One position with only two of your roster spots is responsible for at least one-third, but up to perhaps two-fifths of your fantasy outcome. Of course, I'm talking about the goaltender.
In points leagues, they can put up just as many fantasy points as the best forwards when they are doing well. When they are not, they can take away hard-earned fantasy points from your team.
In head-to-head leagues, they will account for a solid portion of the scoring categories in any given week, with the fickle nature of sometimes only playing once -- even if they are the starter.
In rotisserie leagues, they can literally account for at least one-third of your final score with ratios that have so many counting stats built in that it takes a huge effort to make gains this late.
With around two dozen games left for any given team, here are eight goaltenders that have a chance to do positive things for your team and are available in most leagues. To give you as much information as possible to make a decision, I'm including several metrics next to each of their name. Most are straight forward enough, one is not, but I'll explain them all here just in case.
First is their availability in ESPN leagues. Second is their crease share since Jan. 1, which is the percentage of their team's goaltender minutes they have played in that span. Third is a weighted five-on-five save percentage I've calculated based on shot danger from NaturalStatTrick, which I will further explain in a moment. Fourth is their team's penalty-killing percentage since Jan. 1, which I'm including to complete the picture as the save percentage I'm giving above only accounts for even strength.
As for the weighted save percentage, I've assigned a value to each shot from NaturalStatTrick's high-danger, medium-danger and low-danger shot counts. High-danger shots stay with a value of 1.0, medium-danger get a value of 0.7 and low-danger gets a value of 0.5. Since we have these stats available, I just wanted a save percentage metric that gave a little more weight to the type of shots a goaltender is facing. The top mark in this category, for frame of reference, is .926 by Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins, with Jake Oettinger of the Dallas Stars right behind at .922.
With all these statistical pieces of the pie in hand, I'll give you an argument as to why each goaltender has a chance to help.
Filip Gustavsson, G, Minnesota Wild (available in 63.5% of leagues; 49% crease share since Jan. 1; .917 weighted save percentage; 85.7% penalty kill): His availability, combined with the strength of the team and considering how much better his goaltending has been than Marc-Andre Fleury makes Gustavsson the best free-agent target for teams seeking goaltending help down the stretch. That weighted five-on-five save percentage of .917 ranks third in the NHL for the season and he's already earned a 50-50 share withe Fleury. As the Wild remain in a heated drive for the postseason, they will inevitably lean on whichever goaltender gives them the best chance for points -- so that share could grow. Throw in the Wild's second-best penalty kill in the league since Jan. 1, and you have the perfect formula for the rest of the season.
Jeremy Swayman, G, Boston Bruins (35.4% availability; 42% crease share; .912 save percentage; 90.2% PK): If he's available, he might even be a better option than Gustavsson, but Swayman has been scooped up in a lot of leagues. With a near 60-40 split between Swayman and Ullmark, the reduced playing time isn't a concern as Swayman can do a lot with a little. Believe it or not, before Monday's win Ullmark was fourth among goalies in the NHL for fantasy points since Jan. 1 and Swayman is -- wait for it -- third (Ullmark passed him with Monday's win). The Bruins have the best penalty kill since Jan. 1. If Swayman is an option, he's the best one -- even with only four starts out of every 10.
Stuart Skinner, G Edmonton Oilers (65.2% availability; 34% crease share; .912 save percentage; 78.1% PK): Jack Campbell has been pushing back a little bit, and it briefly looked like he might re-stake his claim on the starter's gig he's being paid for, but there is still enough of a gap for Skinner to keep playing plenty of games. His reduced crease share since Jan. 1 is effected by some time away from the team, combined with Campbell's hot streak (which is now definitely over).
But what's really swayed me is the weighted five-on-five save percentage I calculated from NaturalStatTrick.com. Skinner's mark is tied for sixth in the metric with the likes of Swayman, Igor Shesterkin and Connor Hellebuyck; Campbell's .875 mark ranks 59th among 67 goaltenders with at least 12 starts this season. Has Campbell's hot streak changed this? That same weighted save percentage but only since Jan. 1 is .911 for Skinner and .857 for Campbell.
Joonas Korpisalo, G, Columbus Blue Jackets (97.5% availability; 63% crease share; .911 save percentage; 75.0% PK): There is something here. When compared to Elvis Merzlikins, Korpisalo's rates jump off the page. Merzlikins, of course, is 67th among the 67 goaltenders with at least 12 starts in the weighted five-on-five save percentage. The fact that Korpisalo has maintained a .911 rate, tied with Andrei Vasilevskiy for 10th in the league, is exemplary.
With the results in hand, he should easily get the lion's share of starts until/unless the Blue Jackets decide to have no shame to their tank attempts. Of course, his strong play might even be enough to make him trade fodder before the NHL's deadline, and he certainly wouldn't contribute as much in a strictly backup role on a contender.
Spencer Knight, G, Florida Panthers (73.1% availability; 16% crease share; .906 save percentage; 72.4% PK): Admittedly, Knight's road to being a fantasy asset down the stretch does not rest solely in his hands. He would require Sergei Bobrovsky to stumble and struggle (and soon) in order to get back to even a 50-50 share. It's not out of the realm of possibility given Bobrovsky's mercurial play since he arrived in south Florida.
Knight's weighted save percentage is well within the respectable range, tied for 16th. It's a fair bit better than Bobrovsky's mark of .897. And even with Bobrovsky coming on stronger of late, his weighted save percentage mark since Jan. 1 is actually worse at .889. If Knight doesn't hit the mark in his next couple chances in the crease, time will run out quickly though.
Philipp Grubauer, G, Seattle Kraken (91.0% availability; 41% crease share; .903 save percentage; 81.0% PK): On a weekend in late January, Martin Jones was on top of the world. On Jan. 22, Jones had won eight of his past nine starts, started 30 games and was sitting 14th among all fantasy goaltenders for fantasy points with 71.4. Grubauer, at that same moment, had 3.4 fantasy points on the season (on the season!) across 15 starts and wasn't even pushing Jones for more action.
My, how the tables have turned. In the past four weeks, Jones has scored -8.6 fantasy points in four starts, while Grubauer has posted 20.8 across six starts. The Kraken are staying competitive and with Grubauer firmly planting his flag, his crease share could shoot up to the 70 percent range going forward.
Dan Vladar, G, Calgary Flames (96.0% availability; 43% crease share; .891 save percentage; 82.8% PK): Let's get this straight: Vladar's weighted save percentage isn't that great. But it's a whole lot better than Jacob Markstrom's .876 mark, which ranks 57th among the 67 goaltenders with at least 12 starts. Vladar is at least winning games at a much better rate, but ultimately it's the goaltending that is holding the Flames back from being in a much more comfortable playoff position. Both Vladar and Markstrom have negative values in goals saved above expected (MoneyPuck.com).
If this team had any other coach aside from Darryl Sutter, we may have already seen the team take a chance on Dustin Wolf. The goalie prospect is destroying -- just destroying -- the competition in the AHL this season. He's won 30 of his 39 games and has nine more wins than the next closest goaltender in that mark. It's usually a long-term mistake to elevate a goalie prospect at the age of 21 before you need to, but the Flames can't afford to sit outside the playoffs with the best AHL goaltender at their disposal. If Markstrom and/or Vladar can't start carrying this team soon, the Wolf issue might come to a head. Matt Murray came in late in his age-21 season and saved the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015-16, so there is a formula here. But if this does happen, it might be too late for most fantasy teams to benefit.