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Numbers Game: Lightning land goaltender Lindback

Scott Cullen
6/15/2012 7:59:15 PM
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The Tampa Bay Lightning addressed their glaring goaltending need, trading three picks to the Nashville Predators.

Numbers Game breaks down the deal for Anders Lindback.

The Lightning Get: G Anders Lindback, C Kyle Wilson and a seventh-round pick.

Lindback, 24, has been a very good backup for two seasons in Nashville. In 38 games, he's posted a 2.53 goals against average and .914 save percentage.

Among goaltenders with fewer than 70 games (and more than 20) over the last two years -- essentially qualifying as backup goaltenders -- that .914 save percentage ranked eighth in the league over that time, behind Cory Schneider, Braden Holtby, Tuukka Rask, Josh Harding, Johan Hedberg, Joey MacDonald and Jhonas Enroth.

Note that the first three (potentially four, not including Lindback) on that list are slated to be starting goaltenders next season.

Lindback has prototypical size for the modern goaltender, standing 6-foot-6, and given his performance to this point in his career, he's ready for a shot in a starting role.

In Tampa Bay, he at least has a steady veteran, Mathieu Garon, who can handle a decent workload. Garon played 48 games last season, the second-most of his career (and too many for him to be effective), but if Garon plays 30-35 games and Lindback appears in 50-plus, that should yield far better results in goal than Tampa Bay received last season, when their goaltenders stopped a league-low 88.9% of the shots they faced.

For a team that surrendered 46 more goals than they scored last season, upgrading their most obvious position of need is a good start towards getting back on the right side of break-even.

If Lindback could merely provide adequate goaltending, something say in the neighbourhood of a .910 save percentage over 60% of the starts, leaving 40% of the starts for Garon, that would save the Lightning approximately 34 goals over last season (with all other factors remaining equal for 2490 shots against Lindback and Garon with that distribution).

That doesn't make everything suddenly great in Tampa Bay, but that's also with modest expectations for Lindback. Who knows? He could be better than that projection, with the improvement that comes as players gain experience.

Lindback is a restricted free agent who cost an $875,000 cap hit last season. He's due for a raise, as the likely starter, but given his minimal track record, it shouldn't be an outlandish jump in salary.

Wilson is a 27-year-old centre who has 13 points in 39 career NHL games with Washington, Columbus and Nashville and put up 54 points in 68 AHL games last season.

While Wilson might have some AHL appeal for Tampa Bay, as they have several AHL players that could compete for NHL jobs next season, his inclusion in the deal is more likely because he has a one-way contract ($550,000, according to www.capgeek.com) for next season.

A seventh-round pick obviously isn't tremendously valuable -- about 1-in-12 become NHLers -- but is at least a small asset for the Lightning in their attempt to stock the system.

Tampa Bay still has plenty of draft picks, including two first-rounders and their own second-round pick, but when they are sending three picks out the door, it's a nice sweetener to at least get a chance to roll the dice on a seventh-rounder too.

The Predators Get: Two second-round picks (37th and 50th), a third-round pick and G Sebastien Caron.

The second-round picks that the Lighting traded to Nashville were previously acquired from Minnesota and Philadelphia, respectively. Along with the third-round pick, there is a good chance that at least one of the picks will turn into an NHLer, as the second-rounders offer close to a 1-in-3 shot and the third-rounder is slightly better than 1-in-4 chance to be an NHL regular.

Over the years, the Predators have done pretty well at the draft table. From 2000 through 2008, for example, they made 21 picks in the second and third rounds, with four of those picks turning into players that have played at least 100 NHL games.

Those that made it include Shea Weber, Kevin Klein, Cody Franson and Nick Spaling, while there were also some others that haven't played 100 games, yet, but could still yield NHL value, including Roman Josi (52 games as a rookie last season), Blake Geoffrion (55 games, traded to Montreal) and Alexander Sulzer (now with Buffalo, 89 games). If, for argument's sake, all three of those players are on their way to 100 NHL games, that would mean the Predators have picked an NHLer with one-third (7-for-21) of their selections over that time frame.

One other player of note from that sample is goaltender Jeremy Smith, a second-round pick in 2007 who could be in line for the backup job behind Pekka Rinne now that Lindback is gone. Smith, 23, has a .922 save percentage in 84 AHL games over the last two seasons.

Sebastien Caron's inclusion in the deal isn't terribly relevant, unless he wants to sign with Nashville. The 31-year-old spent most of last season in Germany (3.12 GAA, .877 SV% in three games with the Lightniing) and is due to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

From Nashville's perspective, they have done a fine job replenishing their goaltending position (Tomas Vokoun, Chris Mason and Dan Ellis are among those to move on from the Predators crease), and have invested so heavily in Pekka Rinne for the forseeable future that it makes sense to accumulate value in exchange for what has proven to be a replaceable part.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

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