On Friday, Adrian Dater confirmed what we've been suspecting since the acquisition of Brian Elliott: the Avalanche don't plan to re-sign Peter Budaj this summer. Professionally, it's been a tough couple of months for Peter Budaj. He finished up a terrible season with the Avs - statistically, his worst NHL season, was left off of Slovakia's IIHF roster and now it appears he will be leaving the team he's spent the last 6 seasons with.
On one level, I'm saddened by the news. He's been a solid goalie with the Avalanche and, by all accounts, a stand-up guy. It was fun to get into jibble's I Believe in Budaj campaign, even if the results were more Ron Paul than Obama. I'm not sure where Budaj will end up next year (or even if it will be the NHL), but I'll be rooting for him no matter where he is (Detroit excepted, of course).
But, this is good news for Avalanche fans. When Elliott was acquired, the worst-case scenario was the "rebuilding" Avalanche going with an Elliott - Budaj tandem next year in part of their strange accounting trick where somehow saving cap space now will preserve cap space three years from now. No offense to either Budaj or Elliott, but that possibility is the kind of thing to keep me awake at night. And yes, we know that Elliott wasn't any better than Budaj last year, but we've just seen 12 games from him in a unipron. It doesn't make much sense to jettison over Budaj at this point.
Thankfully, it appears the Avalanche actually do intend to obtain a starting goalie this summer, as promised in the Fan Forum last week. That's the good news. The bad news is that there aren't really a ton of quality free agent goalies on the market this summer. Essentially, the UFA market boils down two top-tier goalies Ilya Bryzgalov and Tomas Vokoun (who will turn 35 the day after free agency starts). After that, it's a whole bunch of question marks (Ray Emery, Pascal Leclaire, Josh Harding, Mathieu Garon, etc). Frankly, I'm not convinced that the Avalanche will pony up the money for either of the big guys. Bryzgalov is coming off a $4.25 million contract and Vokoun is making $5.7 million on his expiring deal. The way the Avs have been
thrifty rebuilding in recent years, it's tough to picture them ponying up either the cash ($4+ million) or the years (see Anderson, Craig) to land either goalie. I tend to think they might go the the Craig Anderson route and try to find a great bargain (Andy's deal was less than $2 million). Hey, it worked once before. For one season, anyway.
There are also potential trade targets, like Jonathan Bernier, Cory Schneider and Evgeni Nabokov. But, whenever I start thinking about a trade, I have visions of Shattenkirk and Stewart dancing in my head. So, I try not to think about those too much.
Bottom line: We don't really have a clue what the Avalanche are going to do about their goaltending situation. It does look like they do intend to do something, though. So, bad news for Budaj, but good news for us.