Manor Analytics Perspective: Do the Kings Need a Playoff Goalie?


They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
Staff member
Jul 28, 2004

For the past couple of years, including both the 2022 and 2023 playoffs, goaltending has been one of the Los Angeles Kings’ biggest problem areas. When Jonathan Quick’s game started to drop off, they turned to Cal Petersen and made a trade for Joonas Korpisalo. Sandwiched in-between there was Pheonix Copley, who bailed the Kings out last season by posting a 24-6-3 record after a Dec. recall from AHL Ontario. However, he didn’t get any starts in the post-season, as then coach Todd McLellan was married to the idea of Korpisalo getting the job done. Besides, Copley is now out for the remainder of 2023-24, so he’s out of the picture now anyway.

In an effort to create depth with the little cap room they had available last summer, the Kings signed both David Rittich and Cam Talbot to one-year deals this past offseason. After starting the year in Ontario, it can’t be denied that Rittich has outperformed his $875,000 salary, having gone 9-4-3 in 16 games.

Yet. is he the one who will take the Kings on a playoff run? Or are they better off trading for a more proven playoff goalie?

In this article, we’ll take an analytics approach to looking at how LA’s goaltending has been doing so far this season and scout a potential trade target with this year’s Trade Deadline quickly approaching on March 8.

David Rittich​

Along with his aforementioned 9-4-3 record, Rittich has also posted a .914 save percentage (SV%) and 2.32 goals against average (GAA) thus far.

As of Feb. 27, of all NHL goalies with at least five games played, Rittich is tenth in the league when it comes to Goals Saved Above Expected (explanation can be found here), fourth in GSAx per 60, eighth in SV% on unblocked shots, and fifth in GAA.

There is no question that Rittich has been outstanding for the Kings this season, but how will he fare come playoff time?

The 31-year-old netminder has only played two playoff games in his entire career – one in 2020 for Calgary (where he also formed a tandem with Cam Talbot) against Dallas, in which he let in three goals on nine shots, and another one in 2022 for Nashville, in a series against Colorado. He let in five goals on thirteen shots wearing a Predators uniform.

In those regular seasons, Rittich went 24-17-6 with a .907 SV% and 2.97 GAA; only to produce a 6-3-4 record during the postseason with a paltry .886 SV% and 3.57 GAA, respectively.

Those numbers would suggest Rittich doesn’t have a very good playoff track record, however small it may be. To his credit, though, he didn’t perform as well in those regular seasons as he has been so far for the Kings during 2023-24.

Generally speaking, Rittich is extremely inexperienced when it comes to playoff hockey. Is that a risk GM Rob Blake is willing to take with his final playoff roster?

Cam Talbot​

While Rittich is not very experienced in the playoffs, Talbot is.

In 33 career playoff games, the veteran goalie has amassed a 15-16 record, along with a .921 SV%, and a 2.51 GAA.

For 2023-24 to date, Rittich is 16-14-5, with a .913 SV%, and 2.55 GAA.

It is difficult to find more advanced career playoff stats like GSAx and high-danger SV%, but just looking at Talbot’s overall career stats (.914 SV% and 2.64 GAA), he seems to do just as well or better in the playoffs than in the regular season.

Being more confident in playing Talbot in the playoffs over Rittich is understandable, but considering Talbot started a majority of the games in January when the Kings went 3-7-5, it wouldn’t be wise to put all eggs in the Talbot basket come April.

Trade Targets​

With Victor Arvidsson and Carl Grundström on LTIR, the Kings have just over $2.5 million in cap space to play with.

We talked about why the Kings might want to go after Marc-Andre Fleury in this article, but who else might they want to go after at the deadline before a playoff push?

Another name immediately coming to mind is Calgary’s Jacob Markstöm.

For starters, he’s experienced in the NHL playoffs, having skated in 26 playoff games (13-13, .911 SV%, 2.90 GAA).

Of goalies with at least five games played, he is currently third in the league in GSAx, sixth in GSAx per 60, 11th in SV% on unblocked shots, and 16th in GAA.

Markstrom is also under contract for two more years after this season, carrying a cap hit of $6-million per year.

Talbot has a no-movement clause, so he would be required to sign off on any trade. This is something he might be willing to do, however, as the Flames were reportedly in talks with the Devils just a couple of weeks ago. The case may be different for a Pacific Division rival such as the Kings, but seeing how Rittich responded to moving to Los Angeles as an opportunity to win (and experience some warmer weather), he may be willing to accept a trade.

Trading Markstrom would mean the Flames commit to a rebuild, and the Kings would most likely have to give up at least one young player such as Blake Lizotte or Arthur Kaliyev. The Kings would also need to commit to clearing cap space for Markström’s $6M cap hit, which would likely mean either trading Matt Roy ($3.15M hit) or letting him walk in the offseason.

Another name that has consistently been linked to the Kings in the past has been Nashville’s Juuse Saros.

He is 3-7 in the playoffs with a .914 SV% and 2.63 GAA. Despite having a career SV% of .914, he is not having that great of a season this year.

Saros is 24-21-2 in 2023-24, with a .905 SV% and 2.91 GAA. Of goalies with at least 5 games played, he ranks 49th in GSAx, 45th in SV% on unblocked shots, and currently ranks 33rd in GAA.

Saros is signed through the end of the 2024-25 season with a $5M cap hit.

Although he would cost less than Markström, Saros’s playoff record (and stats so far this season) should make teams most hesitant to trade for him, especially when in LA, it would most likely cost Arthur Kaliyev and the opportunity to re-sign Roy.

Rittich has been solid so far this season, but he is unproven in the playoffs. Cam Talbot looked sharp to start the season but has been shaky recently. If the Kings want to go far in the playoffs this year, they may need to make a deadline acquisition for a more proven netminder.


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