Musical Goalies and Eastern Conference thoughts…
This season could be the off season of changing goalies. Yesterday we saw two goalies get moved in Toskala and Vokoun but there will be a lot more goalie movement to come. Ottawa is certainly going to move Martin Gerber, even if they get nothing in return and Manny Fernandez has probably played his last game in Minnesota. With the Ducks giving Giguere a big time contract it is difficult to see the Ducks keeping Bryzgalov around as a backup just to see him walk as an unrestricted free agent next summer. With the Panthers acquiring Vokoun, Ed Belfour, who despite his age played relatively well for Florida last year, will be looking for a new home next year as well.
Teams that are potentially looking for a goalie include Los Angeles, Phoenix, St. Louis and and Boston. Phoenix and Los Angeles and possibly St. Louis apparently have an interest in Gerber and Boston seems hot on acquiring Manny Fernandez.
If Boston does acquire Fernandez the Eastern Conference is going to be very interesting next year. Fernandez in Boston should make them much better and definitely a playoff contender. Florida missed the playoffs by just six points and have improved their goaltending significantly with Vokoun and don’t look to lost anyone of significance off their roster and may add more in free agenct. As of right now Toronto has essentially the same team that missed the playoffs by one point with better goaltending and Mark Bell and $5-6 million still to spend. And so far Philadelphia has added Martin Biron (at the trade deadline), Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell and hopes to add one more significant player (Briere or Gomez seem to be the top candidates). Those four non-playoff teams look to have made significant improvements already.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils are in tough to maintain their current rosters. In Buffalo it seems likely that they will lose at least one of Briere or Drury. In New Jersey it seems Scott Gomez is all but gone and Brian Rafalski might prove tougher to re-sign than everyone thought. And in Ottawa, the Senators are desperately looking to dump salary (for sure Gerber, possibly Redden) just to maintain the guys they have as they currently have close to $42 million in salary cap space committed and still have to re-sign or replace Emery, Comrie, Kelly, Preissing, Shubert and Saprykin. It is difficult to see any of the Sabes, Senators or Devils improving next season and more likely than not they all slip a bit.
So what does all that mean? Well it’s still early in the off season but if you thought this years playoff race in the east was a bit crazy stay tuned, next seasons could be even crazier.