Better With Popcorn

What to do with Johan?

Lost in the goalie mix since the 2011 playoffs is Johan Backlund?

Backlund started one game for the Flyers in March 2010 and left after two periods due to a groin injury. He was out until the playoffs where during the second round comeback against Boston. He played just over one minute of game action in relief of Brian Boucher.

In 2010-11, Backlund spent most of the season as the Phantoms starter, before Michael Leighton arrived in January via waivers.

This season, he was part of a three goalie rotation with the Phantoms with Leighton and Jason Bacashihua before suffering a hip injury in November.

After missing a few weeks due to the injury and being forced out of the goalie rotation due to strong AHL play from Leighton and Bacashihua, Backlund found himself down in the ECHL. In his short stint with the Trenton Titans, he played one incredibly strong game in a 2-1 shootout loss.

This is a contract season for the 30-year old Swedish goalie. He currently has a cap hit of $800,000 on a one-way contract.

Backlund will probably never see the NHL with the Flyers as Ilya Bryzgalov is the undisputed number one goalie due to having a nine year contract worth over $50 million.

With Backlund proving his ability to stay healthy there are some teams that could probably use his services as an insurance policy via trade.

Chicago Blackhawks: Both Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have a sub .900 save percentage just past the one-third mark of the season for the Hawks.

While Alexander Salak is probably the player the Hawks would turn to in net, this would open a void at the AHL level in Rockford.  Backlund could slide in as a starter and with strong play, earn his way to an NHL contract next season for a team in need of a cheap backup.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Dwayne Roloson has played like a player on the wrong side of 40 years old this season.

His fountain of youth that led the Bolts to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011 seems to have dried up.

While Mathieu Garon has posted a .912 save percentage so far this season, the Bolts cannot afford to pay Roloson $3.5 million to sit on the bench as a backup. If they can deal him for a late pick to another team is desperate need, the Bolts can pick up Backlund.

While the Bolts have two young goalies in their system in Jaroslav Janus and Dustin Tokarski, neither would make sense at the NHL level right now. Janus has struggled with AHL competition posting a sub .900 save percentage in the league and Tokarski should not be called up until he’s ready to take on the starting role. In all likelihood, calling him up to leave him on the bench behind Garon would just stunt his development.

Instead, trading for a 30-year old who can sit on the bench and not ‘lose’ anything like Backlund would be a perfect option.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Columbus is probably the place where Backlund would fit best.

Steve Mason has disappeared after winning the Calder trophy, Mark Dekanich is injured, and Curtis Sanford is not a long-term option. If the Jackets are able to move Mason for some early-mid draft picks they can send a late round pick for Backlund. At $800,000, Backlund would be a better option than Mason if he can stay healthy.

Now, there’s only one hang up in this, re-entry waivers. Backlund is required to pass through the recall waivers process in order to be called up by a team.

But, is it really a hang up? No. Recall waivers for anyone else does not matter.

Paul Holmgren should never put Backlund on re-entry waivers. Any of the three teams above would love to claim a backup goalie at $400,000. The Flyers cannot afford that amount of dead weight salary right now.

However, it’s an acceptable risk for the three above mentioned teams, especially Columbus and Tampa.

Tampa and Columbus are smaller market teams with tighter internal budgets. While $400,000 of dead weight salary would seem crippling, it really isn’t.

If Columbus or Tampa were to shed their current starter and lose $400,000 on re-entry waivers before turning things over to one of their young goalies in the system, they would still have a net gain in cost cutting.

Mason makes $2.9 million against the cap, Roloson $3.5 million, if a replacement goalie, or Marty Turco is brought in at around $700,000 plus $400,000 for losing Backlund means that the Jackets or the Bolts would still save money and gain picks for losing their current netminder.

The Hawks on the other hand, would need to hope that Backlund’s injury history is enough to scare other teams away to not making the claim. Luckily for the Flyers, the 20 or so teams with solid goaltending probably wouldn’t touch Backlund.  So, realistically speaking Backlund would most likely go unclaimed.