There’s 43 days until the puck drops on the Rangers regular season, and we’ve still got plenty of time to fill before the Traverse City prospects tournament gets under way next month.
In our first profile I looked at the possibility of Artem Anisimov securing the second line center position, and yesterday made the case that Sean Avery could be sitting of the bench. With this third installment we bring our focus to the net, and in particular free agent acquisition Martin Biron.
Martin Biron joins the Rangers as a designated backup for the first time since he broke into the league with the Buffalo Sabres. He certainly played that role to some extent with the Flyers and more recently the Islanders, but unlike those teams, he comes to the Rangers knowing he has little to no chance of winning much playing time.
It’s almost certainly not where the 33 year old netminder had hoped to be at this point in his career, but since leaving Buffalo Biron has been unable to secure the starting netminder position with two clubs clearly looking for a number one.
In coming to New York, Biron will be looking to change his career focus to that of a designated backup, and will hope to get twenty or so games in net. It’s an important role for the Rangers, who’ve struggled since the lockout to find a viable netminder to spell Henrik Lundqvist.
The Rangers tried three different options last year, but Steve Valiquette – lost the confidence of the coach, Chad Johnson – rookie and Alex Auld – left as a free agent, never won John Tortorella over as a viable option to give Lundqvist a break.
Whether Biron will be any more successful in the role remains to be seen. A notably streaky netminder, he has looked unbeatable at times in his career, but has not been consistent enough for the starting position.
What effect a more talented backup will have on Lundqvist is also uncertain. The sixth year pro has never really taken to sitting on the bench, and the possibility of sitting out multiple games will likely be it’s own test for the Swede.
Clearly the Rangers have overworked Lundqvist in the past, and his game has sometimes struggled at times as a result. Finding a way to bring his game total down from the 73 – plus Olympics – that he played last year is essential.
Biron will get the backup position out of the gate, and it only remains to be seen when he’ll get a chance to suit up for his first game. If Tortorella is serious about spelling Lundqvist more often, then figure it to be within the first two weeks or so…perhaps against the Bruins on the 23rd of October.
Look for Biron to get every fourth start or so through the season, and even some consecutive starts in the middle portion of the year.
Team: New York Islanders (NHL)
Stats: 9-14-4 with 3.27 GAA and .896 save percentage in 29 games
Team: New York Rangers
Stats: 10-8-3 in 24 games with a 2.8 GAA and .905 save percentage
The last time the Rangers had a goaltender come over from the Islanders was in 1993, when Glenn Healy joined the team as a backup in what would be a successful Stanley Cup campaign