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A look at options for new backup goaltender

With the recent trade of Anders Lindback to Tampa Bay, one off-season need has been created for the Predators: Backup goaltender.

“We have a list for July 1,” GM David Poile said this weekend in Pittsburgh in regards to when he will make a move on a backup goalie. “I think we’ll be able to sign one of the guys that we like.”

Pekka Rinne is slotted to start 65-70 games for the foreseen future, which means whoever the Predators sign to be his backup won’t be getting too much work. That’s the reason they traded the 24-year-old Lindback, who has a high ceiling and needed to get more playing time elsewhere.

While it remains a possibility the Predators look in-house for Rinne’s new backup (Jeremy Smith?), Poile has said twice that they will likely opt to find a veteran backstop.

There is a decent list of free agent netminders that have had experience in a backup role in recent years. They are all mostly older, but the Predators are only looking for a short-term solution that can make 10-15 starts a season.

We decided to take a look at the average numbers for backups who have played behind workhorse starters (65-plus starts). Over the last two seasons, the league-wide average for those specific backups is as follows: 2.72 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. (Lindback posted better numbers in 38 games over two years: 2.53 GAA, .914 SV%.)

Three free agent backup goaltenders have far exceeded those numbers in the last two seasons:

Martin Biron

 Year  Team  GP   GS   W   L   OTL   GA   GAA   SV%   SO 
 2010-11  NYR  17  15  8  6  0  33  2.13  0.923  0
 2011-12  NYR  21  20  12  6  2  50  2.46  0.904  2

Biron was extremely valuable to the New York Rangers, giving Henrik Lundqvist more rest last season than he had since his rookie campaign. Could he provide the same relief for Rinne? Biron will turn 35 in August and there will be league-wide interest if he doesn’t re-sign with the Rangers before free agency begins Sunday. With as well as he performed with the Rangers, he could be seeking an opportunity to start more than 25 games again. That said, he’d be the best option out there for the Predators if the price is right.

Scott Clemmensen

 Year  Team  GP   GS   W   L   OTL   GA   GAA   SV%   SO 
 2010-11  FLA  31  25  8  11  7  74  2.62  0.911  1
 2011-12  FLA  30  25  14  6  6  67  2.57  0.913  1

Between his time in New Jersey and Florida, Clemmensen has been more than serviceable as a backup or ‘1B’ option in net. He will not be returning to the Panthers and turns 35 in July. Clemmensen has a lot of experience under his belt, including when he impressively filled in for an injured Martin Brodeur in the 2008-09 season. He even played in a few games in the playoffs for the Panthers this past April. One would assume Clemmensen will be on Poile’s list.

Johan Hedberg

  Year  Team  GP   GS   W   L   OTL   GA   GAA   SV%   SO 
  2010  NJ  34  27  15  12  2  68  2.38  0.912  3
  2011  NJ  27  23  17  7  2  59  2.22  0.918  4

Hedberg is a bit longer in the tooth compared to Biron and Clemmensen. Hedberg, who has played for five teams over his 11-year career, recently turned 39. However, he is coming off back-to-back successful seasons with the Devils and would be an ample backup to Rinne. After the Devils were eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final, Hedberg did state that he hoped to return to the team. If they can’t come to terms, Hedberg would be another solid option for the Predators come Sunday.

Other free agent options:

- Chris Mason… The former Predator had a decent year as Ondrej Pavelec’s backup in Winnipeg. Would the Predators bring back the 36-year-old?
- Alex Auld… He had a rough season in Ottawa (3.35 GAA in 14 games), but is as experienced as they come when it comes to being a backup.
- Al Montoya… The former sixth overall pick of the Rangers is the youngest goalie mentioned here. He’s inconsistent and may not settle for a small role early in free agency.
- Dan Ellis… Ellis, another former Predator, has been up-and-down since leaving the organization. It’d be a surprise to see him return, though.
- Dwayne Roloson… He’ll be 43 in October and had a horrible year in Tampa Bay, yet he could play well in limited time. I wouldn’t expect him to be high on the list.

 
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