Mike Smith is number one. That is a fact and will probably remain so for at least another year or two. He is 32 years old and his contract runs through 2018-2019, with a significant AAV cap hit of $5.6 million. A reliable NHL backup is no small matter though, (just ask the New York Rangers) and Smith has not exactly been carrying the load well during his Coyotes tenure.
Other than his exceptional 2011-2012 season, in which he had a .930 Sv% and was a Vezina candidate, Smith has had Sv% of .910, .915 and .902 (this year). These are average to below average numbers and nowhere near acceptable for the largest salary on the team. The Coyotes should be actively assessing who can take over for Smith if he cannot get the job done.
The current goalies in the organization are David Leggio, Mike McKenna, Brendan Burke, Marek Langhamer, Michael Lee, Mark Visentin and Louis Domingue. Leggio and Mckenna are both over 30 and will be free agents at the end of the season. McKenna has put together a nice season in Portland this year and has been serviceable in some brief NHL time over his career, but he and Leggio are really career minor leaguers.
Mike Lee does not seem to have much of an NHL future either, as he has struggled to hold down playing time in the ECHL with Gwinnett this season and is 24 years old. That leaves Burke, Langhamer, Visentin and Domingue.
Burke and Langhamer, both 20 and playing in the WHL, are still prospects at this point. Visentin and Domingue are the immediate future of Coyotes goaltending. Both have seen a little NHL time, with Domingue earning the backup role for the rest of this season, and will have a NHL shot next training camp. Of Domingue, Visentin, Burke and Langhamer whose stats portray the best picture?
All four played CHL (Canadian Major Junior) hockey. Visentin played in the OHL, Dominque played in the QMJHL and Burke and Langhamer are still playing in the WHL. Here are how their career average save percentages in major-junior match up:
And for context here are the total amount of saves each has made:
Mark Visentin, the Coyotes 2010 1st round pick, was the best with the most amount of work. There is a drop off in save percentage compared to the other three, with Domingue leading the way with a .907 mark. He has seen the second most shots. Langhamer tops Burke in Sv% but he has seen the least amount of shots.
None of these numbers are eye-popping; even Visentin's high-mark is around average in the OHL. In their AHL duty so far, Domingue and Visentin have not proven to be significantly better than they were in the CHL. Visentin has posted save percentages of .902 and .903 in the past two seasons, before losing this season to a lower-body injury.
Domingue posted a .890 mark last year and has a .912 mark this year. Langhamer - who has already been signed to a entry-level contract by the Coyotes - and Burke will finish their CHL careers before the Coyotes get a chance to evaluate their ability to fit into the system.
Goaltending is the most volatile position in the NHL. The Coyotes probably made a mistake making such a long term financial commitment to Mike Smith. They would be best served identifying who in their pipeline can complement him or replace him at a decent price. Giving Domingue a trial this spring is a good start, and hopefully the Coyotes will get an opportunity to give long looks to Burke, Langhammer, and Visentin in the immediate future.