In the salary cap era, finding ways to save money is key to the game, and looking at the Boston Bruins’ decisions cap-wise is a bit disturbing when you look at the performances of certain players such as goaltender Linus Ullmark.
The Bruins went out in free agency last offseason looking to land a goaltender and landed Linus Ullmark on a 4-year, $20 million deal. On the surface, it wasn’t bad for a goaltender that had seemed to be on the rise from being with a bottom-tier team in Buffalo.
The gut punch for the Bruins however is looking at things statistically speaking, Ullmark hasn’t lived up to being a $5 million goaltender when you look at other goalies in the NHL that make that kind of money.
What do the statistics say?
I’m not a huge fan of being into advanced stats as much as I should be but when I looked at Ullmark’s and then compared him to a few other goalies that make $5 million annually, Ullmark ranks 4th out of 5 goaltenders. The top goalie on that list? 34-year-old Semyon Varlamov on a mediocre New York Islanders team.
On the surface, regular stats speaking, it doesn’t look bad. Ullmark played 41 games for the Bruins this past season and post a 2.45 GAA with a .917 Save %. On the advanced side is where it starts to look a bit cringe however as his xGA60 was 1.94 and his actual GA60 was 2.29 which means he was projected to be a better goalie than he actually was.
Going back a bit, if you look at Ullmark’s last two seasons in Buffalo, he was much better in the advanced stats department. In 2019-2020 his xGA60 was 2.15 and his actual GA60 was 2.13 so he was about spot on. Going into his contract year in Buffalo was even better for Ullmark as his xGA60 was 2.17 and his actual GA60 was 1.96 which is probably what lead the Bruins to pay him.
The last concern with Ullmark is his playoff performance compared to his $5 Million salary cap hit. Let’s begin by saying that this was the first time that Ullmark had reached the playoffs in his entire NHL career. So some jitters would have probably been expected, but he didn’t live up to how the Bruins would’ve hoped. In standard stats in the two games he was in, he had an abysmal 4.17 GAA and .860 Save % and on the advanced side, he came in with an xGA60 of 1.69 and ended with a GA60 of 4.18 which is pretty derailing at that point. This is what lead to him being benched for rookie net-minder Jeremy Swayman.
General Managers around the league say a lot of mistakes are made in free agency and the Bruins could maybe be thinking that now. If only they had waited for Jeremy Swayman to emerge himself further like he did this past season, the Bruins could’ve saved money in the long run and not lock themselves into what could be a bad goalie contract that will be hard to move if they ever so choose. Hopefully, a new coach and a new season will help Ullmark come out strong to start the year.
Stats from NHL.com/ Advanced Stats from Evolving Hockey.