Coming into this season, Aaron Dell had to quell a lot of doubt. James Reimer left pretty large skates to fill and Dell was one of three goalies vying for that empty crease. While the Sharks had made it clear that Martin Jones was their number one guy, he needed someone solid behind him.
Aaron Dell is more than solid. He’s a nothing short of a brick wall.
In twenty games, he closed out the season with the highest even strength save percentage of all NHL goaltenders who saw at least 1000 minutes of ice time (94.88 when adjusted for score, zone, and venue, via Corsica). Only two goalies had better even strength save percentages when removing the time on ice qualifier, and they saw less than ten games total between the two of them.
Dell’s game is the complete package. He’s incredible on high danger chances, while also not letting in soft shots.
Not too shabby for a goalie who went undrafted and had to work his way up through NCAA hockey, the ECHL, and the AHL to get here. This feat earned him a Bill Masterton nomination for his “perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.”
He had one Dell of a season.
2016-17 San Jose Sharks goaltenders SAVE chart (via Dispelling Voodoo)
Aaron Dell Rolling 5-game even strength save percentage (via Corsica Hockey)
This save against Wayne Simmonds is unreal. Dell makes this stuff look easy.
What comes next?
Doug Wilson has said that Martin Jones is a priority. Jones is going to be protected in the expansion draft, which leaves Dell exposed. If Vegas is smart, they’ll take him. Please let them be stupid and take a defenseman instead.
If the Sharks get to keep him, I’d hope that he gets more starts. Utilizing a goalie tandem can only benefit both goaltenders, giving Dell more experience and Jones more rest before he’s needed through the stretch of playoffs. Beyond that, with his skill level, the Sharks will benefit as a team having him in the net.
Dell is 28 and under contract through 2017-18. He’ll have a cap hit at $675,000 next season.