I'm not sure whether the Oil should sign Mathieu Garon to a long-term contract or not. For one thing, my fantasy league selections have proven that I have no knack for picking out future starting goalies in the NHL. Just when I think Niklas Backstrom is a bonafide Number 1, that punk kid Josh Harding comes along and starts to steal his job way sooner than I thought he would. In 2006, I figured Martin Gerber was a safe bet in Ottawa and he absolutely killed me. Hell, my 1997 fantasy pool team name was "Jim Carey's Net Detectives, featuring Eric Fichaud." Given my history, all goalies seem like huge risks, and knowing that a single save percentage drop can create huge salary cap headaches, I'm leery of rewarding goalies with long contracts without doing due diligence. Even the once-unassailable Miikka Kiprusoff is looking like a bad bet.
As for Garon: if he were a UFA this summer, the Oilers would have been pretty much forced to make a move or try to re-sign him by July 1, as the selection of free agent goalies available this year hasn't been a high-yield crop. Pascal Leclaire, Patrick Lalime and Alex Auld lead the pack alongside the lesser-likes of Mike Morrison, Dan Cloutier and a guy named Mike Brodeur that unaware shoppers might mistaken for Martin Brodeur, the way some people accidentally buy knockoff bottles of Tommy Hillfinger cologne down at the market.
The 2009 UFAs, if they stay that way, offer a better selection: Kari Lehtonen, Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, Martin Gerber, Manny Fernandez, Tim Thomas, and Petr Budaj will be available even to oft-spurned suitors like the Oilers. Looking past that, the biggest fish of all, Roberto Luongo, is a UFA in 2010. Problem is, it seems almost impossible to get a bargain on July 1, so it would be tricky for Kevin Lowe to sign a goalie at value.
Complicating things (in a nice way) has been the play of Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, or "Double Ds" as I call him, who put up a nice .912 SVP % with the Springfield Falcons last year. Recently signed to a two-year contract, Drouin-Deslauriers is expected to push for a spot on the team, especially if Dwayne Roloson's SVP continues to dribble downhill, although it remains to be seen whether he's starter material. Even if Drouin-Deslauriers plays well, however, I wouldn't expect more than say, a .905 SVP, in about a dozen or so games, which still wouldn't resolve the issue of a starting goalie in 2009.
Mathieu Garon's numbers are good, if not spectacular: .913 SVP (17th in the league); .906 Shot Quality Neutral SVP; career .906 SVP in the NHL; along with a nifty, league-best .938 in shootouts, if you think that's statistically relevant enough to matter. You'll be hard pressed to find better value for $1.10 million. What else does Garon have going for him? He's 30, which isn't quite old, and he's apparently a good team guy. Most impressively, the guy can do the splits.
But with only one and a half seasons as a starter under his belt, should the Oilers sign him to a long-term deal now (3+ years), while it still may be cheaper? For how much? Would it be better to try to lure someone younger with more potential, like Kari Lehtonen?