Midseason Grade: C+
Final Grade: B-
Joined Team: Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2001 draft, signed July 23rd, 2002.
MHH Nicknames: Boots, Boods [the former I can tolerate, the latter I can't stand. Either way, we need to work on an upgrade next year]
Best Month: April (0.96 GAA)
Career Highlights: Budaj passed David Aebischer to move into 2nd on the Avs' all-time games played list (if you have to ask who #1 is...). He needs 9 wins to pass Abby on the wins list.
Budaj set personal highs in minutes, goals allowed, shots against and losses.
Report: I think Joe (remember him?) said it best when I was discussing my grades with the MHH braintrust last month. I don't recall his exact words, but it was something to the effect that Budaj's grade changed from game to game.
Over the course of the season, Budaj had some great games, some so-so games, and some stinkers. That makes him no different from all other NHL goalies, although it would have been nice to see a few more of the first one and less of the 2nd one (everyone's going to have some off games).
Budaj's 20-29-5 record was certainly terrible, but when playing in front of the worst offense in the NHL (oh, how it pains me to type that) you just aren't going to win all that much. I'm more interested in his stats.
Those, too, were not all that hot, placing him towards the bottom of the league statistically. While Budaj looked solid (if unspectacular) at times, he also let in too many soft goals and those added up. We've discussed at lengths here how Budaj's issue might be that he is too technically sound. Budaj's positioning and anticipation are generally strong - he's a student of the game and it shows on the ice. However, he doesn't appear to have that instinctive ability to throw technique out the window and just make the save when it's needed (his scouting report says "Still needs work on positioning, since he relies too heavily on his recuperative powers," - which is as backwards as it gets) . Without that intangible gear, Budaj is a good goalie who will have flashes but will never be great. I'm not sure if that kind of thing is teachable, however.
Even if he doesn't gain that ability to become an elite goalie, Budaj still can be good enough to start. He struggled mightily in January and February (3-9-0,3.80, .875) and you could see his confidence get completely shot. His stats for the rest of the season were 17-20-5, 2.60, .907. Not quite elite numbers, but still good enough to have a starting job.
Fun Fact: Seven goalies have recorded a shutout for the Avalanche: Roy, Aebischer, Budaj, Theodore, Denis, Fiset and Billington.
The Peter Budaj Drinking Game: Drink when Budaj lets in a soft goal Drunk potential: Higher than it should be.
What I Said Last Year: "With a week crop of free agent goalies and assuming the Avalanche don't trade for another goalie, Budaj could be looking at any number of roles next year.Regardless of where he's playing, I think Budaj has the ability to be a capable NHL goalie."
2008 Salary (and Cap Number): $800K ($700K)
2009-2010 Status: RFA (Minimum qualifying offer is $840k)
Outlook for 2009: Who really knows what's going to happen with Budaj. I think the Avalanche would love to find an upgrade at the position, but that's not an easy task. The free agent market doesn't look all that compelling (and the Avalanche have limited cap room anyway). Perhaps there's an answer on the trade market (insert the requisite "Svatos and a 2nd rounder for Awesome Goalie" comment here). Or maybe from within the organization; Tyler Weiman and Jason Bacashihua both had strong seasons in the AHL...but both are free agents and neither was deemed good enough to get called up this spring. It's been pointed out that Budaj's demeanor and studious nature would make him an exceptional backup. While I certainly agree, I think there's still a chance that Budaj is #1 material.
I think it's likely that Budaj will be back next year and the Avalanche will bring in a free agent to compete for playing time - Jonas Gustavsson, Patrick Roy, Jason Labarbera, Manny Legace, etc. Might I make a small recommendation? Next year, score some goals.
Next Up: Aaron MacKenzie (on Tuesday)