Name: Mathieu Garon
2010-2011 Salary / Cap Hit: $1.2 Million / $1.2 Million
Last 3 Years Stats:
The Chandler, Quebec native had what had to be a boyhood dream come true when he was selected in the second round and 44th overall in the 1996 Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. Garon spent the first five seasons of his pro career bouncing between the Canadiens and their various AHL affiliates (Fredericton, Quebec and Hamilton). During the summer of 2004, he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in a deal that sent Radek Bonk and Cristobal Huet to Montreal. Playing for LA's AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, during the lockout season of 2004-05, Garon put together an impressive season with a 32-14-4 record, a 2.12 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Kings management deemed that worthy enough to entrust him as their starter when the NHL resumed play for the 2005-06 season.
Garon's first NHL assignment as a starter proved to be a challenge. Although he posted a respectable 31-26-3 record for the Kings, his GAA was a hefty 3.22 with a save percentage of .894, numbers which were enough to relegate him to backup status for the '06-'07 season.
After that season, Garon tested the free agent waters for the first time and landed in Edmonton, where he signed a deal similar to his current one with the Blue Jackets. Two years, $2.2 million. He played well in his first season with the Edmonton Oilers, with a 2.66 GAA and a .913 save percentage. The Oilers failed to make the playoffs despite his heroics, but perhaps the most impressive stat of Garon's was that he went 10-0 in shootouts, stopping 30 of 32 attempts.
In 2009, Garon was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Riding the pine behind a hot Marc-Andre Fleury, his play was limited. He did see some action in the Stanley Cup Finals, when he came on in relief of Fleury in Game 5. The Penguins went on to win their third Stanley Cup when they beat the Red Wings in a seven game series.
Not content with what he felt was a limited future in Pittsburgh, that July he signed a free agent contract with the Jackets where he has been steady, if unspectacular, when called upon behind incumbent number one, Steve Mason.
What's He Worth?
Annually, there seems to be a wide selection of experienced goaltending available for the taking. Garon is a good example of the caliber of typical goaltender available come July 1st. Since the lockout, each summer goalies come and goalies go. It's a mercenary's world in this post-lockout world.
The list for 2011 bears some similarities in depth to previous seasons. Based strictly on age, the over 30 crowd looks like this:
Other notables in the under 30 crowd:
Based on ability and projected playing time, Garon at $1.2 million, is probably on the high side of average, when experience is factored in to the equation. With the expectation on Steve Mason so high for the upcoming season, it's not out of the realm of possibility to have Mase's backup whoever he is, to play 25 games or less.
Steve Mason may be the biggest factor in all of this. Mase's ability to rediscover his rookie magic. New goaltending coach Ian Clark becoming the mentor to bring Mase back to his rookie successes. Mason had some minor injuries down the stretch last season. His health then becomes a factor. Coach Arniel may call upon him to start 60 games or more this season. Will he be able to shoulder the load for 60+ NHL games? These issues may increase Garon's value to the Jackets.
What Should The CBJ Offer?
As you can see, there are other choices that the Jackets could make regarding their #2 netminder. Mathieu Garon, despite momentary lapses, has established himself as a steady second to Steve Mason.
An overlooked factor may be that of change vs. continuity. Given his experience and his level of compensation, Garon has been there when called upon. I would not advocate changing for the sake of change, unless the Jackets long range plan happens to be Steve Mason-less (an option that may come into play once Allen York continues his development at the pro level).
All things being equal then, Scott Howson might be content to offer Garon another two year deal, with a slight increase, possibly in the area of $1.3 or $1.35 million per year. Once you get past that, monetarily, the perception of value changes in the $1.4 to $1.5 neighborhood.
Garon's numbers, historically, suggest that he will typically have a GAA in the 2.5 to 2.8 range. His save percentage will hover right around .900. These numbers, while not what you would expect from your starting goalie, attest to reliable, predictable play in goal. This is where the continuity of having the player here who has been here, brings added value to the table. Should Garon be interested in remaining a Blue Jacket, Howson would be well served to continue "doing business" with Mathieu Garon instead of seeking out the next mercenary netminder.