Thursday, July 23, 2009

Martin Biron Might Actually Be A Genius (Of Sorts)

Martin Biron thought he was going to be one of the most sought-after goalies in free agency. Word got around that he was demanding $5 million per season on a multi-year contract. Biron looked at goalies like Evgeni Nabokov, Cristobal Huet, Ilya Bryzgalov, and the other host of overpaid goalies in the NHL and said, "Why can't this be me?"

But on July 21st, Biron looked like a complete idiot. His hubris had probably cost him a deal with Edmonton, and besides that, few people were looking for a big-time, big-money goalie. Biron was a man without a home, and beyond that, nowhere to possibly make his home. Everyone had at least one goalie who they could call a starter, some had two. Regardless, we are skeptical that this was the only offer on the table for Martin Biron - we even think that Biron might have turned down higher offers that were made recently. Why would he do that?

Goaltending is much different bird than other positions because there's much less room at the margins. A team that 'doesn't need' a particular forward or defenseman can still sign him and push out the worst guy on their team. But there's only 60 goalie jobs in the NHL, and most teams already have most of those positions filled by players they're unwilling to boot out. Furthermore, the starting goalie usually gets between 2/3rds and 4/5ths of the ice time, rendering a backup largely ceremonial. It leads to an oversupply of goalies wherein the market for them in trade totally shrinks - a team might want Martin Biron and might want to trade their current starter, but where can he be traded and for what? This all is obvious, but it's a preamble to the next statement.

The goaltending market is so oversatured that it is now determined by the UFA goalies around the league. Edmonton had Roloson, they acquired Khabibulin. The Avalanche had Andrew Raycroft, now they have Craig Anderson. The Panthers replaced Craig Anderson with Scott Clemmensen. The Devils, Clemmensen's old team, replaced him (and Kevin Weekes) with Yann Danis, who came from the Islanders. The Islanders replaced Danis and Joey McDonald with Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron.

So who's on the goaltending carousel next year that might make it prudent for Biron to re-join the fray once again next July?

Anaheim: Hiller
Dallas: Turco
Nashville: Rinne
Philadelphia: Emery
St. Louis: Mason
San Jose: Nabokov
Toronto: Toskala
Vancouver: Luongo
Washington: Theodore

Not all these teams will be destitute if their starter leaves, but some of them will no doubt be looking for high-priced assistance. But how can Martin Biron put his name back into the hat, playing on the Islanders, where he's sure to split time with Dwayne Roloson? Easy answer: That's not where he'll be all season.

Lemma/Digression On One-Year Contracts And Their Value

In July of 2007, Brad Stuart mysteriously signed a one-year deal with the LA Kings. The deal didn't make much sense - the Kings weren't going anywhere, why bother? Stuart claimed LA was his off-season home, which was true, but why only one year? That question would be answered when the Kings shipped him off at the trade deadline to the Red Wings for a 2nd round pick. The Kings had obviously intended to do this if things went poorly for them that season - Stuart helped the Wings to a Stanley Cup, then managed himself a 4 year/3.75M per deal that now looks terrible, a rare mis-step for Detroit.

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Ramblings

Martin Biron signed on Long Island for 1 year because he will, wihout a doubt, get traded before the trading deadline. It is just a question of where. Philadelphia might need goaltending. Detroit might need a starter if Osgood is once again faltering. San Jose may want to usurp Nabokov if his play slips. Washington could still be interested. All four of these teams are almost locks to make the playoffs, all of them have decent goalies signed, but all of them may need a goalie come playoff time. Rather than sign with one team, possibly get squeezed out into a backup role, and therefore have no leverage when it comes to free agency next season, Biron essentially signed with all four by taking the Islanders. He's hoping that he gets a chance with a Cup contender - if he does, and he can take them all the way, his value will go through the roof. It's perhaps not the play he would've wanted, but it works for all sides - Biron will get a big contract next off-season, and the Islanders probably get a 2nd round pick for a player they will only end up paying around $1 million to.


  1. I think this is a stretch

    He could easily have accomplished what you claim by staying unsigned and waiting until one of the other starting goalies in the league stayed unsigned/faltered.

    But I agree that he took a one year deal because he preferred it to long term at a low salary on some terrible team as part of a tandem. If such an offer existed, signing in Long Island is better.

  2. edit: I meant "one of the other starting goalies in the league got injured/faltered."

  3. i thought of this scenario you're suggesting, and perhaps you're right, but then he probably misses training camp, who knows how long he has to wait, and how good he'll be when he returns under less-than-ideal circumstances (i.e. he'll be rushed). his price is only going to keep going down. with this deal he's locked in to getting moved at the deadline.