Backup Battle

Might Martin Biron's Rangers career end, before the season begins?

With Johan Hedberg in camp, might Martin Biron’s days a a Ranger be numbered?

The last thing that would have been expected in New York Rangers training camp was a battle for the backup goaltending position. With Martin Biron under contract for a final season and no other goaltender in the system ready to make the jump, why would there be?

Enter 40-year-old Johan Hedberg, whom the Rangers invited to camp on a professional tryout contract. The first thought was they brought him in to have another goalie with NHL experience in camp as Biron missed time to handle an undisclosed personal matter. Biron returned on Friday, and Hedberg’s still around. Alain Vigneault made it clear Friday the two will be competing for the position of Henrik Lundqvist’s understudy.

The Lundqvist-Biron pairing has worked the last three seasons, giving stability after the Steve Valiquette/Chad Johnson/Alex Auld/Matt Zaba carousel. No, Biron isn’t going to be mistaken for a Vezina candidate, but he’s been what the Rangers have expected, winning 22 of the 44 games he’s played as a Ranger, sporting a .913 save percentage and a 2.32 goals against average. The affable Biron knows his role on the team and has played it to the hilt.

Unfortunately, those qualities – along with his $1.3 million cap hit – might spell the end to hits time as a Ranger. For a team that still needs to sign holdout RFA Derek Stepan and doesn’t have a lot of cap space in which to do it, Biron would be the kind of commodity that could be moved to a team with space and the need for a dependable veteran backup. Hedberg would be a cheaper option, but a better option than Biron? Not in my opinion. In the last two full NHL seasons, Lundqvist played in 68 and 62 games. A compressed schedule and an Olympics that Lundqvist will be participating in could lead to Vigneault leaning on his backup even more. Even if Hedberg were to outplay Biron in camp, there’s no guarantee it’ll carry on into the regular season when called upon.

The Rangers would be taking a gamble – literally robbing Peter to pay Paul (or in this case, robbing Marty to pay Derek). Like it or loathe it, that’s the nature of the business in today’s salary cap world.

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About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927

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