Goalie Salaries

One of the interesting things when it comes to hockey players salaries is how little top goalies make relative to top defenseme or forwards. I don’t think many people will argue with me when I say that goaltending is the most important position in hockey. Few teams with questionable goaltending make the playoffs. Of the top 16 teams in save %, 15 of them made the playoffs. The only team to make the playoffs and not to be 16 teams is Tampa (which interestingly had the worst save % in the NHL) and the only team in the top 16 to miss the playoffs is the Montreal Canadiens.

But, when it comes to salaries it seems goalies don’t get the credit they deserve. The Flyers paid $6.3 million for 6 years for an offensive oriented 32 year old defenseman whose small size makes him somewhat vulnerable defensively and yet a top 30 year old goalie who just won a Stanley Cup only gets $6 million a season for four years. Maybe the best goalie in NHL history and recent Vezina trophy winner Martin Brodeur is playing for $5.2 million. The top paid goalie, who is also probably the best goalie in the NHL today, Roberto Luongo makes $6.75 million a season. Is Luongo only marginally more valuable than Timonen or about the same value as Pavel Datsyuk ($6.7 million/season) or significantly less valuable than Brad Richards ($7.8 million/season)? No, of course not. Luongo is immensely more valuable than any of those guys, as is any of the elite goalies and yet teams seem to consistantly value them below what top defensemen or forwards make. It makes no sense to me because if I were a GM I would do whatever I can to get and keep a top goalie pretty much regardless of cost. In my opinion, the Islanders got it right.

Posted in NHL

This article has 7 Comments

  1. You are half-right here, I think. Sure goaltending is important, but when determining a market price, it’s both supply and demand that help determine the appropriate amount.

    So if there were 10 world-class goalies to split among 30 teams, or if there were 40, that should change the appropriate salary, even though the importance of goaltending is still the same.

    I think defensemen generally are seeing a boost in salaries because compared to goaltenders, there is a scarcity of really quality d-men. Whereas in goaltending, 5-6 quality players, it seems, don’t get a starting job. Remember how hard it was for Legace to find a job last year? Also think about Biron, Bryzgalov, Toskala, Fernandez, Gerber, etc.

    That’s my quick take, anyway.

  2. You are probably right and no doubt a flashy forward will sell more tickets than a top goalie. But ultimately winning sells tickets and if I were a GM of a team with a smaller budget (i.e. Florida) I would rather put my money into a star goalie (i.e. Luongo) than a star forward, particularly an aging one (i.e. Bertuzzi).

    While any goalie can get hot for a couple months and take a team deep into the playoffs (i.e. Cam Ward) there are in my opinion probably about 10 or so that I would consider are likely to do that or that I would have solid confidence in. If I am a GM, I want one of those 10 or so and until I get one there is no sense in being serious about a cup run.

  3. Yeah, but the reason why Gigeure got paid nothing is because there is no one out there who can afford him. Almost every NHL team is committed to a goalie either because of the salary cap or because he’s just that good.

    Gigeure knew that the only teams who might want him are bottom of the barrel clubs who lack a goaltender – so he and Anaheim negotiated a fair price.

    Demand is low for top goaltenders. Another thing to note is that goalies are rarely traded, and what they go for in trade is often significantly less than their perceived worth. The same is true of goaltending prospects – teams just don’t have a leg to stand on when they deal these guys.

  4. Demand is low for top goaltenders.

    Yes, for the most part that is true, but my point is it shouldn’t be. Tampa would be far better off paying Giguere $7 million than Richards $7.8 million. Phoenix would be far better off paying Giguere $7 million than Jovanovski $6.5 million. Columbus would be far better off paying Giguere $7 million than Fedorov $6 million. Florida would be far better off paying Luongo $7 million than trading him for $5+ million Bertuzzi. Any team can afford a top goalie, just many mistakenly choose not to.

  5. Not sure about that. Mike Keenan has publicly said that he was asking for more money ($7 million I think he said) than the Panthers were willing to (or could afford to) pay him.

  6. luongo wanted a longterm contract with florida, and he wanted a specific goalie coach (cant remember who) to work with, instead, the panthers decided to take luongo (arguably the best goalie in the NHL, certainly top 3) to arbitration (which is insulting to a player) and they basically ruined any relations they had with him.

    imo that was one of the WORST trades ever. and surprisingly, the first time luongo was traded, that was arguably the worst trade ever, luongo AND jokinen, for parrish and kvasha, and in doing so the isles drafted top goalie prospect di pietro, when they could have drafted the next best forward (heatley was #2, gaborik was #3) and they could not have gone wrong.

    i agree that teams underestimate the value of goaltending. i would definately rather have a goalie than a forward. if u get a luongo, he will play 70 games, and play every minute of them, while forwards will only play 20-25, and a goalie gives u a chance to win every night, while a forward cannot, obviously, since they dont play the entire game.

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