“Obviously, it didn’t go according to plan.”
No, we’re not talking about Dany Heatley and his apparent belief every team in the NHL should want his services. But, rather, the plan Martin Biron and his agent Gilles Lupien had for July 1 and the start of NHL free agency.
In a recent interview with Leafs Lunch on AM 640 in Toronto, I had the opportunity to ask Biron how he ended up on Long Island and how this could possibly be the best thing for him right now.
In typical Biron fashion, he painted a positive – yet, still unclear – picture as to how the situation could – and in his eyes would – set himself up for a long-term deal as a No. 1 goalie somewhere else in the league as early as next year.
“The contract this year had to be the one that gave me the best fit and best chance to play often and play early. Then we’ll see where that takes us,” Biron said. “Rick DiPietro is expected to come back in the early part of the season, but nobody knows when. I’m expecting him to make a full recovery. In the first month of the season I will give myself a chance to play, get myself out there and then see where that takes us from there.”
Biron feels he can get playing time in October and maybe November by having a great camp and getting on an early-season roll sooner than his new partner, Dwayne Roloson.
That probably wouldn’t have happened had he signed on with a better team in a more definitive backup role.
“I probably could have looked at situations that were more stable,” Biron said. “But doors were closing a little bit. And then you look at some situations that could have got you 25 games a year, that’s not going to get me where I want to be next summer. We’re all looking at trying to position ourselves for the future. I think that if I was at a different stage of my career and was content with going in to play a supporting role, that would be great, but I’m not and that’s the way it is. I feel in the last two years I took a step forward, starting in the playoffs and playing at a high level. And there’s still a higher level to achieve.”
Biron did suggest he feels the Islanders will surprise a lot of teams this year and he hopes to be a part of that. But the interesting angle in all of this is where Biron believes/hopes he will end up next year as a No. 1.
Here’s a look at the teams that, barring contract extensions between now and then, will have their No. 1 goalies coming up for free agency, restricted and unrestricted, next July.
Atlanta Thrashers – Kari Lehtonen is on a one-year deal again and if things do not go as well as planned, perhaps it will be time for the Thrashers to cut the cord and move on. Beyond playing behind some sub-par teams, Lehtonen’s biggest problem has been durability. In his four seasons as the go-to guy, only once has he appeared in more than 50 games. Not coincidentally, that was the only year the Thrashers made the playoffs.
Carolina Hurricanes – Can’t imagine Cam Ward won’t be locked up well ahead of becoming an RFA.
Dallas Stars – Marty Turco turns 34 this August and is coming off a terribly disappointing season. Two in a row might spell the end for him with the Stars.
Los Angeles Kings – The Kings appear to be in good shape with Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg. Quick had a phenomenal rookie season, with a 2.48 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 44 games and will be an RFA after next season. Only if this tandem goes south quickly will Biron end up this far west.
Montreal Canadiens – Carey Price, Jaroslav Halak, Curtis Sanford. RFA, RFA, UFA. Unlikely, but the facts are the facts.
Nashville Predators – Strong tandem with Pekka Rinne and Dan Ellis, however, both are up for UFA status – and playing musical chairs in the Music City crease is not uncommon.
Philadelphia Flyers – How can anyone predict what Ray Emery, on his one-year deal, will accomplish? Biron left on good terms with GM Paul Holmgren. The issue would seem to be, as it was prior to Biron’s departure, will they have enough cap space to make the partnership work again next year?
San Jose Sharks – Evgeni Nabokov’s contract runs out. Depending on the 2010 playoffs, it could be time for dramatic change.
St. Louis Blues – If Chris Mason follows up last year’s strong second half with similar numbers, it would be hard to imagine there would be an opening here.
Toronto Maple Leafs – Vesa Toskala (UFA) and Jonas Gustavsson (RFA) are pending free agents. Biron is the media’s best friend. He would love to play to that kind of following in that market.
Vancouver Canucks – Still without a contract extension, Roberto Luongo could leave big shoes to fill. Would Marty Biron want the captaincy?
Washington Capitals – Jose Theodore’s contract comes off the books at season’s end and common sense suggests the Caps will look for a more cap-friendly crease with youngsters Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. There is plenty of money needed to spend on the players out front.
The exception to all of the above is Colorado. Craig Anderson is on a two-year deal at a manageable cap number, but the jury is still out on him. He’s 28 and has never been a No. 1, while Biron had the Avs targeted this year.
So, with the potential for more than a third of the league seeking a change in the crease, clearly Biron should have more options next July than he did this past one.
But will he get in enough games this year to remain a viable option for those that are doing the recruiting?
Brian Duff is a host of On The Fly on the NHL Network. Like his minor hockey days (playing goalie, defense and forward) his broadcasting career has been all over the map. In radio and TV from Medicine Hat to Edmonton, Toronto to Ottawa and back, Brian has been with the NHL Network since 2007 and has been covering the game for nearly 15 years. Read more of his THN.com Blog HERE.