Goaltending depth is a growing concern in the NHL. Gone are the days with one workhorse and the Colorado Avalanche goaltending is no exception. Many teams will need three or even four NHL-calibre goaltenders over the course of a full 82-game season. Even if the 2020-21 season is shorter than normal, the Avs will still need more than two capable options if they want to truly feel comfortable. Let us look at the options and see if there are any that may yet join the organization.
Colorado Avalanche Goaltending Depth
Philipp Grubauer will enter 2020-21 as the probable number one option with the only real obstacle being health. If healthy, he is certainly capable of being a top 10 or top 15 NHL backstop. He was very good as a 28-year-old in 2019-20. Grubauer posted 18 wins in 36 starts with a .916 save percentage and 2.63 goals-against-average. Both of those were top-20 figures or just outside that range among goalies with at least 10 starts in the previous season. He didn’t excel to the degree some might have expected, but he was briefly injured twice and had some frustrating defence in front of him at times. A full offseason to rest and the addition of Devon Toews to an already-stacked blueline should help both of those concerns from last year.
Some might think Grubauer is not a true top goaltender, but his numbers are perfectly fine over the past five seasons. He has started 132 games over that span of time. Each season has also featured a save percentage of at least .916 or higher and a goals-against no worse than 2.64. Nothing about Grubauer makes him elite, but everything points to an option capable of being an above-average starter. It helps that most modern NHL teams don’t expect goalies to start more than half of games.
That brings us to the team’s second option, Pavel Francouz. Nobody quite knew what to expect from the Czech KHL star in his first NHL season. Yes, Francouz looked good in his one AHL season from 2018-19, posting a .918 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against. However, it was his first season in North America and jumping from the KHL to the AHL to the NHL in the span of two years is lightning-fast.
Francouz did not disappoint in his first full debut season. He actually outperformed Grubauer with a .923 save percentage and 2.41 goals-against with 21 wins in 30 starts. Perhaps the most impressive part of Francouz’s production, other than how quickly he acclimated to the NHL, is that he succeeds despite being only 6’0″ tall. Goalie is one of the few positions where height is still a major aspect of scouting, but that hasn’t stopped the Czech from making an impact. The same is true for the 6’1″ Grubauer. The two smaller goaltenders form a fantastic 1-2 punch as they split starts for Colorado. They have been a relatively steady option for the Colorado Avalanche goaltending.
Things are a little concerning when you get past Grubauer and Francouz when it comes to the Colorado Avalanche goaltending. Both of them were injured at times last year, but the depth was maybe a little more seasoned with Antoine Bibeau and Michael Hutchinson briefly appearing at different times. Both are gone. Neither of them was uniquely good but they were known commodities. They also had years of combined experience at various levels in North America.
The three most likely backups as of right now are three bodies with three NHL games combined. Hunter Miska is the most experience as the veteran 25-year-old. He has only one NHL game with the Arizona Coyotes, but he has been very good in the lower levels. Miska played in three ECHL games in 2019-20 with a .947 save percentage and 1.62 goals-against. He was also productive at the AHL level where he posted a save percentage of .924 and 2.48 goals-against. The undrafted goaltender is probably fourth on the depth chart, but he might see action based purely on experience if Grubauer or Francouz are injured again.
Then the team has two very interesting, but inexperienced prospects in Adam Werner and Justus Annunen. The 23-year-old Werner debuted last season and posted one shut-out in his two games of action. His NHL numbers don’t have much weight in a sample size that small. It is more important to look at the AHL numbers where the fifth-round pick from 2016 had a .909 save percentage and 2.92 goals-against in his first season in North America. He is probably third on the depth chart as of right now. Annunen has no experience in North America but presents the highest ceiling of the three. His .929 save percentage and 1.77 goals-against-average turned heads overseas in Finland’s Liiga. However, he is still just 20-years-old and will require some seasoning.
Who is Left to Sign?
There are no good or even average goaltenders still available depending on your perspective. The two with the most NHL games in 2019-20 are Craig Anderson and Ryan Miller. Either one might be willing to sign a minimum contract, but both are at least 39-years-old. They could just as easily retire and enjoy more time with their families instead of toiling for one more season and hope for a Stanley Cup.
Cory Schneider and Jimmy Howard are in similar situations. They may have a few more years in their bodies but played poorly behind bad defences. They shouldn’t inspire any confidence even as third or fourth goaltenders. Of the two, the 34-year-old Schneider might be worthy of one more chance considering he was fairly good as recent as 2015-16 when he played in 58 games.
There isn’t much else once you get past the four veterans. The next best option is probably Andrew Hammond, who spent 2019-20 playing for the AHL’s Rochester Americans. The 32-year-old appeared in 33 games with a .908 save percentage and 2.52 goals-against-average. Those are similar numbers to what he produced in 2018-19 for the Iowa Wild. Hammond would be a particularly interesting goaltender considering he spent a brief period of time with the Colorado organization in 2017-18. None of the remaining goalies are inspiring, but one of them may be attractive compared to a trio of very inexperienced youngsters. Colorado has $1.82 million in remaining cap space. That could be enough to entice any of the remaining choices to join and pursue a championship.