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THN.com Blog: Very few NHL goaltender openings remain

Martin Biron led the Flyers to the Eastern final two years ago, but couldn't get his team out of the first round last year. (Getty Images)

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Martin Biron led the Flyers to the Eastern final two years ago, but couldn't get his team out of the first round last year. (Getty Images)

Did Martin Biron price himself out of a job in the NHL? Looks like it.

Eleven days into the free agent season and virtually every team has filled their starter and backup jobs for 2009-10.

So Biron may have to look for a job in Europe or the Kontinental League. Same with the other NHL proven UFA goalies Manny Fernandez, Manny Legace, Martin Gerber, Brent Johnson, Joey MacDonald, Curtis Sanford, Wade Dubielewicz and Kevin Weekes. That’s nine looking-for-work stoppers and a shrunken market.

Here are the new goaltender jobs this summer:

Boston has top prospect Tuukka Rask as backup. Chicago has Cristobal Huet as starter and top prospect Corey Crawford as backup. Colorado has Craig Anderson as starter and Peter Budaj is relegated to backup. Dallas has Alex Auld as backup. Detroit has prospect Jimmy Howard as backup. Edmonton has Nikolai Khabibulin as starter. Columbus has Mathieu Garon as backup. Florida has Scott Clemmensen as backup. New Jersey has prospect Jeff Frazee as backup. The Islanders have Dwayne Roloson as backup. Ottawa has Brian Elliott as backup. Philadelphia has Ray Emery as starter and Brian Boucher as backup. Phoenix has Jason LaBarbera as backup. Pittsburgh has John Curry as backup. San Jose has Thomas Greiss as backup. St. Louis has Ty Conklin as backup. Tampa Bay has Antero Niittymaki as backup. Toronto has Jonas Gustavsson as backup. Vancouver has Andrew Raycroft as backup.

From my point of view, here are the only openings remaining and a possible outcome. Good health is presumed at this point.

Calgary might want an experienced backup to spell an overworked Miikka Kiprusoff, but Curtis McElhinney makes the $500,000 minimum and the Flames are up against the cap. Maybe one of those nine UFAs gets desperate and settles for $700,000 or $800,000.

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The Los Angeles Kings maintain they’re not looking to sign a goalie and will open the season with Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg on the roster. Top prospect Jonathan Bernier will push for a job as well. A slow start may prompt the team to consider signing a veteran.

New Jersey is high on Frazee to eventually spell the aging Martin Brodeur, but 50 games in the American League would be better for the 22-year-old than 15 in the NHL. Opening for a backup here…if they’re not happy with the recently signed Yann Denis.

There’s another opening for a backup behind Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh, but Curry is 25 and it’s now or never time for him.

Evgeni Nabokov plays a lot in San Jose and the Sharks have a stable of goaltending prospects on the farm team. They’ll probably stick with 23-year-old Greiss as the 10-15 game backup.

So just a few backup openings for nine available NHL goalies. And Biron looks to be the only one who wouldn’t be satisfied with fewer than 40 games. Start looking east of the Atlantic, Marty.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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