Friday, February 4, 2011

The Concern Over the Capitals Goaltending Depth

Possible moment of injury: Sabourin on the ice after being run by Louis Robitaille Jan. 21 (photo by Kyle Mace)

For Hershey Bears fans, it was the tweet heard 'round the world.

timleone: Sabourin slated for knee surgery. Out 2-3 months.

With Braden Holtby still nursing a mild knee injury, the Washington Capitals goaltending depth suddenly went from average to nil. It's a big blow, as Dany Sabourin, after a tough start to the season, has been doing really well in the past two months, going 10-2 in December and January starts, with one shutout. The Bears called up Todd Ford and Jared DeMichiel from South Carolina. Ford, while he has AHL experience, is not exactly an AHL starting goaltender, and DeMichiel, on his first callup, has never played in an AHL game.

For a team sure to be in some tough playoff battles in a matter of months, it's bad news. It's also concerning when it comes to the Washington Capitals -- Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth have both missed games due to injury this year, and the prospect of calling up someone who played his last game in the ECHL doesn't exactly settle the nerves. Ford and DeMichiel will work in the short-term, but what about long-term?

Earlier today, South Carolina announced that they had signed goaltender Andrew Loewen of the SPHL in order to replace their losses in the crease. But should someone else suffer an injury, either in Hershey or in Washington, what can be done?

The recent re-emergence of Ray Emery, due to the timing of these injuries in Hershey, immediately comes to mind for me. Emery has successfully recovered from what could have been a career-ending hip injury, and has made it clear that he wants to get back on the ice. Obviously, he needs to get his start in the AHL to make sure that he is in top condition, and he's ready for the opportunity to play in the A

Rumors are that Philadelphia, Anaheim, and a third, unnamed team are looking at signing Emery. But given the situation in Hershey, it's not a stretch to suggest that the Capitals take a look at him. 

Emery is a very capable goalie, leading the Ottawa Senators to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007. With all the hubbub surrounding the Capitals' postseason woes, he becomes even more of a viable long-term option.

Tim Leone, too, has made the suggestion, saying, "Ray Emery might loom as an intriguing long-term possibility. The free agent, who hasn’t played this season in the wake of hip surgery, is exploring playing opportunities to get back to the NHL and could theoretically use an AHL stint as a launching pad."

Sabourin is not yet scheduled for surgery, so his recovery timetable is still as unclear as can be. But should it be longer than expected (take a look at Patrick McNeill, who had surgery in the offseason and just returned in December), Ray Emery looks to be a very attractive option for a contract with the Capitals.

It's a tough but interesting situation in the Capitals organization's nets right now. Keep an eye on the Capitals front office, particularly around trade deadline time. There could be some goaltending shakeups in the works.

If the Capitals were to trade for a goalie or sign a free agent goalie, who would you like to see?  Let me know in the comments.

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