Training camp is just around the corner, and each Monday here at Blue Seat Blogs, I will be previewing each position in camp, including the incumbents, the new guys, and the guys just trying to make a name for themselves before being sent to Hartford. This week, we look at the only position that is (hopefully) set for the next two years at the NHL level, the goaltender position.
Henrik Lundqvist: The incumbent, current face of the franchise, and top-five goalie in the league. Lundqvist has been the backbone of the franchise in the post-lockout NHL, and will hopefully continue to do so for the next decade. In Lundqvist, the Rangers have one of the most consistent goalies in the league, who will most likely see his fare share of All-Star appearances and build upon his already three Vezina finalists. Last year, Lundqvist put up a record of 35-27-10, with a 2.38 GAA and a .921 SV%. With more rest coming, Lundqvist should be able to build on those numbers, and hopefully not burn out at the end of the season, like he has in the past few seasons due to starting 70 games a year.
Martin Biron: After last season’s debacle at the backup position, the Rangers identified that they need a capable, veteran backup that can spell Lundqvist for 20 games this season. Signed to a two year deal at $875,000 per year, Biron’s job may appear to be simple, but the Rangers haven’t had a capable (and consistent) backup since Kevin Weekes. If Biron can put together a .500 record, with a GAA under 3.00 for 20 games per year the next two years, then it will be the single most important signing of the offseason.
Chad Johnson: Johnson played well in his four games last season, putting up a 2.35 GAA, which is unfortunately overshadowed by the Rangers W-L record during his stint in net (1-2-1). There is simply no room for Johnson at the NHL level, but the Rangers are hoping he can put together a good camp, and carry the Hartford Wolfpack in net. Johnson struggled at the end of last season, but it may be due to jet/train lag from traveling to and from Hartford to go wherever the Rangers needed him to go. Dos-Nueve will likely start in Hartford, and hopefully can develop into a solid and reliable goalie. With the starting position seemingly filled for the next decade, Johnson is probably going to be best served as a trade chip.
Cameron Talbot: The recently signed Talbot is entering camp as the #4 goalie in the system. Talbot played for a very weak Alabama-Huntsville for three seasons, posting a solid final two seasons that led to the Rangers signing him. Talbot will definitely be in Hartford next year, probably serving as the backup for Chad Johnson. Talbot will likely be the first goalie in camp sent to Hartford, but he is definitely going to show up motivated. In the best case scenario, Talbot gives Johnson a run for his money, forcing the coaching staff to take a longer look at him before sending him to Hartford.
The goaltender position isn’t going to change much in the next few years, as Lundqvist will continue to be the backbone of the Rangers. It is the Rangers greatest strength, but can also be their greatest weakness if Biron doesn’t fulfill his duties. The backups and prospects will come and go, but when you have The King in net, you tend to look at goalie prospects as trade bait.