OTTAWA – Unwanted goaltender Martin Gerber was assigned to Binghamton of the AHL on Tuesday as his future with the Ottawa Senators looked increasingly bleak.
Gerber went unclaimed when he was placed on waivers last Thursday after being sent to the minors on a conditioning stint Jan. 15.
General manager Bryan Murray said this week that one team had shown interest, but that if no deal was made by Tuesday, Gerber would be officially assigned to the AHL club.
That deadline passed and Gerber was sent down.
“He is disappointed,” said Murray. “But he understands the business enough to know that if it’s not going to work here, he’s got to go play and hopefully it will work that his career doesn’t end in Ottawa, that he has another team and other options as he goes forward.”
The Senators can still call him up if either Alex Auld or Brian Elliot falters or is injured. There is a slight risk that another team could claim him if he were recalled, which would put the Senators on the hook for half his salary.
The club interested in Gerber was believed to be the Calgary Flames, but coach Mike Keenan said this week that a deal was “not likely” and that his team was ready to go with Curtis McElhinney as back-up to starter Miikka Kiprusoff.
Gerber is earning US$3.7 million – with more than $1 million remaining to be paid this season – in the final year of a three-year free agent deal signed in 2006.
The Swiss goaltender who joined the club after helping Carolina win a Stanley Cup in 2006 was edged out by Ray Emery as the Sens starter in the 2006/07 season.
The goaltending controversy continued last season after Emery returned from off-season wrist surgery.
Emery’s contract was bought out by the team this summer, once again effectively handing the starting job back to Gerber.
This year however, he lost top spot to back-up Auld, who in turn has seen the net taken over by Elliot, who has started five straight games since being called up Jan. 9.
The 34-year-old Gerber is 4-9-1 this season with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage in 14 games. He last saw NHL action in a 6-4 loss in Boston on Jan. 8.
In the three games with Binghamton on the conditioning stint, Gerber was 2-1 with a 32-save shutout of the Philadelphia Phantoms in his last outing on Jan. 21.
Gerber is expected to spend the rest of the season in the AHL, unless the Senators can swing a deal to send him to a European club.