The Chairman has spoken, the goalie carousel has come to an end! With Ed Snider’s announcement that the goaltending problem has to be fixed this offseason, it’s time to begin looking ahead to just what goaltender the Flyers brass will bring in to slam the door on the age-old question: when will the Flyers finally invest in a quality goaltender. Because of this, I have decided to take the possible goaltenders the Flyers may pursue, be it via free agency or trade. Every day I will analyze a new goaltender in an attempt to determine the best fit for the Philadelphia Flyers. And so, without further ado…
One option for the Flyers is former Ducks and Maple Leafs goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner is just finishing up a 4 year, $6 million dollar per year contract that he signed after his Stanley Cup victory with Anaheim in 2006-07. This put him in the upper echelon of earners among goaltenders. He didn’t disappoint in the 2007-08 regular season, putting up elite .922, 2.12 splits but sputtering out allowing 18 goals in a disappointing 6 game loss to Dallas.
It was at this point that Giguere began to be challenged by his backup Jonas Hiller and eventually lost his job during the 2008-09 playoffs after a bout of subpar play and a series of groin injuries. Having indicated that he would rather retire than be a backup goaltender, Giguere was shipped off to Toronto where he was to be their starting goaltender and mentor Swedish prospect Jonas Gustavsson. Giguere was impressive in his 15 starts with the Leafs that year, putting up a .916 SV% and looked to be the starter heading into the 2010-11 season but was felled by yet another series of groin injuries which allowed rookie James Reimer to usurp the number one spot.
As a free agent this year Giguere has repeatedly stated his desire to remain with Toronto but considering that he was so averse to being a backup in Anaheim I find this hard to believe. Maybe he thinks that Reimer’s stellar rookie season was a fluke and that he will be the starter again soon enough, but if that’s the case then I would think he would be open to going anywhere with a vacant number one goalie spot. The Flyers seem to be an ideal fit since they are a team with a recent Stanley Cup Final appearance and, even though we know better than this as Flyers fans who watch this team every game, having subpar goaltending is the only thing that is preventing them from winning.
Giguere is a veteran goaltender with playoff experience, winning the Conn Smythe trophy for the losing Ducks in 2003 and winning the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. He also started 53 or more games each year for six consecutive seasons with Anaheim, so he knows how to shoulder a workload. This would help the development of Sergei Bobrovsky as Giguere could be the guy to split starts with him and show him what it takes to be a quality NHL starter in the regular season and beyond.
Additionally, Giguere plays a style which relies on consistent positioning and making himself big in front of the puck (remember the “huge pads” controversy after the 2003 Finals?). He relies far more on positioning than he does on reflexes which is ideal for an older goaltender (he’ll turn 34 on Monday), since reflexes diminish with age but hockey IQ does not. This could be crucial in extending Giguere’s shelf life.
I have questions about whether Giguere is a good teammate or not. He showed extreme displeasure with being Jonas Hiller’s backup even though Hiller almost single-handedly beat Detroit in the 2009-10 playoffs. If Giguere comes in here then he’d be the starting goaltender to begin with but once Bobrovsky takes over (which he should) it would be interesting to see how Jiggy would react.
Giguere has had a run of groin injuries over the last few years which is an absolute killer for a goaltender, even one who doesn’t rely on reflexes.
I would be willing to dish out big money for goalies like Bryzgalov and Vokoun, but not for Giguere. If he’ll sign for $2-2.5 million then I’d consider bringing him in, but if his ego is such that he won’t accept such a pay cut then I’d pass, no matter how much his Stanley Cup experience would help young Bobrovsky.