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2018-19 Season Review: Aaron Dell, trade bait?

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The backup goaltender appears to be nothing more than a backup.

 Apr 16, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; San Jose Sharks goaltender Aaron Dell (30) follows the play as San Jose Sharks defenseman Justin Braun (61) gloves the puck near the front of his net during the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights in game four Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

What looked like a promising goaltending tandem at the start of the 2018-19 season fell apart — to put it mildly — when it was put into actual game situations. As the Martin Jones review will get into, Jones was much less than reliable this past season. Unfortunately, Aaron Dell regressed as well.

Dell played in 25 games in 2018-19 and started in 20 of them. His record, a very blah 10-8-4, comes with a .866 save percentage and 3.17 goals against average. And while raw numbers like save percentage and goals against average aren’t the key numbers to look at when evaluating a goalie, the other numbers aren’t much better.

Aaron Dell player card Getty Images/Fear the Fin illustration by JD Young

He was a -1.53 in dSv% (delta/adjusted save percentage), meaning that given the quality of shots Dell faced, he performed worse than how a league average goalie would have performed in the same situation. His numbers when it comes to GSAA (goals saved above average) will make you want to cry. He was a -9.39. That means he let in nine more goals last season than a league average goalie would have.

In my book, you want your backup goaltender to be at the league average level if not better. A backup goalie doesn’t have to be great, but he can’t be a detriment to the team and Dell was a detriment last season.

It’s clear that his performance during the regular season caused Head Coach Pete DeBoer and his staff to lose faith in the backup netminder. In the playoffs, when Jones was struggling mightily there wasn’t really any thought of giving Dell a shot. Some may call it loyalty to the starter, but most would say it’s because Dell just didn’t prove he had any upside over Jones.

Bottom line, it was Dell’s net to take in the regular season and instead of grabbing it, he floundered.

Goals saved above expectation (via Charting Hockey and Evolving Hockey)

Dell ranked among the league’s worst back up goaltenders.

What comes next?

According to Cap Friendly, Dell is under contract through the 2019-20 season with a $1.9 million cap hit. It’s an extremely affordable price for a backup goaltender, but it’s pretty clear that Dell is not the future of the Sharks or even a reliable present.

Dell is now 30 years old, which means if he hasn’t turned into a starting NHL goaltender by now, he probably won’t. General Manager Doug Wilson and his team must see this because the Sharks’ goalie pipeline is brimming with promising goalies.

Antoine Bibeau and Josef Korenar shared the net with the Barracuda for the 2018-19 season. Bibeau was the final goalie cut from Sharks’ training camp last season. He finished his Barracuda season with a 16-13-5 record and 2.89 goals against average and a .904 save percentage.

Meanwhile, Korenar had a good rookie season. He finished with a 23-8-2 record and a 2.54 goals against average and a .911 save percentage. Korenar didn’t do well in the Barracuda’s short-lived run in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He went 1-3 with a 3.45 goals against average and .898 save percentage.

The Sharks also signed goaltender Andrew Shortridge after Quinnipiac University was knocked out of the NCAA playoffs. Shortridge has the opportunity to start next season with the Barracuda. While the Sharks’ 2018 sixth round pick, Zachary Emond, was signed to an three-year, entry-level contract at the beginning of the month.

In other words, the Sharks have options.

On the whole, the Sharks tend to be careful with their goaltenders and rarely bring in untested ones. Wilson likes to insert goalies that have experience and age and Korenar, who turned 21 in January, has neither. However, given Korenar’s performance in his rookie season in the AHL and the fact that Dell looks to be a perennial backup, the off-season or partway through the 2019-20 season may offer an opportunity for Wilson to trade Dell for assets or future draft picks.

Cap Friendly reports Shortridge’s cap hit is $925,000, Emond’s is $796,667, Korenar’s is $723,333 and Bibeau’s is a very affordable $675,000. With the exception of Bibeau, they are all waivers exempt. Moving Dell and bringing one of them up would not only gain the Sharks assets in terms of prospects or picks, but it would also save about a million dollars in cap space.

While the Sharks aren’t at the cap ceiling, they certainly don’t have a lot of room to play with. A million in cap space could do a great deal toward keeping a guy like Joe Pavelski in the fold or bringing Joe Thornton back for another season.

All in all, I do not see Dell playing in a teal jersey for much longer.