Aside from acquiring a first-line center, the biggest priority this offseason is searching for a goaltender. It is no secret that the Wild’s goaltending tandem hindered the Wild from making a dent in the standings.
The Wild led the league this season in expected goals against, credited to the Wild who are among the best teams defensively. Likewise, the Wild led the league this season in allowing the fewest high-danger chances.
The Wild are an incredibly talented team at suppressing high-danger chances and are among the best in finishing. The Wild are simply a club that has been hung out to dry by their goaltenders, can’t sugar coat it.
Devan Dubnyk has been the Wild’s number one since rediscovering his career in 2014-15. At the time, Chuck Fletcher took a chance on him when he sent a third-round pick to Arizona.
Most will say it was one of the best moves in the Fletcher Era, however, the analytics community will argue that he has been nothing more than average behind a perennial elite defensive team. Regardless of which side you are on, his 2019-20 campaign was the worst of his career.
Dubnyk allowed nearly 28 goals more than expected which was dead last in the NHL. This metric, courtesy of Evolving-Hockey, is likely the best goaltending statistic because it takes into account shot quality.
Even looking at a more surface level metric like goals saved above average, formally the leagues average save percentage, he didn’t fare well in which he ranked the sixth-worst.
Not to mention, he was the second-worst starter goaltender in the NHL at saving high-danger chances. Dubnyk’s .890 save percentage ranked second-worst among starters, behind only Jimmy Howard.
Now that Dubnyk has been traded, where do the Wild go from here?
Alex Stalock is not much better and shouldn’t seriously be considered for the short or long-term solutions.
I am only covering the best options for the Wild in goal, not all options available.
In my opinion, there are no short-term free agents that make any sense. Looking at who is available, the short-term unrestricted free-agent solution would be the likes of Corey Crawford, Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, and Cam Talbot, among a couple of others. None of these move the needle enough for it to be worth it.
The biggest question the Wild need to ask is if they think Kaapo Kahkonen is a future legit NHL starting goaltender, within the next couple of seasons.
The Wild tried to acquire Tristan Jarry from Pittsburgh earlier this season; why do that when you have a 24-year-old AHL goalie of the year in your system? That, along with the assessments from scouts, makes you question if the Minnesota Wild have faith in him.
There are several high-quality UFA goaltenders this offseason, so this would be the year to sign a goalie for the long-term. The Wild potentially have two NHL stars (Fiala and Kaprizov) on their hands with careers that don’t need to be hindered by poor goaltending.
Best Options Via Free Agency
Note: Robin Lehner has signed a five-year extension with the Vegas Golden Knights.
On a one or two-year deal, Crawford is someone to look at. Crawford could be used as a stop-gap and provide a veteran presence for Kaapo Kahknonen. Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks have yet to agree on an extension which could likely hint him exploring free-agency.
Crawford was exceptional this season in Chicago and was one of the better goalies in the league this season. Crawford posted a .917 save percentage and ranked fourth in goals saved above expected league-wide.
Brayden Holtby (WSH)
Just look at his resume, Holtby is a Stanley Cup champion, two-time All-Star, and has won the Vezina in 2015-16 along with the Jennings in 2016-17. Looking at his underlying numbers to make sure the awards align is very important.
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All the elements on his resume can easily be refuted. Just because you won the Stanley Cup, does not mean you are elite.
Just because you were selected to be an All-Star and the best goaltender by people who completely disregard analytics, for the most part, does not mean you are elite.
That said, Holtby has been nothing short of the elite since the moment he entered the league, aside from this season. From when he entered the league in 2010, all the way to the 2018-19 campaign, he has saved almost 58 goals more than expected.
The only concern is he is almost 31 years old and came off the worst season in his career. I am not sure the Wild want to bet on the Veteran when there are already signs of regression and he’s likely looking for Job Security. It is a very interesting option, it will depend on what he is seeking on his next contract.
Jacob Markstrom (VAN)
Another interesting option here, it will depend on whether he re-signs with Vancouver or if they decide to take the calculated risk and give Demko the starting position. He has been a quality netminder the past two seasons but his metrics are not worthy of what some say could be upwards of 6-7 million AAV.
The Wild should stay away from that kind of contract, so the Wild signing Markstrom would be contingent on what the goaltending market looks like and what he commands.
Best Options Via Trade
Chris Driedger (FLA) – 1 x 850K
There is no better goalie to describe as flying under the radar than Driedger. The 26-year-old goaltender is the backup to Sergei Bobrovsky down in Florida. This is exactly why he has flown under the radar this season and he only played 12 games.
However, no goaltender in the NHL this season had a better span of 12 games than the former third-round selection. He posted a .938 save percentage in those games. He also was fifth in the NHL in goals saved above expected. He played at an unbelievable rate and is a candidate the Wild should at least explore due to him being incredibly cheap.
Frederik Andersen (TOR) – 1 x 5M
Andersen is a very interesting goalie, he has been one of the best goalies in the NHL over the past several years, yet still finds himself on the trade block after just a single poor season.
He has one-year remaining on a relatively good contract and could provide the Wild with stability in the backend with Kappo has the backup.
Phillip Grubabuer (COL) 1 x 3.33M or Pavel Francouz (COL) 2 x 2M
Both goaltenders in Colorado could be options for the Wild. They are both cheap on short-term deals. Personally, I would rather take Francouz, but either one is a far better option than the current tandem.
Francouz posted a .923 save percentage and saved 2.68 goals above expected. Grubabuer on the other hand posted a .916 save percentage and a far more average -1.71 goals saved above expected.
Elvis Mirzlikins 2 x 4M (CBJ) or Joonas Korpisalo (CBJ) 2 x 2.8M
If I had my pick, I’d go after one of Mirzlikins or Korpisalo over the tandem out in Colorado. Mirzlikins was unbelievable this season and showcased his talent and composure between the pipes. He posted a .923 save percentage. He was far more down to earth in shot quality where he saved just 0.41 goals above expected.
Korpisalo was unbelievable in the playoffs this year and was key in stealing the series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had an awful regular season but came to life in the playoffs where he was just remarkable. He had a .941 save percentage in nine games in the postseason.
Alexander Georgiev (NYR) RFA or Matt Murray (PIT) RFA
It can be assumed that the Rangers don’t want to move Georgiev otherwise they probably would have kept Lundqvist as a backup option. It could still be a possibility but I am not sure what the asking price would be in this case. Matt Murray on the other hand hasn’t been that great thus far in his career and has been vastly overrated.
Murray had an awful season this year which has caused more people to question his ability between the pipes. He is obviously a two-time Stanley Cup champion which he likes uses as his groundwork for his resume. His playoff numbers haven’t been nearly as bad as his regular-season numbers.
I still have him here because there are a lot of goalies that have an awful start to their career and then when they reach their prime, they vastly improve. Darcy Kuemper is a very good example of this. Speaking of…
Darcy Kuemper (ARI) 2 x 4.5M or Antti Raanta (ARI) 1 x 4.25
I like Arizona’s goalie tandem of Kuemper and Raanta. They both are favorable options for the Wild and would be great additions.
It would be cool to see Kuemper come back to Minnesota after never reaching his full potential in a Wild jersey. Despite dealing with injuries, he was one of the best goaltenders in the NHL this season. He posted a .928 save percentage and saved 16.11 goals above expected which ranked second league-wide.
Antti Raanta would be another option. He would be the cheaper of the two to acquire and would still provide the Wild the needed Stability in net.