The one-time starter and more recently respected backup Johan Hedberg was released from his Professional Try-Out with New York Rangers this week. The 40-year-old netminder might still have some options in the NHL, if he does want to keep playing in the league, as he is the most valuable free agent goalie available at the moment. Unless, of course, a team would choose Ilya Bryzgalov over Hedberg, most NHL clubs will reach out to Hedberg if they need a goaltender. Most, if not all of his options, may require a few things to happen before hand, but where will Hedberg go next?
As we pointed out before, the Calgary Flames lack any kind of leadership. Hedberg isn’t the loud and boisterous type, but he could bring some much needed veteran experience to the young and inexperienced Calgary core. What’s also working in Hedberg’s favor is the fact the Flames don’t have any experienced goalie at any level in the organization. Karri Ramo hasn’t played in the NHL since the 2008-2009 campaign and Joey MacDonald has only been the starter once in his career. If Ramo falls apart in his return to the NHL, it wouldn’t be out of the question that the Flames bring in Hedberg. Considering all of the goaltenders for the Abbotsford Heat in the AHL are young and lack NHL experience, Calgary could also sign Hedberg and send MacDonald to the Heat. The final option for Hedberg in the Flames’ organization would be to play for Abbotsford and mentor whoever will start for the Heat, whether it’s Reto Berra, Laurent Brossoit, or Joni Ortio.
If Ryan Miller wants out of Buffalo, there could be an opening for Hedberg later in the season. The Sabres may want to bring in a more experienced goaltender than Jhonas Enroth, who has taken part in 53 contests for Buffalo and has never posted a goals against average of lower than 2.60 in any season. The Sabres have Matthew Hackett in the AHL with the Rochester Americans, but he has even less experience in the NHL than Enroth, as he’s only taken part in 13 NHL tilts. Similar to a role he could provide for the Calgary Flames, Hedberg could either be used as a serviceable backup with the Sabres if Miller was to be shipped out of time or he could help Hackett in the AHL.
Several teams across the league could find themselves in goaltending woes if one of their two goalies goes down. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without Tomas Vokoun due to a blood clot that needed to be removed and are hoping Jeff Zatkoff, who has never played an NHL game, can come through as a reliable backup. The Philadelphia Flyers could run into issues if Ray Emery’s hip issues reappear and Steve Mason returns to his play that many saw in Columbus after his rookie season, as they only have Yann Danis waiting in the AHL. The Carolina Hurricanes are hoping Cam Ward doesn’t miss any more time with an MCL injury that caused him to miss the final 27 regular season games of the year and will turn to Anton Khudobin if Ward goes down. Carolina does have Mike Murphy and Justin Peters waiting with the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL, but can Kirk Muller trust either of those goalies if the Hurricanes are in the playoff hunt late in the season? Same could be said for the Winnipeg Jets, who would have to turn to either Al Montoya or Edward Pasquale if they are looking to squeak into the postseason and Ondrej Pavelec is injured.
It may not be the most appealing option for Hedberg, but it may be the most likely. After he decided not to join the Rangers for a West Coast trip, the Rangers released Hedberg from his PTO. Nothing would point to Hedberg improving on his numbers from last year, as he posted a 2.76 GAA and a .883 save percentage, so Hedberg’s best option may be to hang up the skates.