Preying on one of the teams that had too many good goaltenders to protect, the San Jose Sharks acquired Adin Hill from the Arizona Coyotes. The full trade was Hill and a 2022 seventh-round pick for Josef Korenar and a 2022 second-round pick. The Sharks are reported in the market for yet another goalie, which further makes the waters for Martin Jones’ future murky. I’ll dig into what this means for the Sharks, Hill, and the other goalies in the system.
How Good is Hill?
Over the past three seasons combined according to Evolving Hockey, Hill is 23rd in the NHL amongst goalies with at least 1500 minutes played in goals saved above expected (GSAx). Though he comes in at minus-1.13, this is a very solid rank. Another important metric to gauge his performance is delta Fenwick save percentage (dFSV%). In dFSV%, Hill is 26th in the league at minus-.07, as he was just barely not able to achieve the save percentage offered to him by the Coyotes. Being in the top 30 in both of these metrics is promising and a far cry for Martin Jones’ second-worst minus-39 GSAx and 14th worst dFSV% at minus-.66.
|Game Played||Save %||dFSV%||GSAA||GSAx|
Another important comparison for Hill is amongst his Coyote peers during this time. As can be seen in the table above Hill is certainly not in the same neighborhood as Darcy Kuemper, but not too dissimilar to Antti Raanta. Raanta is a tremendously talented goalie when healthy, unfortunately, that is rarely the case as he’s barely played more games than Hill in three seasons. Hill is also far and away a better option than Calvin Pickard. Another feather in Hill’s cap is his high danger scoring chance save percentage (HDSV%), which is a measure of the saves most difficult to save. Hill’s career average HDSV% is .795 according to Hockey Reference, while Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury’s is .798.
How Good Can Hill Be?
45 games played in three seasons isn’t a huge sample size and is hardly a starter’s workload. It remains to be seen how he can perform with a heavier playing demand. It sure seems like he would be an upgrade as a 1B or backup to what the Sharks have had for the past several seasons. I’m not sure that Hill is the de facto starter, as it seems like general manager Doug Wilson wants to acquire yet another goalie.
So much of Hill’s value will depend on what else Wilson does. If he brings in another veteran goalie who is not a clear starter, then Hill has a very good chance at usurping them. If he brings in another relatively uncertain goalie like Hill, the two will battle it out and it’s anyone’s guess who comes out on top. If the Sharks get a bonafide starter, then Hill will continue to be a clear backup with the potential to steal starts. That wouldn’t really be the worst outcome and it would give the Sharks some security in the net, something they haven’t had for years. For the price they paid for Hill, it has the feel of Wilson expecting him to be at least a 1B option, if not the next Jones.
What Does This Mean for Jones?
It sure seems like this is the end of the line for Jones. Wilson has voiced his displeasure in the goaltending performance since the end of the 2020-21 regular season and made it clear he intends to try to fix it.
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The Hill move is likely just the beginning. I’m sure he was trying to get Jones moved to another team or hoping the Kraken take him. After expansion, it seems all but confirmed that he will be bought out if he’s still on the Sharks.
What Does This Mean for the Prospect Goalies?
Now that Korenar is gone, the main prospect goalies are Alexei Melnichuk, Magnus Chrona, Zachary Emond, and Zach Sawchenko. Sawchenko is the oldest of the group and may now be the most NHL ready, though his ability to be an NHL goaltender is questionable. The undrafted netminder has spent time with the AHL Barracuda and ECHL Allen Americans the last two seasons. He has looked good in each of those stops so it seems like he might get a call-up in 2021-22 if there is an injury.
Melnichuk is the only of the three that has NHL experience and that came this season. He still appears to be at least one more AHL season away from being able to make an impact at the next level, if that even happens. Clearly the most talented of the three, his 11 goals on 81 shots against in three appearances for the Sharks wasn’t a strong vote of confidence. It was, however, a cautionary tale to not rush the young Russian to the NHL. It’s worth remembering this past year was his first outside of his home country and first playing on the smaller North American ice. Despite all this, Melnichuk has the highest NHL probability of any of the Sharks goalie prospects and it isn’t really close.
The Sharks acquired Chrona from the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 12 for Fredrik Claesson. The 6-foot-6 Swede has played the last two seasons at the University of Denver where he has performed well. His save percentage dropped from .920 to .907 and goals against average rose from 2.15 to 2.47 from the 2019-20 season to 2020-21. This can partially be attributed to the team. In 2019-20, the Pioneers finished third in their division, whereas in 2020-21, they finished fifth, winning 12 fewer games.
At this point, it’s a little uncertain where Chrona will be next season. The Sharks have yet to sign him to a contract. If they do sign him, he could compete for starts on the Barracuda. Otherwise, he could be back in Denver playing for the Pioneers. Either way, he is a promising prospect with a high upside. The Sharks don’t have to make a decision on Chrona until August 15, 2023 when his rights expire and with so much contract uncertainty right now in the organization, it seems wise to let him remain in college.
Emond completed his fourth and final season in the QMJHL. It began with the Rouyn-Norada Huskies, where he’d spent the previous three seasons and it wasn’t going very well. Just three wins in his first 10 games to go along with a 3.57 goals against average and a .866 save percentage. At that point he was traded to the Saint John Sea Dogs and even though he won 7 out of 13 games, his save percentage and goals against average was worse. Emond will have to be in the AHL next season and will be a restricted free agent in 2023-24. He will need to prove that he can hang at the next level or is unlikely to be re-signed when his time comes.
Based on his talent, the opportunity, and cost, I bet Hill becomes at least 1B goalie. There is still the upside for him to be the clear No. 1, if all breaks right. There is a floor of a backup goalie, a floor he has demonstrated. Hill should at the very least be able to perform at the level of an average NHL goalie, which this season was a save percentage of .908 and goals against average of 2.74. There is reason to be optimistic about the crease in San Jose, that has certainly not been true for some time. With Jones hopefully out, the days of banging your proverbial head against the wall while expecting a different outcome are hopefully finally over.
Victor Nuño is a physician in private practice in Santa Cruz and an associate professor of osteopathic manipulative medicine at Touro University in California. He is an avid hockey fan ever since the San Jose Sharks joined the NHL in 1991. He plays, watches, and consumes everything related to hockey, but especially the Sharks and AHL affiliate Barracuda. In addition, he is a father to two beautiful young girls and husband to a wonderful wife. Follow me @VictorNuno12