It's pretty convenient right now to look at Ondrej Pavelec's last two seasons, because he's at roughly the same number of minutes played. Boxcar-wise, it's pretty remarkable how similar the seasons are:
But would you wager that he's faced similar competition? Played behind a similar team? Let's take a closer look...
First off, at the base level we have the difference in shots-against per 60, which this year (31.2 SA/60) is only slightly down from last year's 31.7. But how are we so good at Fenwick Close and Shot Ratio, you might ask? Well, powerplay versus penalty kill time plays no small part in that; quite niftily, NHL.com provides the ratio of PPmin:PKmin among their team data, and take a look: 27th in the league. In 2010-11, the Thrashers were on the other end of that ranking, coming in 9th in the NHL. That disparity helps to explain why teams with such different Fenwick Close performance (10th in '11-'12, 21st in '10-'11) could still have similar results at this point in the season.
Where does some good ol' fashion "puck luck" figure into it? Remarkably, our team shooting/save percentages at 5v5 are near mirror images of one another; through game 69...
On the kill, we also aren't much different percentage-wise, with a 79.8% kill rate versus 77.5% the previous year. We also aren't drastically better in reducing PK shot volume, down only a few ticks from Atlanta's 52.5 SA/60 in '10-'11 (good for 10th-best in the league) to Winnipeg's 51.9 (11th in the league). So in other words, the special teams environment is quite similar, as is the puck luck. How has Pavs performed?
The ranks are among goalies facing 1000+ ES shots in 2011-12, 1200+ ES shots in 2010-11, 200+ PK shots in 2011-12, and 250+ PK shots in 2010-11. All very interesting in terms of results; he's actually improved his PK performance (whether this is true talent is a matter of debate), which has helped offset some of the disparity in kill time between this year and last. His even-strength save percentage has regressed slightly, dropping him out of the top 10. Across these two seasons, with the variance considered, Pavs looks pretty much like a league-average goaltender, maybe slightly better.
Now, an important thing to remember is, as Cap Geek notes, "It's a numbers game." The fact that we're getting league-average to slightly-above league-average goaltending from Pavs is actually a pretty great return for a guy playing on the 39th-highest goaltender contract. That said, the good deal might not last much longer - Ondrej has RFA status after this year.
All in all, I have to begrudgingly admit that the Atlanta ownership set us up pretty well between the pipes, at least for this year. But what about the future value of Ondrej? In the wake of the long-term-contract extravaganza of the last few years, the goaltender market has become quite thin on young talent. Pavelec's age (25 next year) will be a full two years younger than any available talent, and there can be a case made that his upside is still there at that age. If his salary were to fit the rank of his performance the last two years (let's put him at the 14th-best goaltender), his market value would be around $3.75 to $4 million, maybe a half-million more. The thin market could definitely bump him up another half-million, though I think a lot of the big spenders either have their goaltenders settled or have been made wary by the heavy Bryzgalov contract.
So, let's have at it comments section: would we take on Pavs for $4 million per? $4.5 million? How high would you be willing to go? And just as importantly, how long? Or do we ply the market?