It’s a few days after the fact, and people are still arguing about the Frederik Andersen trade. It’s not surprising; it’s the offseason. Hell, it’s Toronto; he could win the next five Vezina trophies and we’d still be debating this at the end of his contract.
But mostly, the concern comes from the draft picks. Yes, the Leafs still have 11 out of their assigned 7 going into tomorrow and Saturday and are above the assigned amount next year as well. But many wish the Leafs used one or both of those picks on a younger netminder instead of paying a 26-year-old.
So let’s do an experiment. Let’s use history to draft two goalies.
With Toronto’s first round pick, they will draft the first goaltender taken at 30th overall or below. No exceptions. Using hindsight would be unfair, especially in a position where so much of the job is development. With Toronto’s second round pick in the following year, you take the first goalie available at 45 (as we don’t know which second round pick was given up, and where it would place).
Here are the results, and the number of NHL games played that each player has put up to date.
|Goalie 1||Goalie 2||Pick 30||GP||Pick 45||GP||Total GP|
|2014||2015||Mason McDonald||0||Felix Sandstrom||0||0|
|2013||2014||Zachary Fucale||0||Brandon Haverson||0||0|
|2012||2013||Oscar Dansk||0||Philippe Desrosiers||0||0|
|2011||2012||Magnus Hellberg||2||Anthony Stolarz||0||2|
|2010||2011||Calvin Pickard||36||Christopher Gibson||4||40|
|2009||2010||Mikko Koskinen||4||Kent Simpson||1||5|
|2008||2009||Tom McCollum||3||Robin Lehner||107||110|
|2007||2008||Joel Gistedt||0||Tyler Beskorwany||0||0|
|2006||2007||Michael Neuvirth||200||Antoine Lafleur||0||200|
|2005||2006||Tyler Plante||0||Jhonas Enroth||147||147|
|2004||2005||David Shantz||0||Pier-Olivier Pelletier||0||0|
|2003||2004||Corey Crawford||326||Jeff Glass||0||326|
|2002||2003||Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers||62||Jimmy Howard||375||437|
|2001||2002||Andrei Medvedev||0||David LeNeveau||22||22|
|2000||2001||Ilya Bryzgalov||465||Peter Budaj||297||762|
|1999||2000||Alex Auld||237||Mathieu Chouinard||1||238|
Outside of 2000+2001, a scenario which would have been a decade and a half ago, it’s not looking very good. A case can be made for putting yourself in a situation where you can draft Howard or Crawford, but each hit came with a miss. Many years provided nothing of significant value at all.
Your odds at getting NHL success out of the late first and mid-second round are higher if you draft skaters, of course. But that’s counter-intuitive to the point of building a pipe presence using these picks; not to mention, the already decently stocked Leafs will walk out with at least 9 or 10 skaters this weekend.
Also worth considering – it’s very unlikely that a goaltender drafted now will help the Leafs any time soon. Robin Lehner was the first person in this sample to play more than half a season, and he was drafted seven years ago. At 24 years old, he’s had just one season where he’s played more than 25 games.
That’s a trend that repeats itself in this past year’s crop of NHL goaltenders. Just 14% of minutes played by active netminders came from Under-25 talent, though they represented 36% of the league’s roster presence. Teams are still more trusting of middle-aged talent and given that the peak of both Save Percentage and Quality Start Percentages seems to lie in the 26-31 age gap, it’s understandable that it would be the case.
Of course, that might just have to do with the middle-aged goalies being the ones who survived their youthful trial periods before graduating to the starter ranks. But regardless, as long as that general rule holds, any goalie you’d draft today would be acquired for six or seven years into the future. This also means that Andersen was acquired at the beginning of the presently-accepted “goaltender prime” and will have his contract expire just before his exit; perhaps where he should be peaking, even.
If that holds true, Toronto should have a goaltender that should be able to carry them to contention through the end of his contract. If they’re not in that position or have a worthy competitor behind him, they might also be able to sell high on him before his exit. Given this group’s affinity for maximizing their return on investment, I’d be surprised if Andersen was here beyond this contract.
At the end of the day, there’s still a case to be made that the Leafs may not have needed to acquire a goalie, though Andersen seems as safe a bet as any they could’ve made. But I don’t think that a drafted goaltender was the alternative in this scenario; the team is probably best off saving those selections for the later rounds and focusing intensely on developing some late bloomers.