OK look, it’s the silly season, where every rumor under the hot sun gets its moment in the light. Most of them die very dark and lonely deaths, but hey, it’s still fun to try on different player jerseys if you’re a fan and wonder if they might actually be part of your team at some point. So let’s talk about Henrik Lundqvist, and more about the Avs goaltending situation in general.
NHL free agency begins Oct. 9 at 10 a.m. mountain time. There are going to be a lot of older, “name” goalies on the open market, one of which will be Lundqvist, the 15-year veteran of the New York Rangers whose contract was bought out by the club today. He can be an unrestricted free agent on the 9th.
Henrik Lundqvist is 38 years old. He’s got a lot of mileage on him. He did not play too well in 2019-20, posting a 10-12-3 record, .905 saves percentage and, gulp, 3.16 goals-against average. In two playoff starts for the Rangers, he was 0-2 with a 3.57 GAA.
So, no, I just don’t think I go there if I’m Joe Sakic vis a vis Lundqvist. Sure, it would be fun having him around as a potentially new Ray Bourque-style story (“Win one for Hank!”). But it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Here’s the thing: I am on record as believing Sakic should seriously consider making a move with his goaltending situation. I know that Philipp Grubauer posted strong numbers in the postseason and was pretty good in the regular season. But I’m sorry, his health worries me. He was hurt multiple times this season, including the lower-body injury that ended his playoffs and would have kept him out “weeks.”
Grubauer also has just one year left on his contract before he, too, can be a UFA. If you don’t think he’s your guy for the future, the time to do something about it is now, in my estimation.
Of course, Lundqvist wouldn’t be the long-term solution. I could see him being a nice backup on a good team, but if he’s only a backup here and Grubauer is the presumed No. 1 for next year, where does that leave Pavel Francouz? And, if the Avs were to trade Grubauer, would you really want to go with Francouz as your No. 1 and Lundqvist as the backup?
Doesn’t sound too great to me. I know Francouz had an injury in the playoffs, but wow was he bad. I hate to say it, but I pin most of the blame for the second-round loss to Dallas on him. He couldn’t hold a lead, gave up goals in bunches and was flopping all over the place.
If he was hurt, if that’s the major reason why he was terrible? OK then. Well, great – now we go into next season with two goalies who we’ll always be worried will be one pulled groin away from being on the shelf for weeks at a time.
About Grubauer and this year’s playoffs too: Yeah, his numbers were good against Arizona in the first round, but he just didn’t have to do a whole lot in that series. There were two games in which he faced 15 or fewer shots. Hell, the Avs had more than that on Darcy Kuemper during several periods in that series. Before he got hurt against Dallas in Game 1, Grubauer allowed three goals on 10 shots and Game 1 turned into a key loss in that series.
So, let’s not get too carried away with “But Grubauer was really good in the playoffs…”. For what he was tasked to do in that first round (and in the round-robin, even though he did lose a game to Vegas), sure, Grubauer was fine. But now he’s got a worrisome injury history, his contract is up after next year and there are several other goalies soon to be on the open market – or possibly via trade (hello Marc-Andre Fleury!).
Braden Holtby, who has won a Stanley Cup and a Vezina, will be available. Corey Crawford, who has won two Stanley Cups, will be available. Jacob Markstrom, only 30 and coming off a pretty good season and playoff for Vancouver, could be on the open market. Hell, Anton Khudobin should be available on the open market.
Listen, if Grubauer is 100 percent come next season, whenever that is, and Frankie got his issues fixed, then fine, let’s go into next season with the same goaltending duo and see what happens. You can always search for a new goalie via trade by the next deadline if you’re not happy with what you’ve got. Thing is, some of the pretty nice goalies that are available now probably won’t be available by the next deadline.
Sakic has to really think about this. Goaltending has been THE problem for this team in two of the last three playoff losses, both in terms of performance and because of health. The Avs have had to finish out the playoffs in two of the last three years with no-name, scrub goalies who had barely played all season. Michael Hutchinson did as best he could this year, and so did Andrew Hammond in 2018.
Of course, you can’t just guarantee good health to any player, especially goalies. I guess my question is: do we think a Grubauer/Francouz tandem is good enough to win a Stanley Cup? It wasn’t this season. Or, do we just chalk it all up to bad luck and just maintain the status quo with the belief that such bad injury luck can’t happen again?
Sakic is the man who needs to answer that question for himself. We’ll start to know what he really believes in the next 10 days.