Rookie Jordan Binnington Winning Stanley Cup Gives Hope for Blue Jackets' Goaltending Future

By Chris Pennington on June 13, 2019 at 1:20 pm
Jordan Binnington is the fourth rookie in NHL history to win a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets have never found true success outside of the Sergei Bobrovsky era.

Recent NHL history is showing, though, that they just might be OK without him.

On Wednesday night, the St. Louis Blue became the 2018-2019 Stanley Cup champions. They did so with a rookie goaltender, Jordan Binnington, being between the pipes. 

Binnington is just the fourth rookie in NHL history to win a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final, and now holds the league record for most playoff wins by a rookie. And as impressive as these statistics are, it speaks to a greater trend in the NHL:

A team does not absolutely need the best goaltender in the world, or even one of the few best in the world, to win the Stanley Cup. 

Ahead of the 2005-2006 season, the NHL implemented a salary cap, joining the NFL and NBA as parity-driven leagues.

Since then, we have seen 14 NHL seasons, and therefore 14 Stanely Cup champion teams. Out of those 14 champions, the primary starting goaltender through those respective playoff runs has never had more than $6.1 million cap hit. Not only that, but since 2011, a Cup-winning goaltender has not even been in the top-six in the league at their position in regards to their cap hit for their team.

How is this relevant to the current Blue Jackets? Well, Sergei Bobrovsky, their prized goaltender for the past seven seasons and one of (if not the most) the most valuable players in franchise history, is currently at a $7,425,000 cap hit. 

The new contract he's looking for, by the way, will jack that price up a few more million dollars.

Bobrovsky is the only active goaltender with multiple Vezina trophies under his belt - and the Blue Jackets have only gotten as far as the second round of the playoffs in the seven seasons they have had him.

The question lays then, with history in mind, would it even be worth it to pay a goaltender $10+ million per year, knowing that these high of paid goaltenders almost never lead to championships?

Let's even put pay aside. The best goaltenders, even if they're cheap, don't equate directly to a team's postseason success either. Since 2005-2006, only three starting goaltenders have won a Stanley Cup and were also in the top five in save percentage in the league during that regular season.

Will the Blue Jackets' Elvis Merzlikins be the next rookie to lead a team to a Stanely Cup championship? It's not likely, but knowing the way goaltender value for postseason success has dipped in the past decade or so, wouldn't it be wise to let Bobrovsky walk, let Merzlikins grow, and build around the young Latvian?

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