Amidst the Trade Rumors, Martin Biron Smiles and Stops Pucks
From now until the day he is dealt -- and he almost definitely will before the March 3 deadline -- Martin Biron is going to hear his name in trade rumors. This is what happens when you're on a one-year contract at a very reasonable $1.4 million. This is what happens when your team has an established No. 1 goalie (Dwayne Roloson) under contract through 2010-2011 and their best netminder (Rick DiPietro) in the fold for another eleven years. This is also what happens when you're low-maintenance, talented, accomplished and respected.
The Islanders goaltender gets the media thing, the rumor game. He's even done some guest commentating himself for TSN. Most vital of all, the Quebec native is equipped with a sense of humor and perspective.
"I hear the rumors like everyone else that there has been some interest," Biron told FanHouse Monday, "and the way I view it is, heck, that's definitely better than nobody wanting me."
The former goalie with Buffalo and Philadelphia knew what he was getting into when he signed the one-year deal with the Islanders on July 22. He led the Flyers to the conference final in the first of two strong seasons in Philadelphia and was in search of a long-term deal when the unrestricted free agent market opened on July 1. When the game of goaltender musical chairs ended, Biron was the one goalie without a place to settle down.
The 32-year-old was grateful when Islanders GM Garth Snow extended the one-year offer with no promises other than a fair chance to battle Roloson for starts. "I was fortunate," said Biron. "There was a point in the summer when I didn't know if I'd have a team. I would have signed up for 25 games in the NHL at that point. We're only a month into this season and I've already played nine. So yes, I'm thankful."
He gets along well with Roloson, a former teammate in Buffalo. He supports DiPietro, who could return to NHL by mid-December. "Of course I'm rooting for Ricky to be fully healthy again," said Biron. "He's a teammate, a friend and a really good goalie." He's optimistic about the Islanders' recent 4-0-2 stretch that has them at .500 (6-6-5) and believing. "Do I think this team will compete for a playoff spot? Yes, I do," said the goalie with the 2.83 GAA and .920 save percentage.
The jovial, glass-is-always-half-full Biron only has one trouble: he dearly misses his family. With the likelihood of only one year on Long Island -- it could last less than six months -- Biron and his wife Anne Marie decided the family should stay in their home in Buffalo. The Birons have three children: a 5-year-old boy, and girls ages 3 and 1. Anne Marie, a Buffalo native with family nearby, is expecting their fourth child.
"We have our home in Buffalo and have not yet sold our house outside Philadelphia," said Biron. "Of course, if I signed somewhere for three or four years, we would have moved together. But with the one-year deal and all the uncertainty, the decision was for our children to stay in Buffalo. I should focus on hockey and do the best I could to help the Islanders win and put myself in position to earn a contract with security -- whether it's here or somewhere else down the line."
Biron knows the best avenue to a long-term deal is as the No. 1 goaltender on a playoff team. While he does not rule out scenarios in which he stays an Islander -- "anything can happen in this business and I really love it here," he says -- he knows teams are watching.
The Detroit Red Wings could make a move for him. Montreal needs help in goal, and Biron was not only raised in Quebec but seems born to be a Canadien. A return to Buffalo -- where he received an enormous ovation when he subbed for Roloson mid-game two weeks ago -- is a possibility. So is Philadelphia. A serious injury to any of the 65-game goalies around the NHL could change everything in an instant. At a pro-rated $1.4 million, Biron is a bargain.
His only wish? "I hope to get to play and play in the playoffs," said Biron, who led the Flyers to a conference final two years ago. "My first choice would be here, with the Islanders, because they gave me this opportunity when not too many teams were knocking on the door. You want to be in the playoffs. That's where you make your name."
For now, he smiles at the daily cracks of "Where's Marty going to go today"? He knows the rumors will likely continue for another three or four months.
"I'm a sports fan, I understand all the talk," said Biron. "I could write a blog about all this."