Today is supposed to be a day of productivity for NHL teams. Contending teams look to add pieces to enhance the team as they go into the playoffs, while other teams add young pieces to prepare for future years. Rangers fans received news today that was anything but productive when Glen Sather announced that goaltender Martin Biron broke his collarbone in practice today. Apparently, the injury was the result of a puck hitting him. In general, broken collarbones take anywhere between 4-8 weeks to heal, and Sather confirmed that Biron would most likely be sidelined for the rest of the regular season but that he very well could be back for the playoffs. A freak and unfortunate injury to what has been a season riddled with such injuries. The timing of his injury was poor, too, given that Sather had little time to explore the trade market for a replacement goalie. Sather claimed that once teams learned of Biron’s injury their asking prices skyrocketed. The good news regarding Biron is that it’s not an injury that should affect his playing ability and that it’s simply waiting for his collarbone to heal. This is especially important given that the Biron is signed through next year. Let’s look at the effects this will have and who might be replacing him for the time being:
Henrik Lundqvist- Another reason why the timing of Biron’s injury is not good is because of how it affects Lundqvist. Lundqvist has started all of the team’s last eight games, his longest streak of the season. Biron was likely penciled in for a start in the next two or three games, if not tomorrow. Thus, Lundqvist is not going to have much of an opportunity to rest and is going to have to carry the load the rest of the way. The good news is that, recent games aside, Tortorella has not been shy to give Lundqvist games off in favor of Biron. Assuming Lundqvist starts almost every game the rest of the way, he will end up with somewhere between 70-75 starts, which is just about what he’s been used in his NHL career. It’s not ideal; the whole reason Biron was brought in was to give him a few less games. However, given the Rangers’ situation, Lundqvist should be okay with starting most games the rest of the way.
Cameron Talbot/Chad Johnson: The Rangers called up Cameron Talbot from Connecticut soon after the injury occurred today, so he will serve as the backup goaltender tomorrow. Talbot was signed from the University of Alabama as an undrafted college free agent at the end of last season, and in his rookie year of professional hockey has actually been solid in the 13 games he’s played in the AHL. Unfortunately, an injury sidelined him, and he just recently got back to playing. Talbot being called up doesn’t necessarily guarantee he will be getting any starts, however. Talbot was called up over Chad Johnson, whom the Rangers got a taste of last year. Johnson has struggled this year in comparison to last, and has actually lost playing time to Dov Grumet-Morris, who is not Rangers property, in recent games. Despite that, the Rangers might elect to ultimately give Johnson some games as a Ranger for the few times Lundqvist needs to be rested. Talbot has only gotten a taste of professional hockey in general. Johnson has played in the AHL for two years now and held his own in the 5 games he got in the NHL last season. After the Rangers sent Stephen Valiquette down, they called former Rangers goaltending prospect Matt Zaba up from the minors but sent him back down in favor of Johnson when Lundqvist needed a rest. This was done so that Johnson could get playing time instead of waste away on the Rangers bench. The Rangers might decide to do the same thing with Talbot and Johnson this year.
Though the trading deadline has passed, waivers is still in effect. The only difference between now and pre-deadline is that players added on waivers can not be put on the roster in the playoffs. There are definitely a few goaltenders that teams might place on waivers, and perhaps the Rangers decide to bite.
Ty Conklin: Between Halak and recently called up Ben Bishop, who has performed well in his 4 NHL games, the St. Louis Blues have little need for Ty Conklin. He was already placed on waivers Friday and cleared today. He has not had a good year, but then again, neither has Halak. Perhaps the problem is simply the Blues. Regardless, even a struggling Ty Conklin, a guy who has been a reliable backup his whole career and has played in the Stanley Cup Finals, would be a worthwhile addition. Perhaps the Blues will place him on re-entry waivers so as to rid them of dead weight.
Patrick Lalime: Currently the backup in Buffalo, but that might not last the rest of the season. Jhonas Enroth has gotten 6 starts in the NHL compared to Lalime’s 7 this year and has been better. The sabres might decide to call Enroth up permanently the rest of the season and sacrifice Lalime as a result. Lalime has lost some ability now in his mid 30′s but again is someone who is reliable and has playoff experience.
Michael Leighton: The Flyers’ playoff hero from last year is now playing for the Phantoms, Philadelphia’s minor league team. He was placed on waivers earlier in the year but cleared, and would have to go through re-entry waivers. The problem with him is that he is signed for 1.55 million next year, and the Rangers have no use for him beyond being a temporary band-aid this year. That makes him less likely to be a possibility.
Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers: The Oilers once had faith in JDD’s potential but he hasn’t completely fulfilled their expectations. On a team with mediocre goaltending, JDD is the odd man out, with Khabibulin and Dubnyk ahead of him on the depth chart. The Oilers don’t see him as part of the future and perhaps would like to allow the Rangers to pay the remainder of his contract, which ends this season.
There are definitely other names out there and I’m sure Sather will be making a few calls to see if anyone will do him a favor. If not, then the Rangers will manage to survive. It’s really unfortunate that this happened to Marty, who has been great on the ice this year but has also been an influence on the bench and in the locker room. Hopefully he can get back in time for the playoffs.
There are likely a few other names out there