Less than 24 hours after Josh Harding lost an epic battle with a wall after getting into tizzy with one of his teammates the Minnesota Wild ended a brief contract dispute with sophomore netminder Darcy Kuemper signing him to the two-year, one-way deal worth $2.5 million ($1.25 AAV) he originally asked for. I’m still reading mixed reports on whether it’s Harding’s ankle or his foot that he broke, but what is being consistently reported is it that Harding is out for months and, to make matters worse for Josh, he was suspended by the team yesterday for injuring himself in a non-hockey related activity. Apparently kicking walls is a non-hockey related activity? Who knew? Frankly I think wall kickin’ should replace the shootout. Everyone lines up and kicks the wall and whichever team has fewer broken feet (or ankles!) wins! Now that’s what I call action! At any rate, there’s no word on how long Harding be suspended, or whether the suspension will kick in immediately or when he’s healthy, but one can assume that if and when Harding does get healthy again it’s in the Wild’s best interests to get him out there as soon as possible. In the meantime, there’s upside here for fantasy owners errywheres, because Kuemper is now locked in as backup to Niklas Backstrom to start the season, but that may change quickly enough as the season gets underway.

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Josh Harding is hurt. Again. Wow. What a shocker. Some sources say he has a broken ankle, others say it’s a foot, either way a goalie with a bad wheel and MS isn’t exactly a guy you can lean on. Harding didn’t even break the foot at camp, because camp hasn’t started yet. He didn’t break it during conditioning for the coming season, either. He broke it during an “altercation with another teammate,” Uh. Yikes. If by “altercation with another teammate” they mean he kicked the wall afterwards and broke his foot, then yeah, I suppose that counts. TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweeted that Harding’s injury is “significant” that he’s likely out for “months, not weeks” and is currently rocking “a boot and crutches.” Even for Harding, a guy with a long history of injuries I didn’t really expect to make more than 40 starts this season, this is really a boneheaded move. How many games Harding gets into this season is so up in the air I’m not even going to try and project it, suffice it to say he’s not worth drafting right now. If you already drafted and had the bad luck of picking Harding go ahead and stash him on IR, but do so expecting that he won’t do much for you this season. At any rate, all this begs the question, who tends net for the Wild in 2015?

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Goalies can be notoriously difficult to rank and project for accurately. I give each starter projections but I might not bother trying to predict what kind of numbers a backup is going to offer unless I have reason to believe that they’re going to play enough to be worth owning. Most of the time, backups aren’t, but there have been some gems in the understudy group in recent years. Cam Talbot‘s stellar work behind Henrik Lundqvist last year helped ease the pain of the wounds Jimmy Howard’s 2014 campaign left me. Damnit, Howie! At any rate, Chad Johnson filling in for Tuukka Rask showed similar value. For the most part, though, backups are backups and largely worthless without a starter getting injured. Then we have the always wonderful goalie committees. Is there anything worse than goalie by committee? Yes, yes there is, but for the purposes of this post, no, no there is not. The Hurricanes look to provide a buttload of frustration for anyone willing to draft their way into that sad state of affairs again in 2015 with Anton Khudobin set for a bit of a regression and Cam Ward being, well, Cam Ward. On the flip side the duos of Brian Elliot and Jake Allen in St. Louis and Frederik Andersen and stud rookie John Gibson where if either guy is asked to go 60 starts their season would end up bleh, but limit them to around 40 starts a piece and they stay healthy and rested, the numbers stay sexy, and you stay happy with a cheap no. 2 tender. Anyhooze, lets get to the meat o’ the matter, Razzball’s 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Goalie Rankings:

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At the end of the 2011-2012 season Roberto Luongo demanded a trade out of Vancouver and made it quite clear he wanted to go back home to Florida. The Panthers initially balked at the idea due to his sizable contract, but the Canucks kept trying to make it work and finally shipped him back to South Florida today for top goaltending prospect Jacob Markstrom and a player yet to be named. Aw, it’s a dream come true for Lu! He goes from a team that was playoff bound to a team that’s bound for golfing and watching the playoffs at the bar. Maybe he just doesn’t want to work that hard? Who knows. What I do know is  now that he’s headed down to Florida it will relegate Tim Thomas to the bench and I can’t be the only one who is pumped to see that. Regardless of being the undisputed starter for the Panthers Lu’s value takes a pretty sizable hit here as the Panthers aren’t much different than they were when he was traded a few years ago. He’ll go back to getting peppered every night by opposing teams and struggling to keep his peripherals in the healthy ranges and wins? Hah, don’t get me started there, you can expect his wins to fall right off the table. This might make Lu very, very happy, but it makes his fantasy owners cry in their beers. If you own Lu or Thomas, go grab Eddie Lack right this moment as he becomes the de-facto starter for the Canucks. Lack is owned in just ~34% of ESPN leagues and 21% of Yahoo Leagues so you can bet he’s going to be one of the hottest wire grabs down the stretch. So go go go! Add add add!

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It’s the trade Blues fans have prayed for, Sabres fans have dreaded and fantasy owners have been dying for; The Sabres traded Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 third-round pick tonight. Clearly the Blues are going all in for the cup this season and this move makes a team that was a serious contender to begin with seem like a near lock for it now. So, what does this do to their respective fantasy values? Miller goes from middle of the pack to top 5 with a huge spike in value. You can expect fantastic peripherals and, finally, loads o’ wins from the former Vezina winner. Jaroslav Halak’s value goes in the exact opposite direction and man, it’s bummersville for him as he joins Jhonas Enroth on the league’s worst team. If you own Halak you shouldn’t drop him, but I’d bench him to see how he handles the onslaught of shots he’s going to face now. Obviously he’s not going to give you many more wins, so if you’re a Halak owner in a H2H league, you need to start looking at the wire and seriously considering who you’re going to be comfortable streaming when Halak’s numbers inevitably tumble down, down, down into the deep, dark waters of mediocrity. Man, that’s some Edgar Allen Poe shiz right there! It’s appropriate, can you imagine what it’s like for Halak? One minute he’s on one of the league’s best teams, poised to be strong for years to come, and the next he’s in nowheresville, New York. Ouch. Anyway, here’s how the rest of the guys in this deal shake out:

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Backup goaltenders are among the most important players to track over the course of the season if you want a real chance at winning your league. Like closers in fantasy baseball or running backs in fantasy football, goalie turnover can be rather high due to injuries, poor performance or trades, so knowing whom to own before they get their shot is key. What’s more, the idea of the “no. 1” goaltender doesn’t mean what it used to in terms of games started. In the past, 70-75 games for a starter was not unheard if your team is lucky enough to have a Tuukka Rask or Corey Crawford between the pipes, but these days it’s much smarter to limit even the elites to around 60 games started. Even with a guy who can start 70ish games, it does more harm than good to roll your starter out that many games during the regular season leaving him too exhausted to perform up to snuff in the playoffs, when it matters most. The need for teams to strike a good balance between riding their work horses in net and giving them a break leaves open a wealth of opportunity for fantasy owners to exploit.

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