Martin Biron is an NHL-caliber goaltender who finds himself in the AHL this weekend to hone his form and ideally audition for an NHL return. He is in this situation because he (or rather, his agent) were part of the two biggest misreads of the 2009 NHL free agency period: In Edmonton, somehow they formed the thesis that their goaltending needs were best answered with a big-money 4-year deal to an injury-prone and aging goaltender. In Biron's camp, the belief was that such contracts would be flowing like wine and merriment despite a flooded goalie market strongly hinting to the contrary.
Fortunately for the Islanders, Biron was available as an inexpensive fallback as insurance for aging-yet-ageless wonder Dwayne Roloson and the still-rehabbing Rick DiPietro. The other bonus was, in theory, Biron would make lovely trade bait at the deadline.
He still might. But remember that flooded goalie market? It hasn't really gotten any less so. Teams seeking goaltending insurance down the stretch have the possibility of Marty Turco's expiring contract, Kari Lehtonen's fragile physique in Atlanta, and Biron, to name a few.
It's hard to imagine two games in the AHL making a believer out of a rival NHL GM. But it's surely a much better sales job than pointing to how nimbly Biron operates the Islanders bench gate.
|2009-10 - Martin Biron||17||950||2||11||51||3.22||508||457||.900||.788||1|
Bridgeport sits in 6th place in the AHL's Atlantic Division, two points behind the Hartford Junior Smurfs and five behind Portland. The Sound Tigers play at Springfield tonight and host Manchester Saturday evening. Biron says he intends to play both games and "maybe get a game with the Islanders next week."
By parachuting down to the junior squad, the affable Biron adds his character but also underlines the constant fluctuating plight of AHL squads -- always servants to their NHL masters. Biron is the second Isles goalie to drop in for conditioning this season, behind Rick DiPietro's visits before the turn of the calendar. Of course, it's not the goaltending that's the issue in Bridgeport. As Mike Fornabaio pointed out in the previous link, the Sound Tigers have managed 11 goals in their last seven games -- a very Islanders-appropriate figure at the moment. (The Islanders have managed just nine goals in their last seven games, which includes a shootout win followed by a six-game regulation losing streak.)
For Biron, this marks a return to the AHL and a return to the goalie-crowd fate that has marked much of his career: His history in the Sabres organization included (very successful) periods in Rochester from 1997-98 all the way to 2000-01. From Dominik Hasek to, heh, Roloson, to Ryan Miller and Mika Noronen, there were always one or two bodies competing for starts in the Sabres organization until Biron's trade to a desperately rebuilding Flyers team at the end of 2006-07.
Now here he is again, looking for another fit in the NHL. Some fans assume he's an automatic to fetch a 1st (ha!) or 2nd-round pick for Garth Snow, but it just isn't that easy. He hasn't played an NHL game in more than a month, and the games he has played this season have not blown anyone away.
But more importantly: The trade market depends on demand, period. Nowhere more so than at goaltender, where there are only 60 jobs in the league, 30 of which are only truly significant in emergency. As much as I hope for Biron to have an outstanding weekend in Bridgeport, I'm also hoping for a few goaltending implosions in front of nervous GMs, and maybe a few six-week injuries here and there -- not career-threatening but perhaps season-endangering -- to increase that demand.
If any of those happen, then we can hope Biron fetches Garth Snow another piece of ammo for draft flexibility. If not, well we knew the risk going in. But it was a small price to pay for goaltender insurance.