As Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford addressed the media last week, he began to share what he believed to be the development of an off-season to-do list. One of the things on his summer agenda would be to find some relief for Cam Ward.
"I would like to see us upgrade our backup goalie," said Rutherford. "We need more wins out of our backup."
Rutherford said that Justin Peters, who served as backup for the entirety of last season, would be sent to the AHL to play play the Charlotte Checkers next year. Rutherford wants Peters to challenge incumbent goalie Mike Murphy for the starting role.
Rutherford went on to say that he believed Justin Peters to be a good goalie. He believes circumstances may not have been in place in order for Peters to succeed.
"When you don't play a lot, it's hard to keep your timing," the GM said. "It's not necessarily the goalie's fault."
This summer's free agent goalies are headlined by a few select names. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Tomas Vokoun, Ilya Bryzgalov, Josh Harding and Dwayne Roloson are sure to find big money this off-season, but none of these names will interest the Hurricanes as they are all starting material.
The Hurricanes paid Peters $500,000 last season and will pay him $550,000 this year. If the 'Canes want to sign someone for around the same price (maybe more considering they want a more experienced goalie) their options are more limited.
Here's a quick look at some soon-to-be-free agent goaltenders:
#35 / Goalie / Montreal Canadiens
Jan 07, 1981
|2010 - Alex Auld||16||749||6||2||33||2.64||383||350||.914||0|
Auld finished last season with the Montreal Canadiens as Carey Price's backup. He has been in the league since the early 2000's when he broke in with the Vancouver Canucks. Last year, he proved once again to be a reliable backup keeper with a 6-2-2 record and decent personal statistics.
The Canadiens might be tempted to bring Auld back next year but they also have two good young goalies (Curtis Sanford and Drew McIntyre) playing for their AHL affiliate in Hamilton.
Auld earned $1 million last season and would probably be on the high end of goalies Jim Rutherford could be after come July 1.
#31 / Goalie / Colorado Avalanche
Sep 18, 1982
|2010 - Peter Budaj||45||2439||15||21||130||3.20||1234||1104||.895||1|
The Colorado Avalanche was a mess last season. Now GM Greg Sherman faces the difficult task of signing both of their goalies to new deals. Budaj would seem to be the odd man out after the Avs traded Craig Anderson for Brian Elliott last season.
Budaj has had his ups and downs in Colorado - a city that will cling to the memories of Patrick Roy for as long as they can - but has shown that he could be a capable goaltender.
Colorado paid Budaj $1.25 million last season, but it might be tough for him to find that kind of money in free agency due to the talented pool of goalies this year.
#1 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Jan 18, 1980
|2010 - Jason LaBarbera||17||883||7||6||48||3.26||529||481||.909||2|
LaBarbera has played the last two seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes in the shadow of the highly-regarded Ilya Bryzgalov. The Coyotes will need to string together a lot of money to re-sign Bryzgalov, meaning funds might be short for the backup goalie budget. In his two years in Phoenix, LaBarbera went 15-11-4 with two shutouts, giving them stability in net on any given night.
LaBarbera earned $1 million last year and would probably be in line for the same paycheck this season if Rutherford decided to look his way.
#31 / Goalie / Detroit Red Wings
Feb 07, 1980
|2010 - Joey MacDonald||15||721||5||5||31||2.58||372||341||.917||1|
MacDonald, 31, once seemed to be the future goaltender of the Detroit Red Wings. However, with the reemergence of Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood, MacDonald never seemed to find his chance. Since 2006, MacDonald has played in 83 NHL games with stops in Boston, Long Island and Toronto before finally finding his way back to the Red Wings, backing up current keeper Jimmy Howard.
MacDonald earned $550,000 and the Canes could even be inclined to give him a raise in order to lure a goalie with experience and a chip on his shoulder.
Despite the fact that Jim Rutherford said he wanted"experience" for the backup position, there are a few netminders out there with a minimal amount of NHL experience.
A few examples would be:
#35 / Goalie / Calgary Flames
Nov 27, 1983
|2010 - Henrik Karlsson||17||838||4||5||36||2.58||391||355||.908||0|
Anyone playing behind Miikka Kiprusoff shouldn't expect to see very much playing time. Karlsson, however, made the most of his minimal time in his first NHL season. While Karlsson has only appeared in 17 NHL games, he has shown great promise. Over his last five games, which included match-ups against several playoff teams, his save percentage never dipped below .900%.
Karlsson, 27, earned only $500,000 last season which means he is more than affordable for Jim Rutherford to sign as Cam Ward's backup.
#29 / Goalie / New York Rangers
Jun 10, 1986
|2010 - Chad Johnson||1||20||0||0||2||6.00||11||9||.818||0|
According to reports, the New York Rangers are expected to sign goaltender Scott Stajcer, their fourth-round pick in 2009. This means that GM Glen Sather will have to decide if the 24-year-old Johnson is still in their plans for the future. Johnson was a highly-touted prospect after being drafted in 2006. He has impressed Rangers fans with stellar preseason work and a steady resume of AHL work with the Hartford Wolfpack, however he has never been given much of a chance at the NHL level.
Johnson earned $680,000 with a cap hit of $850,000 last season, which is probably around the dollar amount that Rutherford wants to spend. Johnson is a restricted free agent, meaning the Rangers have the opportunity to offer him a qualifying offer before he hits the open market July 1.
The Hurricanes are sure to give these, and other goalies a hard look this off-season to protect one of their best players.
"If we don't give Cam Ward a little more relief, he's going to have to retire at about 28, because he's going to be worn out," Rutherford said.
And that's something no Hurricanes fan wants to see.
UPDATE: The Phoenix Coyotes have signed G Jason LaBarbera to a 2-year contract extension