On Monday, we looked at the most likely replacements for the backup goalie position should Marty Biron not be retained. The first batch of options were the most likely names to get at least a look from the Rangers front office, but this time around, I wanted to look at some of the unconventional choices for the role. All of these tenders would likely come cheap on short term contracts, always a plus for a role player. As before, all stats are weighted, two-year composites of the major rate stats.
Without further adieu, my long shots…
Stat line: (All stats from Adirondack of the AHL) 86 GP, GAA 2.45, SV% .920
You might remember Michael Leighton from the 2009-2010 playoffs, backstopping the Philadelphia Flyers’ to the Stanley Cup Finals. (Also, I found it awesome, because Philly made Boston understand what we Yankee fans felt back in ’04). Outside of that season, where he was thrust into that role due to injuries, he has played the role of journeyman. He continued this trend of no respect when he resigned with Philadelphia after that Finals run and found himself in the AHL behind Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky (really?). He was again squeezed out this year with the arrival of Ilya Bryzgalov.
Leighton is a UFA this off-season, and while I still prefer Marty, he is an interesting dark horse for me. I think from a scouting perspective, the 31 year old backstop has the skill set to be a quality second string keeper and I’m sure all it would take is a promise of an NHL job to secure his services.
Like most backups Leighton is fairly solid in all aspects of his game, with no skill really standing out. Not that he would need the playoff experience playing behind Hank, but it’s always nice to know that he can get hot for an extended period like he did in 2010. Obviously, Leighton replacing Biron is a long shot, but one of the better possible gambles on the cheap.
Stat line: (from Fribourg-Gottéron of the Swiss A-League) 80 GP, 2.43 GAA, .925 SV%.
When we last saw Cristobal Huet, he was in the midst of a disastrous 5-year contract he signed with the Blackhawks after turning in a tremendous season with Montréal and Washington. The 36-year old was then loaned to Gottéron to get the cap hit off the books for Chicago. He is actually in a similar situation to Wade Redden (although his contract is now complete, whereas Redden still has 2 more seasons left) in that he is still (most likely) an NHL caliber player who salary has kept them buried.
Assuming Huet is still an NHL caliber player and he has the desire to return to the NHL, he could end up being a nice, cheap pick-up for his new team. Obviously, the Swiss A-League isn’t the SEL or the KHL by any stretch, but there is quality hockey over there. While his .925 SV% means nothing in the NHL context, you know he is finding success with his game overseas.
Like Gustavsson, if Huet would be willing to accept a 2-way deal to start in Connecticut, I think I’m on board. But, since the name of the Rangers’ game here is reliability, Huet is a little too much of a gamble to be counted on. He was very solid in his prime, and I’d love to see him get another crack at an NHL job, it just likely will not be with the Rangers.
Stat line: 82 GP, 2.83 GAA, .907 SV% (stats are compiled from 09/10-10/11 to keep the sample sizes consistent).
Marty Turco is a personal favorite of mine, and that’s really the only reason he is being included in this post. His stats (especially his fairly disastrous mini-stint with Boston this year) are confirming to me what my heart already knows: Turco doesn’t seem to have anything left. At age 37, his body doesn’t allow him to execute his risk/reward style as well as it did in the past, and he is being exposed at the NHL-level.
Just because I have a soft spot for the guy, if he wanted to continue his career, and since he wouldn’t be blocking any actual prospects in Connecticut, I’d let him start next season in the AHL. But unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to bring anything to the Rangers at this point. All-around good guy, but he’s currently a little under qualified for the position at this point.
Stat line: 52 GP, 2.82 GAA, .904 SV%
Commenter flswarty kind ruined the surprise with this one in the comments of Part I (solid deductive reasoning, though), but I would love to hear our readers thoughts on this one.
Since I’m all about full disclosure, I am not a Montoya fan. I hated the pick back in ’04 and have never liked his game. He always screamed backup to me in that he never did anything particularly well. He had some standout seasons at Michigan, but that team was absurd in the early 2000’s, so I’m not ready to give him full credit there. I think those seasons combined with the Rangers desperately drafting for need lead to Montoya being drafted 3-4 rounds earlier than his talent really should have facilitated.
However, Montoya has had two quietly solid years in Long Island, as part of the rotating goalie triumvirate at Nassau Coliseum. Montoya will certainly be looking for a better situation in free agency, possibly a starting job (which I don’t think he will be given). The Rangers don’t have a ton to offer him as far as playing time, and given the fact that age is still on his side (27 years old), he may seek a situation where he could push the incumbent starter for time.
I’ve never gotten the impression that there would be anything from his time here that would make him shy away from a Rangers offer, but I think playing time will be a big factor for Alvaro. If the price was right (think Biron salary or less) for a limited term, I’d consider a reunion with the Big Cubano, but it might leave an unpleasant taste in my mouth.
The word on the street is that the Rangers are currently working to get Biron back under contract, which hopefully will be completed before the off-season heavy lifting gets underway. Ultimately, I think this is the right move, and although there were some interesting possibilities worth analyzing out there, I think Biron fits all the Rangers’ needs from their back-up (salary, term and role), and that’s too good a fit to ignore.
*All stats compiled from Hockeydb.com, except Huet, which were compiled from Fribourg-Gottéron’s official website.