Goaltenders can have wild swings of value throughout the course of the season. Just think about Braden Holtby's 2017-18 campaign as an example. He came into last season as a consensus top goaltending pick and was returning No. 1 fantasy goaltender value through the first three months. Although he wasn't leading the league by any measure, you weren't upset if you picked him.
Then, from January to the end of the regular season, Holtby spiraled out of control. He allowed bad goals and essentially lost his starting job before the playoffs started. Just as quickly, however, he regained his footing in the postseason and won the Stanley Cup. Talk about a roller-coaster ride!
There are currently five goaltenders who at one time were considered to be consensus fantasy starters, yet are currently returning negative value on the ESPN Player Rater. In other words, fantasy owners were supposed to be able to count on these guys, but instead they have been hurting fantasy teams more than if you didn't even draft a goaltender at all.
Let's ask a few questions about each netminder to try and decide what to do with them from here. As Holtby showed us last season, things can get better and they can get better fast.
Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals: Holtby is reminding us of the latter half of last season with his struggles so far. Having only four wins does not make up for the sad 3.62 goals-against average and .888 save percentage.
Are special teams to blame? Yes, somewhat. While the Capitals have done a good job at limiting power-play opportunities for their opponents, a quarter of the chances they do get are going in. Holtby's .750 save percentage on the penalty kill is well below the league average (.863). Although the sample size is smaller, it's interesting to note that Pheonix Copley suffers from the same problem (.778 save percentage on penalty kills).
Is the backup doing well? Not particularly, although a lot of the damage against Copley's ratios came in his first outing, which was terrible. This isn't like last season when Philipp Grubauer was commanding more and more of the goaltending workload. Holtby is going to get the chance to sink or swim for the long haul.
What other factors are good/bad? We know, based on last season's playoff performance, Holtby doesn't necessarily stay down for long. Two particularly bad outings have done a significant share of the overall damage against his ratios this season, so there is hope.
Verdict: You hold on and you hold on tight. The Capitals are in a situation that demands Holtby perform, as they don't have anywhere left to turn for goaltending. These are the Stanley Cup champions we are talking about. He'll turn things around.
Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins: Like Holtby, Murray only has four wins and bad ratios. He's also missed time with a head injury this season, which has been a chronic issue over the span of his career.
Are special teams to blame? While the three shorthanded goals Murray has allowed this season (most in the NHL) don't bode well for his overall stats, Murray has been slightly below the league average on the penalty kill (.838). It's at even-strength where Murray has struggled the most. His .901 even-strength save percentage is well below the league average (.917).
Is the backup doing well? In a limited sampling, Casey DeSmith is actually shining in the Pittsburgh crease. His even-strength save percentage (.930) is 11th in the NHL among goaltenders appearing in at least seven games. He's been called upon to relieve Murray twice already this season.
What other factors are good/bad? If it weren't for his performances in the postseason, you might wonder what all the fuss is about with Murray. His regular season body of work isn't exactly inspiring for fantasy. Murray's leash is long, but it's not infinite. The Penguins are in "win now" mode.
Verdict: DeSmith is looking like a must-handcuff for Murray owners as the weeks continue to drag on. Aside from Murray's checkered injury history, it's starting to look like DeSmith could start earning more merit-based starts. Murray is still a "must own" goaltender, however, and thoughts of trade are ill-advised, as he would return pennies on the dollar right now.
Are special teams to blame? More so than anything else, yes. Bobrovsky's .913 save percentage at even-strength is just fine, but he's allowed seven power-play goals and two shorthanded tallies this season -- almost one-third of his total goals allowed.
Is the backup doing well? While Joonas Korpisalo's ratios are actually worse than Bobrovsky's, there is some bad news here. Korpisalo has more wins. Obviously that's a product of goal support at this stage, but wins are what NHL teams chase.
What other factors are good/bad? Bobrosvky runs hot and cold and has had previous bad starts to the season. While he started hot in each of the past two seasons, three years ago he had an October even worse than this one. That November, back in 2015-16, he ripped off an 8-3 record with a .940 save percentage.
Verdict: Patience must be executed here as well. Columbus was playing without their best defenseman for the better part of October and Bobrosvky will turn things around. This looks like a team issue more so than a Bobsrovsky issue, so there will be plenty of folks working together to right the ship.
Are special teams to blame? Actually, no. Allen's save percentage on the penalty kill is well above the league average at .900, and only one shorthanded goal has slipped by him.
Is the backup doing well? No. Chad Johnson hasn't done any better than Allen in his limited chances.
What other factors are good/bad? Clearly the Blues are going to beat this dead horse for as long as they can, and I suppose that's a good thing for Allen. A coaching change might be coming in short order here, which is good because this is a team issue by the looks of it. For a constant update on Yeo's status, you can even visit a website dedicated to that question.
Verdict: If you are in a 12-team league or shallower, Allen should be long gone from your roster. That shouldn't be news, as you probably already figured that out. If you are in a 14-team league or deeper, I'd actually hold on to Allen (or pick him up off the wire). He's a good goaltender and has shown so in the past. I think the inevitable coaching change here could turn things around for his season -- and if there isn't a coaching change, it's probably because Allen turned it around in time to save Yeo's job.
Mike Smith, Calgary Flames: While Smith has managed five wins this season, his ratios are still in the dumpster. His .871 save percentage is easily the worst in the NHL among goaltenders that get regular work.
Are special teams to blame? Yes, but to be fair, he's been bad at even-strength, too. While Smith has allowed nine power-play goals and two shorthanded tallies, he also sports an .893 save percentage at even-strength. His struggles are of the across-the-board variety.
Is the backup doing well? Heck, yes. David Rittich, if he's available in your league, needs to be picked up immediately. He's ranked fourth in the NHL for even-strength save percentage among goaltenders with at least seven appearances. He's also started half as many games as Smith, but only has one fewer win.
What other factors are good/bad? Smith is 36 years old, which is usually when goaltenders start losing some of their shine.
Verdict: Drop Smith and add Rittich. Whether the Flames like the idea or not, Rittich is forcing them into a changing of the guard.
After looking at all the goaltender save percentages, one small sample size jumps off the page. I implore you to take two more weeks with Cory Schneider. Yes, he's allowed four goals in his one start and a relief appearance. However, three of those goals came on special teams -- two were power-play goals and one was shorthanded. Schneider stopped 28-of-29 shots at even-strength, which is just like the Schneider of old. If he still doesn't look like he can carve out a role after two more weeks, I will calm down in my support of him as a fantasy asset.
Other movers of note
Connor Hellebuyck, down 12 spots (getting roasted on penalty kill); Jeff Skinner, up 32 spots (the Jack Eichel effect stronger than expected); Joe Pavelski, down 15 spots (is this Timo Meier's team now?); Jonathan Quick, down 21 spots (don't pull the ripcord yet, be patient for 3-6 weeks); Roberto Luongo, up 48 spots (here's hoping he starts more than someone his age should); Kailer Yamamoto, down 27 spots (the window is almost closed on his opportunity for this season) and William Nylander, down 24 spots (I'm holding out for one more week, hopefully he doesn't).