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The Bear Cave


July 23, 2009 9:09 AM

Biron Creates Logjam in Islanders' Crease

Most readers of my work will tell you that the main focus of my writing is centered around the Boston Bruins' organization. However, from time to time, it is necessary to mention what other teams around the NHL are doing. Today, that focus shifts to a rather interesting situation involving the New York Islanders.

2008-09 was a less than stellar season for the New York Islanders, who finished the campaign with a mere 61 points for their 26-47-9 record. The 61 points were five fewer than the Atlanta Thrashers, putting New York is the best shape to win the lottery. They did just that, selecting forward John Tavares with the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Tavares should turn out to be quite the addition for the Islanders, who netted the second fewest goals in the league (201), only trailing the Colorado Avalanche (199). The 18-year old finished his junior career with 433 points in 247 regular season games with the Oshawa Generals and London Knights.

Aside from the offense, the Islanders had another glaring weakness during the 2008-09 season. That weakness was goaltending. Prior to the season, New York had planned on turning to Rick DiPietro as their number one guy between the pipes. However, injury troubles limited DiPietro to just five games. In those games, the former Boston University Terrior went 1-3, with a 3.52 goals against average, and an .892 save percentage.

With DiPietro out of the lineup for most of the season, the team turned to another player with a New England connection. Former Bruin Joey MacDonald had only played in 17 NHL contests leading up to this season. Originally, MacDonald was slated as the backup, meaning he would have likely been in line for approximately 20 games. Instead, the Halifax, NS native appeared in 49 games, going 14-26-6, with a 3.37 goals against average, and a .901 save percentage.

MacDonald also missed time during the season, forcing New York to go to a third option in the crease. Once again, the Islanders went to a New England connection, inserting Brown University's Yann Danis. Looking at the numbers, Danis was the best of the three, compiling a 10-17-3 record, a 2.86 goals against average, and a .910 save percentage in 31 games. Boston fans saw Danis three times, and despite an 0-3 record against the Bruins, the 28-year old did well, holding the B's offense to two goals on two different occasions.

25-year old Peter Mannino was the fourth and final netminder to see action on Long Island, as he went 1-1 in three appearances. Mannino has left the New York organization, signing on with the Atlanta Thrashers.

So far, the Islanders have lost Mannino (Atlanta) and Danis (New Jersey) to free agent signings elsewhere, while MacDonald will likely find a new team as an unrestricted free agent. With that being the scenario, New York knew that goaltending would be a necessity this summer.

On July 1st, New York made one of the first big splashes of the offseason, signing Dwayne Roloson to a two-year deal worth a total of $5 million. At 39 years old, Roloson has proven himself as a dependable veteran netminder. In 2006, he led the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup Final, following a trade from the Minnesota Wild. Last season, the Simcoe, ON native suited up for 63 games, going 28-24-9, with a 2.77 goals against average, and a .915 save percentage for the Oilers.

Despite already having DiPietro and Roloson under contract, the Islanders made another acquisition on Wednesday, signing free agent goaltender Martin Biron to a one-year contract, worth $1.4 million. At age 31, Biron is another player who has shown the ability to carry a team. In 2007-08, Biron posted 30 victories during the regular season, before leading the Philadelphia Flyers to the Eastern Conference Final. Last season, the native of Lac St. Charles, QC made 55 appearances, going 29-19-5, with a 2.76 goals against average, and a .915 save percentage.

So, if you're the New York Islanders, what do you do? All three goaltenders have had starting roles in recent seasons, and all three are making at least $1 million. It is highly unlikely that the three will stay with the Islanders through training camp, as playing time will become limited for at least one of them. Also, an assignment to the AHL would almost certainly lead to a waiver claim by another club, which would leave the Islanders with precisely zero in return.

Obviously, that means a trade would be in order. All things considered, the Islanders are in good shape defensively, so scoring would be their next need. That being said, which netminder gets dealt? Since Roloson and Biron were both recently signed, one would think that they are in position to be the tandem in the fall. However, let's not forget that DiPietro's contract doesn't expire until the spring of 2021 (remember that 15-year deal from 2006?). DiPietro has the potential to be a successful goaltender, but who in their right mind is going to take that contract as part of a trade? That leaves either Roloson or Biron, depending on what New York is looking for in return.

After last season's disaster, credit to the New York Islanders for addressing a need by signing a pair of quality goaltenders. However, is carrying three top netminders really going to end up being a smart decision?

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