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Are NHL Goaltenders a Safe, Smart, or Risky Investment?

Are NHL Goaltenders a Safe, Smart, or Risky Investment?

Leon Sonkin

The Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s most valuable player, has been an annual tradition since the 1923-1924 season. Some of the most famous names to appear next to this trophy include Eddie Shore, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, and Wayne Gretzky. Yet, despite the trophy’s 100-year anniversary approaching soon, only seven goalies have won the award. Among its winners, Carey Price is the most recent, winning in 2015. Only one goalie has won multiple times, when Dominik Hasek did it in consecutive seasons in 1998 and 1999. Hasek famously won during the peak of the “dead puck” era, predicated by large defenders rubbing out forwards before obstruction interference became a called penalty.

After the 2004-2005 lockout, the NHL returned to action with new rules, opening up the ice and creating many more scoring chances. As such, goaltenders have had to become as good as ever. Yet, it often feels like goalies don’t get as much love in the hobby as some high-scoring forwards or buzzy emerging offensive defensemen. Here are a few factors to consider when collecting goaltenders.

Lonely At the Top

Andrei Vasilevskiy has stood tall as the NHL’s best goaltender for the last few seasons, helping guide the Tampa Bay Lightning to consecutive Stanley Cup victories. The dropoff in value from Vasilevskiy’s PSA 10 Young Guns is significant. Of active goalies, only Montreal Legend Carey Price can come close in value. Price is able to do so by cementing his legacy as one of the greatest goaltenders in Montreal’s team history, but has played significantly longer than Vasilevskiy, all in a higher profile hobby market, and still trails ‘Vasy’ in value. For Vasilevskiy, it’s less about accolades and more about the consensus fans and pundits alike garner from watching him play. There are no flaws in his game. Everything he does is straight out of a textbook.

One potential challenger to Vasilevskiy’s dominance is fellow countrymen Igor Shesterkin, also aided by playing in a larger market (New York), to compliment his remarkable play this season. If Shesterkin wins the Vezina Trophy (awarded to the best goaltender) this season, it could continue to drive his hobby value closer to Vasy’s while providing top level collectors with another opportunity.

Inconsistency and Unmet Potential

While no position in any sport is safe from a player not living up to their potential, NHL goaltenders certainly don’t get many opportunities to win back general managers and collectors. Carter Hart of the Philadelphia Flyers had many expecting the young goalie to become one of the next elite netminders of the NHL.

After a promising rookie and even better sophomore season, Hart struggled under Alain Vigneault. When the much-maligned head coach was dismissed, Hart’s play responded, though it hasn’t translated in many wins for the (once again) rebuilding Flyers. As such, Carter has seen his PSA 10 Young Guns plummet over 50% over the last year. This is largely due to the expectation for the Flyers to be a competitive team this season, further illuminating the fact that many factors are often beyond the players control. Hart is still salvageable and a far cry from some of the busts of the past, like Jim Carey, Justin Pogge, Andrew Raycroft, and even Ilya Bryzgalov.

An additional factor to consider, is that some goaltenders have been able to resurrect their careers after poor starts. The most notable recent example of this being Toronto’s Jack Campbell, who all but faded into obscurity before snatching the Maple Leafs job. Carolina’s Frederik Andersen also looks to have vastly improved on previous inconsistency earlier in his career, and looks poised to carry the Hurricanes on a deep playoff run.

Volume

Using the Quality Start statistic to compare NHL goalies this season, of goalies that have 20 or more starts, only eight this year have achieved .600% or greater, which should be the benchmark used to gauge elite goalies. This correlates to a corresponding number of goalies that can be considered higher value or sought after. If you add in an additional eight or so goalies that are prospects or backups with a lot of potential, it’s still only a fraction of the position players available for collectors and investors. There are over 20 players actively in the league this year averaging over a point per game. What this all means is that there are simply fewer goaltenders that are sought after than position players. While each team likely has at least one position player that collectors and investors could accumulate, the same can not be said for goaltenders.

Legends Still in Demand

Despite having been retired for over a decade, Martin Brodeur, Dominik Hasek, and Patrick Roy are still highly sought after by collectors. The 1990s hold a special place for many, as age wise, most collectors now either were active fans during, or first became interested during said decade. It’s also a decade that saw some of the most famous and influential players of all time, dominated by the three goaltenders considered to be the three greatest in the position’s history. Beyond the statistical accolades the three achieved, they each possessed a unique personality and marketability, something many criticize modern athletes for showing less frequently than their predecessors.

Value Comparison

Lastly, it’s important to crunch and compare goaltender values to skater counterparts. Let’s compare Connor McDavid, Cale Makar, Kirill Kaprizov and Alex Ovechkin to Carey Price, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Igor Shesterkin, and Tristan Jarry. 

When we compare prices across their Young Guns PSA 10s, we can see in the table below that goalies trail behind skaters significantly. Using recent eBay sales, those four skaters total out to $11,617 while the goalies hit just $2,889. Overall, goaltenders come in just under 25% of the total value of the skater group.

GOALIESPRICESKATERSPRICE
Andrei Vasilevskiy$1,035Alex Ovechkin$7,000
Carey Price$959Connor McDavid$3,350
Igor Shesterkin$709Kirill Kaprizov$652
Tristan Jarry$189Cale Makar$615

Conclusion

While goaltenders are clearly a less popular choice from a value standpoint, they remain among the most beloved members of any hockey team. Many goalies will go on to have relatively average success over the course of their careers, but prove to be valuable difference makers during the playoffs. The expectation for every goalie with moderate success to have Hall of Fame-worthy careers is unrealistic, but if they win games when it matters the most, goaltenders have the ability to win the hearts and minds of fans across the league, a statistic which cannot be measured by any completed eBay sale.

For every current or future Hall of Famer, like Patrick Roy, Grant Fuhr, Mike Richter, or Andrei Vasilevskiy, there are goaltenders like Dwayne Rolosson, Corey Crawford, Bill Ranford, and Jean-Sébastien Giguère. Important goalies who might not be first ballot Hall of Famers, but resonate fondly with fans for their braveness and clutch performances. There’s still a lot of opportunities to see growth with goaltenders, assuming one doesn’t get discouraged when their chosen goaltender of the future doesn’t pan out as expected.

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