The unexpected goalie competition
When August turned to September, the one position that had zero uncertainty was goaltender. Henrik Lundqvist is the starter, and Martin Biron was supposed to be the backup. A wrench was thrown into that plan when Biron missed the first two days of camp with a personal issue, and the Rangers invited former Devil Johan Hedberg to camp on a professional tryout. Now, all signs point to a goaltender competition, as Biron will need to outplay Hedberg to win his spot as the backup.
It was a rather curious move, bringing in Hedberg when Biron wasn’t expected to miss much time. Biron has been one of the most consistent backups in the league since joining the Rangers three years ago. Biron played well in his first two-year contract (signed in 2010), earning himself another two-year deal that expires after this season. Marty has been consistently solid in net, and remains one of the best backups in the league. Of course, he does carry a $1.3 million cap hit, pretty high for a backup.
Hedberg is coming off three years with the Devils, splitting time with Martin Brodeur. His first two years in Jersey were solid, but his final year was a bit rocky. The Swedish netminder posted a 2.76 GAA and a .883 SV% in 19 games. On paper, Biron is the better choice.
But then there is that cap hit. The Rangers are in a precarious position with Derek Stepan unsigned, and freeing up the roughly $300,000 in cap space that keeping Hedberg over Biron (assuming Hedberg would ink a deal around $1 million) would go a long way to getting the young center signed and keeping some salary cap space free for mid-season deals.
One other aspect to consider is that Hedberg –who would need to completely out duel Biron to win the spot– was without an offer during the offseason. Plenty of teams need steady backup goaltending, and Hedberg could simply take this opportunity to play well and earn a deal from a different team. It isn’t unheard of, and the Rangers aren’t an organization that would get in the way of a pro getting one last contract. It’s going to be interesting watching this one unfold.