Fantasy Mailbag: Be patient with Pekka Rinne

11 wins in a row for the Blackhawks and their two-time Stanley Cup champion goaltender has a lot to do with it.

This week features an unprecedented number of goalie questions. Goaltenders really can make or break your fantasy squad.

The following is a selection of questions that you tweeted @Sportsnet after we put the call out. Follow me on Twitter @DobberHockey for even more insight into the goings on in fantasy hockey.

Lots of question marks here. I’ve been steadfast in my belief that Frederik Andersen is the better goalie to own for the long term. But can he win back enough starts from John Gibson to make him worthwhile to own for February and March? He’s had four straight really strong appearances while Gibson has stumbled a little.

Meanwhile, Jake Allen is probably out until February (i.e. after the All-Star break) and when he returns he could very well take his job back from Brian Elliott. Or maybe Elliott’s strong play will continue. This has been an ongoing theme in St. Louis for five or six years now – you’d become certain that one goalie has seized the top job after having a tremendous 10 or 15 games, but then he’d get injured and the backup would suddenly have a tremendous 10 or 15 games. Whether it’s former Blues netminder Jaroslav Halak, Elliott or Allen, we have never felt secure owning a St. Louis goaltender.

Connor Hellebuyck looks like the weakest choice here because he hasn’t been crowned No.1 and he could still be sent to the minors. However, he is probably your best choice. Ondrej Pavelec is still a good month away and if you give Hellebuyck another month to pile up the big numbers, he’s going to stick around. My best guess — throwing darts, really — I would rank: 1. Hellebuyck; 2. Andersen; 3. James Reimer; 4. Elliott. (And I reserve the right to turn this list upside down by Monday.)

Another goalie question. How weird. But thank you for making this about keepers. Goalies for the long term, I can get a good handle on:
1. Martin Jones
2. Cam Talbot (Don’t laugh – his new contract will see to it that he becomes a stud going forward.)
3. Sergei Bobrovsky (Proven, but injuries are the reason he falls to third.)
4. Petr Mrazek (If somehow Jimmy Howard was out of the picture, Mrazek could well be first on this list.)
5. Jake Allen (Too injury-prone for my tastes, let alone another season of this ‘Allen vs. Elliott’ nonsense.)

I would still pick Nicklas Backstrom. A safe, proven producer who will usually finish in the Top 10 in scoring. Evgeny Kuznetsov could join him and perhaps even out-produce him not just this year, but in future years. But is an unproven wild card worth the shot at an extra five or 10 points over the low-risk guy when we’re talking about elite players?

Pekka Rinne will be fine. Will he be elite? No, he’s not the goaltender he once was and he isn’t behind the coaching system that he used to enjoy. His save percentage is bad (0.903) and his goals against average is weak (2.54). But Rinne has never been that amazing in those categories — in a great year, he’s 0.923 and 2.20.

His value has always been heaviest in terms of wins and starts. He always plays a ton of games and if Nashville is having a good year, Rinne will pile up the wins. Today, his current pace is to play 68 games and win 30.

I assure you that the Predators will start winning – that’s just the ebb and flow of an 82-game season. So when they win, Rinne will get back up to 35 wins. And along the way, his SV% will creep back up to about 0.910. Not great, but not as ugly as it is today.

So to answer your question – in a one-year league, I hold. In a keeper league I try to acquire him, but after the Preds go on a nice little run at some point I would then try to flip him. Wins are nice, but his other categories are starting to fade a little too far.

Louis Domingue is still ‘the man’ in Arizona for another five or six weeks. I would not do this deal to day, but would readdress it (if possible) in about three weeks.

John Klingberg will get back to stopping pucks soon, he’s just – oh wait, it’s not a goalie question. I was kind of on a roll there.

Actually, defenceman Klingberg is in a bit of slump with just a point in his last six games and eight points in his last 20. His end-of-season pace is now down to 65 points, which is about what you’d expect for him with the ‘market correction.’ I’m in full ‘buy’ mode for Klingberg. What was an astronomical asking price a month ago is now possibly affordable.

Max Domi has just eight points in his last 20 games. Funny, if his father Tie had a run like that it would have been considered a hot streak. Meanwhile, Tomas Hertl has nine points in his last 11 — but there is a good reason for that: he’s playing with the two Joes (Pavelski and Thornton). Provided everyone stays healthy, I think this is a line that can stick.

So while Domi is experiencing a typical rookie second-half slowdown, Hertl owners could be onto something. Yes, I’d make that move, only in one-year leagues.

Bobrovsky is worth shopping around in a keeper league. Not because I don’t think he’s talented – I do. But between his injuries and his team’s direction, I think it’s worth listening to offers. I would only trade him for an established goaltender though. Columbus is probably not going to be a winning team next season either, so it may be two years before Bobrovsky gets back up among the top fantasy goalies to own.

As great as Nicklas Backstrom is, Braden Holtby is the top goalie to own in fantasy hockey right now. You take the Holtby side in this deal all day long. Henrik Lundqvist is not even close to Holtby. Not anymore.

These leagues are always interesting because they level out the player value. Your four-player example shows that more than anything. I wouldn’t let Connor McDavid go no matter what. Nor would I let a top, proven goalie go. So that leaves the other two – Claude Giroux in the 11th round or Dylan Larkin in the 18th. I’d let the lesser-proven player go: Larkin.

To get starting goalie information and fantasy goaltender tips, check out my other website over at Goalie Post.

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