Brian Elliott is Quite the Bargain

Brian Elliott is Quite the Bargain

Brian Elliott

Brian Elliott has been arguably the best goaltender in the NHL during the course of the 2011-12 season. He leads the NHL in GAA (1.48), save percentage (.943%) and shutouts (9). In last night’s win over the Nashville Predators, Elliott set several franchise records. The best part of Elliott’s storybook 2011-12 season? The fact the Blues got him at a bargain.

Brian Elliott is making $600,000 in 2011-12. His salary is tied with Chris Porter’s for second lowest on the St. Louis Blues. Ryan Reaves ($525,000) is the only player on the NHL roster making less than Elliott.

Let that soak in for a moment. The goaltender that has lead the NHL in numerous categories all season long is making just a bit more than an NHL enforcer. A fun comparison, Cam Janssen of the New Jersey Devils is making $525,000. Clearly, the Blues found themselves quite the bargain.

On Tuesday, Elliott set a new franchise record for most consecutive shutout minutes. He earned his ninth shutout, the most shutouts by a goaltender in a single season in franchise history. Elliott also tied a club record by recording his third shutout in as many starts. His name is cemented in franchise history all because the Blues took a small risk, signing him to a tiny contract in the hopes that they might get a big return on their investment.

Hockey contracts are no different than buying stocks. You want to buy low and sell high. With Elliott, the Blues were searching for a goaltender capable of challenging Ben Bishop for the backup role behind Jaroslav Halak. The Blues went into signing Elliott knowing that he had a decently high upside as evidenced during his play with the Ottawa Senators in 2009-10. What followed was a dreadful 2010-11 season that drove Elliott’s sticker price through the floor, allowing the Blues to gamble on a potential comeback season with little risk involved.

At the best we assumed Elliott could regain his composure and be a reliable backup goaltender behind Halak. At worst, Elliott might struggle and would spend time in the AHL while Bishop manned the backup goaltending role. The actual result, Elliott leading the NHL in all of the most important goaltending statistics, wasn’t even on the radar.

Let’s compare Elliott’s salary to some of the other NHL goaltenders that are having big years.

Brian Elliott – $600,000
Henrik Lundqvist – $6,875,000
Jonathan Quick – $1,800,000
Jimmy Howard – $2,250,000
Kari Lehtonen – $3,700,000
Ryan Miller – $6,250,000
Jaroslav Halak – $3,500,000

Clearly, Elliott is one of the best values in 2011-12. He has performed better than guys making three, four or even 10 times more than he is.

Elliott will be getting a raise after the 2011-12 season. The Blues signed him to a two-year extension which will earn him $1,700,000 in 2012-13 and $1,900,000 in 2013-14. A well deserved increase for the goaltender that has been arguably the best story in the NHL this season. Even with his pay raise, Elliott still will be one of the most affordable goaltenders in the league, especially after you consider just how successful he has been this season.

It’s no secret that the St. Louis Blues are strapped financially. Running without a legitimate owner, the Blues have to be extremely cautious with the contracts they hand out. As a result, the Blues have scrutinized the players they have signed and have been able to avoid any bloated, undeserved contracts. Whatever gambles they make have to be of the low risk variety.

Going back to the stock analogy, Elliott’s 2011-12 season is the equivalent of buying Apple stock back when it was around $10. Huge return on a tiny investment.