stinker – no in between. Only 16 of Price’s 58 games would have fallen into that middle ground, so perhaps Allen’s presence will be a recipe for consistency more than anything.  

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For more fantasy hockey discussion, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding

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Maple Leafs’ Spezza will retire if claimed on waivers, agent says – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — Jason Spezza simply can’t see himself playing anywhere else.

The veteran centre is so entrenched with the Toronto Maple Leafs that he’d rather walk away from the sport than report to another team that claims him off the waiver wire, according to agent Rick Curran.

“He’ll simply retire,” Curran told Sportsnet on Sunday.

The Leafs placed Spezza and No. 3 goaltender Aaron Dell on waivers as part of roster maneuvering needed to create flexibility in the wake of a left knee injury to Nick Robertson. The NHL’s other 30 teams have until noon ET on Monday to put in a claim.

While Dell is likely headed elsewhere — there’ve been four claims involving goaltenders already in this young NHL season — Spezza intends to stay in Toronto no matter what happens.

The 37-year-old relishes the role he’s carved out with his hometown Leafs and holds the cards here: In the event he was claimed by another team and refused to report, he’d likely see his $700,000 contract terminated.

That would allow him to sign another deal in Toronto.

Spezza said there was “unfinished business” when he returned to the Leafs on a second straight one-year contract in October, and understood at the time that a roster move like the one that occurred Sunday was possible because of the team’s salary cap position, according to Curran.

He’s taken on a mentorship role inside the organization — skating with Robertson and other prospects at the team’s practice facility throughout the off-season — while happily embracing a depth position on the roster.

Spezza is averaging 7:44 through three games and picked up his 600th career NHL assist in the season opener. He won all 10 faceoffs he took during Saturday’s 3-2 victory in Ottawa.

“To me, it’s special to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs,” Spezza said in September. “Being a Toronto boy, it’s something that I dreamed of, and you wanted to be a part of something special.

“I didn’t take for granted any days that I got to put the jersey on.”

He may get to do that again as soon as Monday night, when the Winnipeg Jets visit Scotiabank Arena — assuming he goes unclaimed.

The Leafs’ decision to place Spezza on waivers was tied directly to the knee injury Robertson suffered in Ottawa, the extent of which will be known following an MRI on Sunday. It temporarily left Toronto with only 17 healthy skaters on the active roster, forcing the team to make additional moves in order to bring up reinforcements from the taxi squad.

Spezza, the No. 2 pick in the 2001 draft, has appeared in more than 1,200 career NHL games and remains very much in the Leafs’ plans.

They remain in his, too.

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Maple Leafs' Spezza will retire if claimed on waivers, agent says – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO — Jason Spezza will retire if another NHL team claims him off the waiver wire, according to agent Rick Curran.

The Toronto Maple Leafs put the veteran centre and No. 3 goaltender Aaron Dell on waivers Sunday as part of roster maneuvering needed to create flexibility in the wake of a knee injury to Nick Robertson.

But Spezza, playing for his hometown team on a league-minimum $700,000 contract, has no intention of continuing his career anywhere else.

“He’ll simply retire,” Curran told Sportsnet.

The 37-year-old Spezza is in his second season with the Leafs and understood this kind of roster move was possible when he signed another deal with Toronto in October, according to Curran. He’s happy to serve a depth role for the organization — helping mentor younger players while playing fourth-line minutes.

Spezza is averaging 7:44 in the first three games with one assist. He won all 10 faceoffs he took during Saturday’s 3-2 victory in Ottawa.

Robertson suffered a left knee injury against the Senators and is due to undergo an MRI on Sunday to determine the extent of the damage. That left Toronto with only 17 healthy skaters on the active roster, forcing the team to make moves in order to bring up another body from the taxi squad.

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Maple Leafs place Spezza, Dell on waivers – TSN

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The Toronto Maple Leafs placed veteran forward Jason Spezza and goalie Aaron Dell on waivers Sunday.

Spezza has appeared in all three games for the Maple Leafs this season, registering an assist.

The 37-year-old is in his second season in Toronto. He finished with nine goals and 16 assists in 58 games for the Leafs last season.

Dell is behind starter Frederik Andersen and backup Jack Campbell on the Leafs’ depth chart in net and hasn’t appeared in a game for Toronto this season.

The 31-year-old played four seasons with the San Jose Sharks prior to his time in Toronto, and has a career 2.75 goals against average and .908 save percentage.

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