InGoal Update: Conklin, Leclaire among goalies on waivers
St. Louis Blues coach called rookie backup Ben Bishop’s 39-save shutout in Edmonton Friday night a “statement game.”
The statement to veteran goalie Ty Conklin must have sounded like, “you are no longer needed.”
With No.1 Jaroslav Halak close to returning from a bruised blocker hand, the Blues placed Conklin on waivers Saturday, giving the rest of the NHL a chance to claim him by noon on Monday. His future at that point is up in the air, but it’s clear St. Louis sees the six-foot-seven Bishop, who is in his third pro season, as a viable NHL option behind Halak.
Blues’ General Manager Doug Armstrong broke down the situation in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, intimating the team may yet keep Conklin in the NHL if no other squad claims him before Monday’s noon EST deadline. Conklin was even set to back up Bishop again Sunday evening against Calgary as Halak misses a seventh game before an expected return on Tuesday night:
“We just felt that there was an opportunity to see if a team wants Ty for the rest of the season, and if that occurs, then it’s an opportunity for Ben Bishop,” Armstrong told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If it doesn’t occur, then we’ll adjust to the situation. We’re not going to speculate on what will happen Monday.”
Conklin wasn’t the only goalie facing an uncertain future on the waiver wire this weekend.
Ottawa placed oft-injured veteran Pascal Leclaire on waivers while he was already in the AHL on a conditioning assignment. The Islanders put rookie Nathan Lawson on waivers Saturday before he backed up Al Montoya in a 3-2 loss to Washington. And Tampa Bay exposed Curtis McElhinney to the rest of the league just a few days after acquiring him in a trade that sent Dan Ellis to Anaheim.
The McElhinney move was expected as soon as Lightning goalie Mike Smith cleared re-entry waivers after being called back up from AHL Norfolk, where he’d been since a knee injury was followed by Tampa Bay’s acquisition of veteran Dwayne Roloson.
It’s unclear why the Islanders placed Lawson on waivers, even if he’s lost the starting job to recent addition Montoya. There is a very good chance he simply remains with the team, though it’s interesting to note the move does come within the early window of the original 4-to-6 week timeline for Rick Dipietro to return from knee and facial injuries suffered in his infamous scrap with Pittsburgh backup Brent Johnson.
In Leclaire’s case, General Manager Bryan Murray indicated it was simply a matter of giving him a chance to play elsewhere. If he isn’t claimed – and it was highly unlikely – Murray indicated to the Ottawa Sun that Leclaire, 28, will still dress as the Senators’ backup behind recently acquired Craig Anderson:
“He’s healthy enough to play. For his sake, as much as ours, it exposes him and someone may be looking for a goaltender going into the playoffs. A guy that’s very capable,” Murray told The Sun. “If he doesn’t get picked up, which is another strong possibility, we’ll probably just bring him back here and he’ll be our other goaltender.”
That means top prospect Robin Lehner will be sent back to the AHL, continuing a yo-yo trend the 19-year-old Swede recently told InGoal Magazine has made it tough for him to settle in during his first pro season in North America.
Of course Leclaire has to stay healthy first. He was five days into his two-week (maximum) conditioning stint before making his first start in Binghamton since a mid-December groin-hip injury on Saturday night, a 30-save, 3-2 shootout loss to Rochester.
Though Leclaire told the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin after the game his leg didn’t bother him and he felt good after shaking off some early rust,, and Senators coach Kurt Kleinendorst seemed to side with the newspaper’s take:
“He’s not quite right,” Kleinendorst told the paper. “There’s something that’s just not quite right. I give him a lot of credit for coming in here and learning earlier today that he’s been put on waivers, and then to go out there and play like that. I think that says a little something about Pascal.”
While there seems almost no chance Leclaire will be claimed given his $4.8-million salary this season ($3.8-million salary cap hit) and almost absurd propensity for collecting it on the injured reserve, there is some thought Conklin and his more reasonable $1.3 million cap hit will attract interest. One of the teams rumoured is Detroit, where Conklin was a popular teammate while going 25-11-2 in 2008-09 and the Red Wings are still waiting for the return of veteran backup Chris Osgood from sports hernia surgery. But Detroit only has $570,000 in salary cap space, and a Detroit News report indicated they won’t be very busy before Monday’s trade deadline:
“We don’t expect to be very active,” General Manager Ken Holland told the newspaper. “Chris is optimistic and upbeat and he’s happy with the progress he’s making. If that were to change in the next few days, that could affect our thinking (about trades). But anticipate Chris playing again here soon.”