Building A Tandem


Garth Snow’s rather surprising signing of Martin Biron drew a wide variety of opinion yesterday, with the consensus opinion being that Rick DiPietro is still a long way from being ready to play again.

Islanders fans have for the most part agreed with that conclusion, except for the small segment who hilariously (gullibly?) still believe DiPietro will be ready for training camp.

It seems pretty clear to me that Garth Snow entered July knowing that he needed a number one goaltender for at least the first half of the season, and he moved quickly but without wasting money, signing Dwayne Roloson to a two-year, five million dollar contract.

It seems safe to say that he was open to various options at the backup position, but with Martin Biron desperately looking for an NHL job, signing him was an obvious move. Not only does Biron provide the Islanders with likely the best backup goaltender in the league (or Roloson, if things go that way)) but if DiPietro recovers in time to play midseason, Snow will have the option of trading him to whichever team watches their starter get hurt or implode performance-wise.

Snow, in short, built a completely new tandem for a cap hit of 3.9 million dollars. If either goaltender falters, he has an experienced and successful number one to replace him with.

This is a different approach than the Oilers have chosen to take. Despite the total lack of value of even a decent backup goaltender (Alex Auld, who started and did well in Ottawa last season, was traded earlier this summer for a 6th round pick – despite a reasonable salary), they’ve elected to hold on to untested 25-year old Jeff Deslauriers. They also elected to grab the man who was, in their opinion, the best goaltender on the market in Nikolai Khabibulin – signing the 36-year old to a four year, 15 million dollar contract.

My question is a simple one – which approach is better? Which tandem would you, as an NHL G.M., rather run with next season:

  • Biron/Roloson: 3.9 million dollars
  • Khabibulin/Deslauriers: 4.375 million dollars

I think that the Islanders have more effective tandem; if either goaltender slumps they have a legitimate starter to step into his role. Edmonton, in contrast, will be relying on a goaltender that has yet to prove he can be a reliable NHL backup if Khabibulin suffers more injuries like the ones that have nagged him since the lockout. I think (and I realize this isn’t something everyone will agree with me on) the Islanders got the best goaltender on the market in Biron – a younger player than Khabibulin who has posted better numbers in three of four seasons post-lockout.

  • Hippy

    Despite the fact that many people (including JW) pointed out that there were more starting goalies this year than available roster spots, that doesn't change the fact that no one could have foreseen Biron or anyone of his calibre signing anywhere at $1.4M.

    I do think that this is a good signing by Snow IF he is able to move one of these guys by Christmas. Any longer than that and it becomes a distraction to the team as to which guy should be playing, particularly if RDP is healthy again by then.

    For anyone wondering if the Oil missed out here, though, the writing is on the wall:
    jeff wrote:

    Rollie and Biron were never an option for us.

    Biron only signed for that (insanely low) price because he and his agent blinked first. I'm thinking he could have gotten at least another million this season at least if he had just waited until some team's starter got hurt / played poorly.

    Edmonton right now doesn't even $1.4M in cap room to throw away on an insurance policy in net. This is a long ways away from the biggest hole that needs filling.

    Snow got a decent deal here, grantd, but don't beat up on Tambo for doing what he had to do. He played the cards he was dealt and did ok. What's that quote about hindsight, again?

  • Hippy

    Personally, with the team on the ice in Edmonton, it wouldn't matter if Terry Sawchuk in his prime was in net. The team regressed over the summer to date, and has been a non playoff team for 3 straight. Buckle up for another rough season in Edmonton.

    I see K-Lowe et al appologized to the fans in Springfield. It would be nice to get one of those here someday. At least some "sorry we f(*^^*ked this up so royally", something along those lines.

    Like Lowetide says, one thing being an Oiler fan is that you can actually feel hope fade in June. Bang on.

    It'll take Tambo years to fix the mess, absolute mess, Kevin Lowe put this team in.

  • Hippy

    DanMan wrote:

    The problem with keeping Roli is that he would hold back JDD’s development.

    What, best-case scenario, does Deslauriers develop into? A superior goaltender to Biron? Keep in mind that at 25, Biron was an NHL starter (72 games, .915 SV%).

    Basically, unless he's a top-ten NHL goaltender, jumping through hoops for his development isn't worthwhile because he's cheaply and easily replaceable. And yes, keeping him as the only backup option for an injury-prone starter (Khabibulin's suffered injury every year since the lockout) counts as jumping through hoops.

  • Hippy

    Hemmertime wrote:

    We are keeping Deslauriers as our backup because he is cheap. Ridiculously cheap.

    Not that cheap. As one example, free agent Antero Niittymaki (15-8-6, 2.76 GAA, .912 SV%) signed for less money this summer.

    Can we reasonably argue that Deslauriers is superior now, or likely to be superior this season, to Niittymaki? I don't think we can.

  • Hippy

    I don't think you can base who's better off here on stats and numbers alone.

    Roloson is a battler, but what do you think Snow told him when he was signed? I'll bet the farm he was told DiPietro was questionable and that he had a good shot at the starting job. So the Biron signing makes no sense.

    What does this do to Roloson? Competition is always healthy, but when you have 2 starters both going for the number 1 job, I think the dressing room suffers.

    Both have a history of battling (Biron with Miller and Rollie with Fernandez) but what happened? Both of these guys got traded or dealt before their counterpart. The Isle's already have a teetering dressing room where turnover is rampant – so I'm not sure a franchise like that can handle instability from the goalie position on out.

    Biron took a 1 year deal to prove himself and attempt to cash back in next year. It's a gamble, but I think he wins in the end. He's not making #1 money, so the pressure is on Roloson regardless which way you look at it. If Biron wins the starting job – then he looks like a bargain and a surefire target for next years free agency period. If he remains as backup – well based on salary thats what he was brought in for anyway. Roloson loses.

    I have heard though that Biron's personality makes him an extremely likable guy in the room. Roloson on the other hand is a quiet, brooding guy. I've been told he is an intimidating presence. For a dressing room full of young guys like Tavares, Okposo, Comeau, Bailey, Tambellini, Gervais – I think the addition of another old guy in Roloson to Weight, maybe a Witt and Sutton will be a step backward.

    The Isle seems strikingly familiar to the makeup of the Oil. No identity, no direction of young or old, and no clear plan. Tavares is a start – but not the end.

    So – my take – I'd rather take the Oil tandem in the room. At least the direction, roles, and responsibilities are clear.

  • Hippy

    @ Hemmertime:

    The problem with keeping Roli is that he would hold back JDD's development.

    One of the MSM (I think it was Principe) asked Roli late last year if he had been helping along JDD in practises. Roli basically said that JDD is on his own, because Roli is focused on getting himself ready for the games.

    I can't imagine a bitter, 40 year old Roli teaching the tricks of the trade to a guy who could supplant him at any given time they way Garon did.

  • Hippy

    We are keeping Deslauriers as our backup because he is cheap. Ridiculously cheap. Although if we could have gotten Biron for 1.5 as a backup I think we might have. However, Biron sees a 40 year old goalie and an injury prone goalie he has to beat out for playing time – not the Bulin wall, I do not believe he would have signed here.

    That being said, I would rather have Khabibulin/Deslauriers with Khabi on a multi-year contract than a multi-year for Roli and 1 year for Biron. At the end of next season we would be in a worse position, a 41 year old goalie making 2.5+ mil, and Biron headed to UFA. This way works out better for the long run, because Bulin is a goalie you can accept, and even be happy with, as your starter for at least the first 2-3 years of his contract and you have time to develop/acquire someone to take over. Plus with Khabi it doesnt have to be right now – whereas with the other tandem you have to constantly keep your options open.

  • Hippy

    The real question is:

    If we were sitting here with no starting goalie (Bulin/Biron both signed elsewhere) how much trouble would we be in.

    I think Tambs jump the gun, but like 99% of the time, it's easy to see why these guys did what they did.

  • Hippy

    jeff wrote:

    Rollie and Biron were never an option for us.

    I completely agree. If Biron was available to the Oilers at one year $1.4 million Edmonton would have jumped all over it. People who continue to assume the Oilers dropped the ball seem to be forgetting that fact.

    Sure, you can argue that Tambellini could have waited and signed someone other than Khabibulin for less money, but who? There is no guarantee that Biron would still be available if the cards had fallen differently.

  • Hippy

    The Islanders do have the better tandem or sure. The oil are looking to get a good look at their young goaltenders. So they went with who they thought was the best tender avalible. If there is a problem tambo may be giving Snow a call.

  • Hippy

    Rollie and Biron were never an option for us.

    It all depends on the team. Edmonton wouldn't do it as we don't want to do the whole 3 headed monster again.

    The Isles did it because they must need 2 goalies to start the year.

  • Hippy

    It will tough to compare given the the Isles defence will be extremely porous this season (even compared to the relatively porous Oilers D). SV% is a good indicator of goaltending ability, but it is certainly not the be all and end all of whether or not a goalie is good.

    Number of rebound shots, location of shots, number of tips/screened shots would all provide an important context to the SV% number but as far as I know those kind of detailed statistics are not available.

    It's logical that a team that consistently leaves men open in the slot, does not clear rebounds and does not clear the front of the net of traffic will have a goalie with a lower SV% than a team that is more effective in those areas.

    I know Staples is doing this sort of qualitative analysis with his "Error Stat" it would be interesting to see the results of similar study of goaltenders.

  • Hippy

    I for one think this is a great move by Snow, but shows just how stupid Biron was.

    For a goalie listed in the top five of the availables this summer, to demand more than the value of what a surplus of netminders would garner, he's now settled into a back-up to likely another back-up role later in the season for a lousy $1.4 million.

    If Snow's intention was to trade either Biron or Rolli at a later date then this moves makes a ton of sense. If he doesn't and Dipietro gets healthy (which shouldn't take more than 20 games), this is just too many bodies in too small a space.

  • Hippy

    FS wrote:


    Lame, are you ten?


    ~I always feel so good about the oilers after reading your posts lately~

    sigh, it's been a tough 3 years to say the least…..

  • Hippy

    So just a bit of a reality check here –

    we would have had a Roli/Delauriers duo here without Khabi too (no more 3 headed goalie monster).

    In hindsight it looks like the Isles got the better deal but is that what they would have gotten if we hadn't signed Khabi? Would they have signed both Khabi and Biron for the same price? Probably not.