NEW YORK, N.Y. – Veteran goalie Martin Biron signed a US$1.75-million, two-year deal with the New York Rangers on Thursday, less than one hour into the NHL’s free-agent shopping season.
Biron, who spent last season with the rival New York Islanders, is the solid, experienced backup netminder the Rangers have been looking for to take some of the workload away from Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist played in 73 of the 82 regular-season games—including 72 starts—for the Rangers, who missed the playoffs when they lost in a shootout at Philadelphia on the final day of the season.
The Rangers also announced Thursday that they agreed to terms with forwards Erik Christensen and Derek Stepan, who captained the winning U.S. team at the world junior championship, along with enforcer Derek Boogaard.
New York also re-signed forward Vinny Prospal for one year at a $1 million base salary, with the potential for him to earn more in bonuses. The left-winger posted 20 goals and 58 points in 75 games last season—his first with the Rangers.
Boogaard left the Minnesota Wild for a four-year, $6.5 million contract with the Rangers. He will replace Jody Shelley, who was effective in the role after being acquired in a trade from San Jose in February. Shelley signed a $3.3-million, three-year deal with Philadelphia earlier Thursday.
New York general manager Glen Sather said he knew for a few days he would have trouble signing Shelley, who wanted a three-year deal. The Rangers were only willing to offer two.
Sather grew tired of players taking liberties around Lundqvist, and believes the 28-year-old Boogaard will provide enough intimidation to stop that.
“Derek is obviously the biggest and the toughest,” Sather said. “I think we needed that presence here. There was just too many times last year when I saw guys scraping snow into Henrik’s face around the front of the net and I didn’t like it. I don’t think we’re going to see that happen any longer here.”
Sather and coach John Tortorella stated this week that finding a reliable backup to Lundqvist was a top priority heading into the free agency period.
Biron, who will turn 33 next month, will be counted on to make about 15 to 20 starts next season in an attempt to keep Lundqvist fresh.
Biron is joining his third Atlantic Division team in three seasons. He went 9-14-4 with a 3.27 goals-against average in 29 games last season while splitting time on the Islanders with Dwayne Roloson. Biron spent part of the three previous seasons with Philadelphia.
His familiarity with Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire helped bring the two sides together.
“We targeted him right from the beginning,” Sather said. “Benoit Allaire knows him well, likes his style, likes his personality. He’ll fit right in here with us. We’re quite happy to get the deal done, and he’s quite happy to be here.”
The bulk of the Rangers’ backup duty last season was handled by Steve Valiquette, before his struggles landed him in the minor leagues, and Alex Auld, who joined the Rangers during the Olympic break.
Lundqvist earned 35 of the Rangers’ 38 wins last season.
Biron has twice won 30 games in the NHL and has five 20-win seasons on his resume. In 462 regular-season games with Buffalo, Philadelphia and the Islanders, he is 208-176-25-24 with a 2.63 GAA, a .910 save percentage and 26 shutouts. In 2008, Biron backstopped Philadelphia to the Eastern Conference finals.
Boogaard had four assists and a team-high 105 penalty minutes in 57 games with the Wild last season. He led the club with nine fighting majors.
The 26-year-old Christensen had eight goals and 18 assists in 49 games with the Rangers after he was claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Dec. 2. New York was 5-1 in games in which the centre had a goal and 12-3-2 when Christensen recorded a point.
Like Biron, Christensen received a two-year deal.
Stepan, 20, had a world junior tournament-best 10 assists and 14 points in seven games for the United States. In 41 games at Wisconsin last season, Stepan had a career-high 12 goals and 42 assists. He was the 51st overall pick by the Rangers in the 2008 draft.