One thing that dawned on me recently is that the going rate for a starting goalie seems to be around $5 million. It doesn’t even have to be a good one, either. For every Martin Brodeur ($5.2 million) there’s a hit-or-miss Tim Thomas ($5 million) or an even worse Cristobal Huet ($5.6 million).
It’s often interesting to take a look at teams that do things a little differently, though. The Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers share an almost defiant indifference to spending big money on goalies (although, obviously, one team is having a lot more success with that approach). Between Jimmy Howard and Chris Osgood, the Red Wings are only spending a little more than $2 million combined. And while Ray Emery and Michael Leighton both had cheap contracts, the active Flyers goalies are almost comically inexpensive.
In both cases, the teams are spending close to the cap limit so it’s not a matter of being frugal; they both chose to emphasize other areas of their clubs. There’s a lot of logic to the concept, even if it seems like they’re playing a risky game of goalie chicken. After all, if you build a team that can put a goalie in a position to succeed (goal support from offense, limited scoring chances because of defense) then your goalie doesn’t have to play at an elite level for your team to succeed.
Going cheap in net allows the Red Wings to afford Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Johan Franzen. As ugly as things might be for the Flyers right now, they’ve still compiled a talented roster that includes Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger. The Red Wings and Flyers aren’t like most of the league’s teams who are forced to live and die with an expensive goalie who could slip or get injured at any time. Both approaches have their risks, but it’s surprising that more teams don’t consider going the cheap route in net.