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Who will the Canes grab as a backup goaltender?

With the free agent frenzy set to begin in less than 12 hours, there are still a few unanswered questions in Raleigh.  For me, a really intriguing one will be regarding the goaltending situation.  Cam Ward needs a strong backup.  Someone who can be depended upon to start 15-20 games.  He’s never had that.  This summer, the Hurricanes have made it crystal clear that they’re not going to use Justin Peters in Raleigh.  They don’t intend to replace him from within the organization, either. 

Jim Rutherford has said that he’s looking to spend $1M or so on a proven NHL-calibre backup goaltender.  There are a few out there, and JR has a list of three, from which he expects to sign one on Friday.  He didn’t indicate who’s on that short list, but we can probably engineer something like it.  He did tell David Droschak that former Hurricane Martin Gerber isn’t on that list, but he didn’t rule out his penchant for recycling:

That’s not to say I won’t bring somebody back

I’m thinking that he might be suggesting that former Whaler J-S Giguere is on that short list.  I kinda like that idea.

Giggy is just coming out of a really lucrative contract which paid him $24M over four years.  After being traded from Anaheim to Toronto in January of 2010, he spent the 2010-11 season watching young James Reimer seize the #1 job with the Leafs.  He’s been battling injuries over the last few years but is really trying to focus on getting healthy.  He knows that he’s in the twilight of his career and that he can’t be depended upon as a #1 guy anymore.  He also knows that he’s going to have to take a massive pay cut this coming season.  Most speculation is that he’ll sign somewhere at $1.5M and he’ll be a quality backup with veteran leadership and playoff experience.  He’s also got a Conn Smythe trophy and a Stanley Cup ring.  Not too bad. 
Cam Ward doesn’t need a mentor.  He does, however, need someone who can give him a break.  Giguere could be that guy, if he’s willing to accept the huge pay cut and the big reduction in ice time.
He was originally drafted by the Whalers with the 13th overall pick in the 1995 draft.  He stayed in junior hockey that season.  He played in a handful of games for Hartford in 1996-97, but wasn’t very good.  He went down to the minors, and his rights came to Carolina with the Whale.  After a couple more seasons in the American league, they traded him to Calgary in a multi-player deal that brought Gary Roberts and Trevor Kidd to Greensboro.  He eventually went on to success in Anaheim, winning the Conn Smythe in a losing effort in 2003 and a Stanley Cup in 2007.

The other guys who I suspect might be on this short list:

Peter Budaj.  Another guy who has been playing a #1 role, but without much success.  I’ve always thought highly of this guy, and he could probably be had for less than $1.5M.
Brian Boucher.  A victim of the Bryzgalov signing in Philly, he’s a decent backup and can be had for right at $1M.

Those are really the only ones who I think would make any sense.  However, nothing has made much sense this summer, so I don’t expect it to start making sense now. 

There’s also talk of orchestrating a trade for a top-six winger, pending the activity of Erik Cole.  As the rumor has it, Carolina would offer a second round pick in next year’s draft and a prospect from Charlotte for a top-six player.  Rutherford says he has talked with a specific team who may find themselves pushed up against the cap on Friday.  Could that team be Buffalo?  Could it be Pittsburgh?  We’ll find out soon enough. 

If the Penguins sign Jaromir Jagr, they will be pushed very hard against the cap.  They’ll need to shed some salary, but there’s no telling who the casualty might be.  We can always dream that they’d be willing to part with Jordan Staal.  It’s probably not going to happen, but we can dream, can’t we?  It’s more money ($4M) than the Hurricanes will want to spend, but we can dream, can’t we? James Neal at $2.875M is much more likely.

It may be the Sabres, who are on a spending spree, and who say that they will continue to be aggressive.  They themselves need a backup goalie, another starting forward and another starting defenseman.  Plus a couple of roster fillers.  If they go big, they’ll need to shed some serious salary.  In the “top six” category, there are guys like Drew Stafford and Brad Boyes, both of whom are under contract for $4M.  Like JStaal, this is more than the Canes will want to pay.  There’s Paul Gaustad at a more affordable $2.3M.  There’s the tiny Nathan Gerbe, who is a Michigander and who just signed for a very affordable $1.25M per season. He’s 5’1” in skates and standing on two phone books, which would make Jeff Skinner feel like a giant.  That one isn’t going to happen, but I could see Gaustad coming this way.

I don’t think Carolina is going to play a “waiting around” game.  They’re not going to make any huge splashes, but they’re going to have to strike quickly to get what they need.

As always, all salary information courtesy of capgeek.com, which is an invaluable resource.

Filed in: | Red and Black Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: carolna+hurricanes, free+agency

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David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science.  He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows.  Sometimes, all in the same day. 

David has contributed to CBC.ca for their Stanley Cup playoff coverage in 2006 and to the New York Times Slapshot blog for theirs in 2008. Red and Black Hockey was founded in July of 2005.