When a team has an one of the best goaltenders in the league, as the New York Rangers do in Henrik Lundqvist, it is strange to say that goaltending was a need, but it was last summer as New York needed a competent backup to spell Lundqvist more and win while doing so. To try and fill that need they signed 33-year-old goaltender Martin Biron to a two year deal worth $1.75 million dollars. In his first season with the Rangers, Biron was worth every penny they paid him.
On the ice he compiled a record of 8-6 with a 2.13 goals against and .923 save percentage. Those overall numbers are impressive, but more impressive is the fact that only five times in his 17 appearances did he give up more than two goals. Furthering that, only once this season, against the Atlanta Thrashers, did he give up more than three goals in an outing. For Biron though, the impact went beyond the numbers themselves.
His level of performance gave the coaches and team confidence that the team had the same chance to win with Biron in net as if Lundqvist was playing. Early in the season the play of Biron allowed for Lundqvist to rest more and he would need that rest following the collarbone injury that ended Biron’s season forced him to play the last 26 games of the year. What Biron’s play also allowed was for the coaching staff, on two occasions, to sit a slumping Lundqvist for back-to-back starts, and allow for Henrik to work on his game. Following each of those periods Lundqvist came back strong and went on major runs while Biron returned to his role as the backup. In prior seasons it would have been unthinkable to have Lundqvist sit for multiple games while healthy, but that is what Biron allowed the team to do this year and the results speak for themselves.
Off the ice Biron showed why he has been considered a great teammate in each organization he has played for as he understands his role as the backup and brings energy and class to the room and the bench. He was always shown keeping the guys on the bench into the game, and as an added bonus was a semi-coach when it came to the shootouts as he was seen on numerous occasions discussing strategy with the Rangers’ shooters.
Backup goaltender is often overlooked when thinking about building a team, especially when your starter is Henrik Lundqvist, but the value that Martin Biron brought to the Rangers this season cannot be quantified. He did exactly what the Rangers needed from him and more than anyone could have reasonably expected of him. If the Rangers get a repeat of 2010-11 in 2011-12 from Biron, his signing could go down as the best free agent deal of the Glen Sather era.
Final Grade: A