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How Much Does Ondrej Pavelec Deserve?

Ondrej Pavelec recently signed a 5-year 3.9MM AAV contract, but have his stats dictated that he earned it?


There has been a firestorm surrounding Ondrej Pavelec ever since Darren Dreger released this tweet Tuesday:

Pavelec went 29-28-9 with a .906 save percentage and 2.91 GAA last season as the Jets' starting goaltender and is currently a restricted free agent. According to Dreger, Pavelec wants $4 million/season. Among Jets fans, there is a huge divide over Pavelec's worth, with one camp calling him a $5 million goalie and some saying he should be paid nowhere close to that. But which camp is right? Is he worth the $4 million he wants? What does Ondrej Pavelec deserve for his next contract? Keep reading after the jump to find out.

First up, Pavelec's stats:

2011 - Ondrej Pavelec 68 3932 29 28 191 2.91 2036 1845 .906 4

Now on their own, those stats don't look like a $4 million goaltender. Yes, Pavelec's GAA in Atlanta was inflated by some poor teams. Save percentage, however, is a pretty individual statistic and Pavelec's save percentage has never been anything spectacular.

But how do those numbers stack up when compared to the rest of the league?

  • Pavelec's overall save percentage of .906 last season ranked 35th among goaltenders with 25+ starts. As in, not even starter quality.
  • Pavelec's even strength save percentage of .917 came in at 29th among goaltenders with 25+ starts, making him barely "starter quality" by that measure.

2011-2012 was not the sort of year anyone had hoped for out of Pavelec. What about his 2010-2011 though?

  • Pavelec's overall save percentage of .914 ranked 26th among goaltenders with 25+ starts. Again, barely starter quality by that measure.
  • Pavelec's even strength save percentage of .928 ranked 12th among goaltenders with 25+ starts. Hmmm...perhaps there's a good starting goalie in there somewhere?

2010-2011's numbers certainly help Pavelec's case for being a decent starting goaltender, but only his even strength save percentage. However, it's just one season of one good-looking stat. As Tim demonstrated here, the past two seasons Pavelec's even strength save percentage has been .917. Check out this piece by Derek Zona. Ondrej Pavelec's .917 at even strength the last two seasons - the one stat that he had kind of, sort of going for him - is actually below both the league average save percentage from the last few seasons and well below the average among qualifying (25+ GP) goaltenders.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

Okay, clearly there is a disconnect between all the "Pavelec is amazing!" talk and his numbers, so what's the deal here? Is he really that amazing and just had bad luck? Well, as Gabriel Desjardins has shown before, given the amount of shots that Pavelec has faced that's extremely unlikely.

Did Pavelec just get let down by his team too much? Did the team give up too many shots and scoring chances? Well...No, not really. The Jets finished tied for 14th in the league in terms of allowing shots on goal, so while the team wasn't amazing at preventing shots, they were pretty solid. In terms of Fenwick, the Jets ranked 11th in the league in Fenwick close this season. For those of you unfamiliar with advanced stats, that means that the Jets ranked 11th best in the league when it came to directing shots at the opponent's goal (less blocked shots) vs. allowing shots against when the score was within 2 goals. Again, pretty solid there.

What about when we account for special teams? Was he facing really tough special teams situations? Well, as Ben Wendorf illustrated here, out of the 48 goalies that saw action in 25+ games this season, Pavelec was placed in the 25th most difficult situation. Smack dab in the middle. Again, not too shabby.

How about "shot quality"? This is the goaltender apologist's favourite reason for differences in save percentage. As the reasoning goes, we can see the difference in shot quality in a given game, so it must exist. The thing about shot quality though, is that, unfortunately for Pavelec apologists, the difference in a goaltender's save percentage due to shot quality is minimal. Vic Ferrari's work here places the difference at about 2 goals per season for goaltenders. He's got more here and here about the importance of scoring chance quantity as opposed to shot quality and another post here about how a defenseman's ability to affect shot quality is "so small that we will never be able to sensibly apply it to any player in particular".

Tom Awad has a good post here showing how "the on-ice shooting percentage while [good players] were on the ice was 9.1%, a whole percentage point more than the 8.1% achieved by their opponents. As we saw earlier, a small fraction of that difference, about 0.1%, is due to shot quality, but the rest is due to either ability or luck." This post discusses how a team with league average skill in both shooting percentage and shots/game actually "would be expected to get anywhere from 2.48 goals per game all the way up to 3.19 goals per game simply due to variance" and could end up anywhere in the top 25 in the league in goal-scoring. JLikens has some more on the topic here where he shows that the difference between teams' underlying shooting percentage at even strength is "only very slightly larger than what would be predicted by chance alone. The underlying differences appear to be minimal." Gabriel Desjardins wrote a post a while back with some good links in it that you can find here. Bottom line: the effects of shot quality are small.

But enough of the nerdy number crunching. Let's talk about Pavelec relative to other goaltender contracts out there. Dreger says Pavelec wants a multi-year deal of $4 million+ per season. How does Pavelec stack up against other goaltenders that have a $4 million cap hit?

Contract Comparisons: $4 million+ Cap Hits

Only 12 goalies have a cap hit of $4 million or greater for next season. As illustrated above, Pavelec's performance does not place him as a top 12 goalie in the NHL in terms of stats alone, but let's ignore that for the time being. Those 12 goalies (and Pavelec) are:


In perhaps the world's easiest game of "which one of these is not like the others", I think it's fair to rule out Rick DiPietro as an outlier when comparing these guys to Pavelec since:

  • The DiPietro contract is Milbury levels of crazy (and yet incredibly ironic that it was signed after Milbury)
  • The DiPietro contract is terrible value and one of the worst contracts in the NHL. That sort of value is certainly not a contract we would like to see the Jets replicate.
  • Pavelec won't be getting a 15 year extension

I've nonetheless included DiPietro on the list since he does in fact carry a cap hit of $4.5 million, but I will be more or less ignoring him for the purposes of this analysis. So what can we tell from the above group? Well, among the things that jumped out at me:

  • Every single goaltender on the list (but DiPietro) posted a better save percentage than Ondrej Pavelec did last season.
  • Every single goaltender on the list, even Rick f*cking DiPietro, has posted a save percentage of .915 or greater at some point in his career. Ondrej Pavelec has never done this.
  • Every goaltender on the list (but Rick DiPietro) has posted a save percentage of .915 or greater multiple times.
  • Every goaltender except Marc-Andre Fleury (and DiPietro, of course) has posted a save percentage of .915 or greater in at least 50% of the seasons in which they've started 25+ games. Pavelec is 0-for-3.
  • Every goaltender (but DiPietro) has at one point in his career posted an overall save percentage of .920 or greater. In every post-lockout year but 2010-2011, a .920 save percentage was top 10 in the league. In many years, .920 would have actually been top 5 in the NHL. Thus, basically, these goaltenders have all been top 10 (or even top 5) in the league at some point. Pavelec, at his best, ranked 12th in even strength save percentage.
  • The mean (.918 without DiPietro) and median are both well above Pavelec's save percentage.
  • This group has won every Vezina trophy since 2001-2002. Pavelec has 0 Vezina wins.
  • Eight out of the 11 (12 with DiPietro) goaltenders have been Vezina nominees within the last five years. Pavelec has never been nominated for the Vezina trophy.

I could go on for about a dozen more of these bullet points, but I think the point has been made. Based on his performance to date, Ondrej Pavelec does not belong in this company. Even Marc-Andre Fleury, with mediocre numbers who's contract gets lambasted (even by us), compares favourably to Pavelec. Let's not make Pavelec into Fleury 2.0, shall we? Moving on, $4 million or more is silly, but what about the next rung on the ladder? Maybe Pavelec will fit in better there. Let's take a look at the goalies carrying a cap hit of $3 million - $4 million next season.

Contract Comparisons: $3 million - $4 million Cap Hits


My observations:

  • Once again, every single goaltender on the list posted a better save percentage than Ondrej Pavelec did last season.
  • Every goaltender on the list has posted a save percentage of .915 or greater multiple times.
  • Every goaltender has, at one point in his career, posted an overall save percentage .920 or greater. As a reminder, that means that these goaltenders have been, at some point, top 10 in the NHL in overall save percentage.
  • Every goaltender on the list has posted a save percentage of .915 or greater in at least 1/3 of seasons in which he has started 25+ games.
  • Every goaltender on the list has posted a save percentage of .910 or greater at least three times.
  • Every goaltender making between $3 million and $4 million except Nikolai Khabibulin has posted a .910 or better in at least 85% of the seasons in which he started 25+ games. Pavelec has done this just once.
  • Even Nikolai Khabibulin, with his subpar performance and overpaid contract, posted a .910 save percentage, better than Pavelec's .906 this season. And he did it playing on the league's 2nd worst team.

I could again go on for a lot longer, but again I think the point has been made. Pavelec doesn't really fit in with this group either. Let's try the next group, goalies carrying cap hits between $2 million and $3 million next season.

Contract Comparisons: $2 million - $3 million Cap Hits


So let's see, does Pavelec fit into this group?

  • Not every goaltender in this group had a better save percentage than Pavelec did, although five out of seven did. Including Pavelec in this group, he'd rank 6th of 8.
  • Every goaltender has posted a .915 save percentage or better at some point in their career, something Pavelec hasn't done.
  • Five out of seven goaltenders have posted a save percentage of .920 or better at some point in their careers.
  • Five goaltenders have posted a .910 save percentage or better multiple times.
  • The mean and median are in line with Pavelec's 2010-2011 numbers but not his 2011-2012 ones.
  • Only one goaltender has a contract lasting more than two seasons.
  • Interestingly, the goaltenders that had the best seasons last year seem to carry lower cap hits. In addition, they're also the older ones while the younger, inexperienced (but with potential!) guys in the group get paid more. It looks like teams are overpaying the young goalies or possibly buying up UFA years.

It looks like we're a lot closer to finding Pavelec's brethren, but a large part of that has to do with Steve Mason dragging this group down. Without Mason, this group still has a mean (and median) save percentage of .916. If Pavelec belongs with this group, it would only be at the bottom end. What about the next group, goaltenders carrying a cap hit of $1.5 million - $2 million?

Contract Comparisons: $1.5 million - $2 million Cap Hits


To begin, a couple of explanations: First, I have excluded Anders Nilsson since he only started four games this season. Second, note that Bobrovsky's cap hit (and Nilsson's too) is half bonuses. Alright, now let's get to it:

  • Quick will not be making $1.8 million much longer and isn't a great comparable. Still, he is the ideal scenario for the Winnipeg Jets.
  • Exluding Nilsson, Pavelec's save percentage would rank 5th out of 7 if he was included in this group. 4th out of 6 if we forget about Quick.
  • Quick and Theodore are the only goaltenders with a save percentage of .910 or better more than once.
  • Theodore is the only goaltender on the list with more than four seasons of 25+ starts.
  • 1/3 of these goalies have never posted a .920 or better, by far the biggest proportion of any group yet.

Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we've found where Pavelec belongs. Even among this group, Pavelec's numbers are middle-of-the-pack, but they are more more in line with this group than any other.


Pavelec's Stats:

  • Ondrej Pavelec's overall save percentage this season ranked 35th among goalies with 25+ starts last season. Not starter quality. In case you were wondering, the 35th highest cap hit for goalies was Mathieu Garon's $1.3 million.
  • Ondrej Pavelec's even strength save percentage this season came in at 29th among goalies with 25+ starts. The 29th highest cap hit for goalies? Sergei Bobrovsky's $1.75 million.
  • In 2010-2011, Pavelec's overall save percentage was the best of his career and ranked 26th among goaltenders with 25+ starts. The 26th highest cap hit? Brian Elliott's $1.8 million.

Pavelec's numbers would seem to indicate that he performs at the level of a bottom-tier starter. But that's just stats. Let's talk money. How does he compare to other goaltenders after factoring in what their contracts pay?

Dollar Comparisons:

  • Every single goaltender with a cap hit of $3 million or greater (except DiPietro) had a better save percentage than Pavelec did this season. In addition, every one of them has at some point in their careers been a top 10 save percentage goaltender in the NHL. Even Rick DiPietro. Clearly, Pavelec does not deserve to be receive a cap hit of $3 million or greater.
  • Among goaltenders with cap hits of $2 million to $3 million, Pavelec's numbers rank among the lowest, but look decent in comparison to Steve Mason.
  • Among goaltenders with cap hits of $1.5 million to $2 million, Pavelec's numbers appear to fit in but are hardly outstanding. He's a middle-of-the-pack goaltender in this group.

Based on both Pavelec's statistics, as well as through a comparison to other goaltender's contracts, it is clear that giving Ondrej Pavelec a cap hit of $4 million or greater is unwarranted. In my mind, anything above $2.5 million -$3 million is downright absurd. Based on both his standalone numbers last season and how he compares to other goaltenders across the league, Pavelec deserves to receive a cap hit in the $1.5 million - $2 million range. Factoring in Pavelec's 2010-2011 season, he probably deserves to be in the upper part of that range or perhaps even in the lower $2 millions.

Now, another factor is that the Jets have a bit of a pickle on their hands when it comes to goaltending. With that in mind, if Pavelec gets priced up into the low-mid $2 millions due to the team's lack of depth at the goaltender position, so be it. Much more than that and I'd let him walk and chase a UFA or trade for a competent current backup. At that price point, Pavelec would no longer be the Jets' best alternative since even if they have to overpay for one, the Jets should be able to acquire an equal or better goaltender for $2.5 million or less without giving up significant assets. Pavelec might end up getting more than that amount but if he does, know this: Ondrej Pavelec won't be getting that much based on merit.