The Colorado Avalanche goaltending depth is a huge concern for 2019-20. They have only one experienced NHL option on the roster as the team approaches one of the most exciting seasons in its history. Many teams have at least two goalies who could step onto the ice and not worry fans, but Colorado does not have that luxury at this point. What does the team have stockpiled in the event of an injury?
Colorado Avalanche Goaltending Depth
Option 1 – Philipp Grubauer
Philipp Grubauer originally came over in the 2018-19 offseason from the Washington Capitals. He had a fairly strong first season in Colorado, winning 18 of his 37 appearances. Grubauer posted a solid .917 save percentage and 2.64 goals-against-average. He enters 2019-20 as the clear-cut starter for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
However, it’d be dishonest to say there aren’t questions surrounding the German netminder. Last year’s 33 starts were a career-high. He will be asked to start 45-50 times or more assuming his health and performance hold up. Grubauer also wasn’t especially strong through the middle of last season while trying to unseat Semyon Varlamov. Don’t forget that he also struggled mightily with Washington in the 2017-18 playoffs. There are plenty of things to like about Grubauer based on his most recent work. However, there isn’t much sense as to how he will handle the workload in 2019-20. He is the first line in the Colorado Avalanche goaltending and will need to have a big year.
Option 2 – Pavel Francouz
If there is uncertainty surrounding Grubauer than Pavel Francouz represents a true enigma. The Czech goaltender has just two NHL games under his belt and no starts. He played with Colorado’s AHL affiliate in 2018-19 with a 2.68 goals-against and a .918 save percentages.
Why then, is Francouz the clear back-up to Grubauer as the team enters a huge season? Simply put, Francouz has had an excellent career outside of North America. He’s posted outstanding numbers with Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL after dominating the Czech Extraliga.
His final season before coming to North America saw an incredible 1.80 goals-against average and a save percentage of .946. Francouz had almost the same numbers in 12 playoff games as well. His struggles in the AHL are largely due to adjusting to the game on this continent. 30-35 starts is certainly possible in 2019-20. Fans should be very intrigued by Francouz’s potential.
Option 3 – Hunter Miska
Francouz occupied the third Colorado Avalanche goaltending slot last year. His graduation leaves something of a hole on the depth chart. The team also lost experienced minor league options Joe Cannata and Spencer Martin to other opportunities this offseason. That leaves former Arizona Coyotes goalie Hunter Miska as the likely call-up in case of injury. Miska was signed in July.
The 24-year-old has one whole NHL game to his name thus far. He had a single appearance with Arizona last year where he stopped eight of nine shots in 18 minutes of work. He went undrafted after one season with Minnesota-Duluth. The 6’1″ goaltender can be an option at the NHL level, but don’t expect too much out of him this season. Colorado’s other goaltending prospects are even younger and inexperienced that Miska.
What Could Colorado Do
It makes sense for Colorado to bring a veteran in at this point for a camp tryout. There are still several options on the free-agent market with NHL experience. The smartest move might be bringing in 35-year-old Kari Lehtonen. Nobody is leaping to sign Lehtonen after he didn’t play in 2018-19, but there are a few things that could make him an attractive fill-in for the Avalanche.
The first thing to note is that Lehtonen has the most games played of any remaining free-agent netminder. That experience is invaluable either as a backup or helping develop younger options at the AHL or ECHL levels. Much of that experience also came as a member of the Dallas Stars, so Lehtonen’s knowledge of the Central Division is unparalleled compared to other goalies still without a job. He might also get along well with fellow Finn Mikko Rantanen. Having someone else around that can speak a native language is an underrated mental comfort.
There’s also the fact that Lehtonen, despite underwhelming as a Star, has been a steady presence for much of his career. His career-low for save percentage came in 2016-17 with .902 and he rebounded to his career average of .912 the very next year. Lehtonen’s goals-against average also remained fairly steady with Dallas at 2.63. Colorado might not pick Lehtonen, but there are far worse options. They need to do something to establish greater depth behind Grubauer and Francouz.