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To Biron or not to Biron (Part II)

June 8, 2012, by

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…

Michael Leighton

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.

Cristobal Huet

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.

Marty Turco

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.

Al Montoya

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, except Huet, which were compiled from Fribourg-Gottéron’s official website.


  1. Mikeyyy says:

    Justin. One trend running through your article is that none of these guys really shine?

    Is this a trend in the NHL…where you work on your weaknesses to the point you be come average? Yet neglect any superior skill? It seems today’s goaltender finds the angle gets big and drops if they can’t see the puck or drops on the shot.

    I miss the sprawling full Richter splits.

    • Justin says:

      Good questions Mikeyyy, so bear with so me I can address all your points…

      I think the trend you are seeing is that since all of these guys are realistic options for a backup position, that’s kind of why it seems like they don’t really shine. Turco and Huet were well above average starters in their primes, but age has rendered them less exciting. If we were auditioning UFA’s for Hank’s job, the list would be far more exciting.

      Most of the time, a superior skill is a natural ability. Coaching, at least at this point, prioritizes a well rounded game where weaknesses cannot be exposed. The logic being, since you can’t force a player to shoot in the direction of your strengths, just make sure where he does shoot isn’t a weakness.

      I grew up watching Richter (as did Jon Quick) and for my money, there is no one more entertaining to watch play the position. The direction of the position has shifted the priority to efficiency and the ability to maintain positioning 2 or 3 shots into a sequence. The logic behind the new trend is that by letting the puck hit you, instead of attacking the puck, you can maintain balance and keep yourself in position to make subsequent saves.

      Your observation about goaltenders making themselves big and dropping through traffic is especially true. It is a technique of necessity at this point, because the players have gotten bigger and the shots harder. A goalie just has to put himself in the best position possible because of the incredibly low probability he will be able to track the puck at that speed through traffic.

      The position has really evolved as offensive strategies have. Back in the 90’s, when the game was played east-west and the best way to beat a goalie was to make him travel large distances, the athleticism and acrobatics of Richter and Brodeur reigned supreme. With the new trend of traffic in front and trying to affect the goalie’s line of sight, the new style has emerged.

      I miss the Richter splits as well. He was truly a pleasure to watch.

    • Dave says:

      Good positioning and “getting big in the net” covers more space than a split. It’s just the next step in the evolution of the position.

  2. Scully says:

    Jesus Redden’s contract still has three seasons left? He signed a SEVEN year deal?? I thought it was five.

  3. flswarty says:

    Geez – didn’t meant to ruin the surprise – i was just providing a little reader interaction. Anyway – i think your analysis was well done and shows that there’s not much out there with the fit that Marty brings. I think you have got to take Marty a year at a time at this point though. Hopefully the signing noise is all good. Good read on Montoya – he would present an interesting option but as you said he is surely looking for more playing time. He would make a nice fit in Tampa where he could go in and compete with whomever Stevie Y reels in with all of those draft picks…

    • Justin says:

      I was just giving you a hard time, but I also wanted to give you credit for calling it early! Much appreciated on the analysis. I think Tampa could be a fit depending on who Yzerman brings in. If it’s Josh Harding, it could make sense for Montoya to roll the dice, but if it’s Roberto Luongo, he may not be as interested.

      I think I’d offer another 2 years for Marty if he wanted some job security. His low cap hit would make him easy to hide in the minors in the second year if he really fell off a cliff, but I don’t see a ton of risk in bringing Marty back, be it a 1 or 2 year deal.

  4. Rob sahm says:

    I like the leighton idea but everybody else is past there prime

  5. rob sahm says:

    espn new york reporting biron and agent working on multi year contract to stay with rangers