Jun 29, 2011, 7:25 PM EDT
To some extent, it seemed like Dwayne Roloson couldn’t ever really get a fair shake in the NHL. Roloson fought his way into the NHL after going undrafted, bouncing from the Calgary Flames to the Buffalo Sabres before finding a little stability in Minnesota. That being said, he dealt with an unstable goalie rotation alongside Manny Fernandez with the Wild as Jacques Lemaire pulled the two goalies at the drop of a hat during the team’s only deep playoff run in 2003.
It seemed like Roloson found a real home in Edmonton starting in the 2005-06 season, though. Even so, that stay was tinged with some disappointment too. Roloson was the second most valuable Oilers player behind Chris Pronger during their magical run to the 2006 Stanley Cup finals, but he never returned after suffering an injury during Game 1 of that championship series against the Carolina Hurricanes. Roloson played pretty well on some bad Oilers and New York Islanders teams after that brief taste of success, but it seemed like he would finish his career with more “What if?” questions than great memories.
Finding a home in Tampa Bay
That seemed to be the case until the Tampa Bay Lightning’s goalie issues forced them to trade for Roloson midway through the 2010-11 season. He wasn’t a superstar for the Bolts in his 34 regular season games, but he provided them with much-needed stability and occasionally brilliant work leading up to the playoffs.
Of course, you probably know what happened in the postseason. Roloson brought the Lightning to within one win of their second-ever run to the Stanley Cup finals and was brilliant for most of the playoffs, winning 10 games and sporting an outstanding .924 save percentage.
Still, at 41-years-old, there were some questions as to whether the Lightning would stick with their aging netminder. Those questions can be put to rest now that Yzerman and Roloson agreed to an everyone-wins one-year deal worth $3 million. That constitutes a $500K yearly raise from his previous two-year, $5 million contract but the Lightning benefit from the reduced risk of a single season contract.
Roloson still needs a backup
To be honest, the Lightning might not be crazy to re-sign Mike Smith to be his backup, either … if he’s willing to take a substantial pay cut from his previous $2.2 million cap hit. Smith’s puck-moving skills were a nice fit for head coach Guy Boucher’s defensive system, so he might be a decent option for a Bolts team that might not be ready to push Cedrick Desjardins to a backup role next season. Of course, the Lightning could always find another backup, but Smith holds the advantage of being familiar with the franchise and coaching staff.
Either way, the Lightning would be wise to find a goalie who can spell Roloson. At his advanced age, he probably should be limited to 60 starts next season. (It’s not like limiting starts only works for older guys either; Vezina Trophy candidate Roberto Luongo only played 60 games in the 2010-11 regular season and that worked out pretty well for the Vancouver Canucks.)
Yzerman still has a lot of work to do
As we’d discussed a few times already, the Lightning have a lot of questions going into July 1, but they’re starting to knock down questions like a high stakes game of “Guess Who?”. With Roloson, Eric Brewer, Adam Hall and Marc-Andre Bergeron locked up, the Bolts can focus on the mammoth Steven Stamkos re-signing, figuring out what to do with Ted Purcell/Sean Bergenheim and whether or not they want to bring Simon Gagne back.
That’s still a tough set of decisions, but at least Yzerman answered what might have been the second most important question of a challenging off-season by bringing back Roloson.
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