The 2010/11 NHL season is nearly upon us, but we're not quite there, yet. As such, PredsNation is not immune to getting a little overexcited over the prospect of acquiring a player, regardless of who that player is. Kevin Allen caused quite the buzz across the Twitterverse earlier today, when he pondered the possibility of the Preds putting in a claim on the Kings' wayward backup, Erik Ersberg. It was reported earlier today that Ersberg had been cut, despite a favorable track record as the Kings' backup (and even sometimes starter). With the Predators leaning on unproven behemoth Anders Lindback to play behind Pekka Rinne, it's understandable that such speculation would be drawn. While there were some reports that the Predators had officially claimed Ersberg, it's worth noting that he was only placed on waivers this morning -- thus making such a claim impossible. Bob McKenzie verified this obvious oversight, but did allow that it's possible that the Predators could have already put in a claim, though there are 18 other teams that would get the opportunity before Nashville.
Regardless of the merit of any of the rumors, it does pose an interesting question: are the Predators truly set in goal? If Peks plays a Vokounian amount, and shoulders a 75 game workload, we might be alright. After all, much like Vokoun, Rinne has shown that he thrives under heavy action. But what if the worst-case comes to be, and Rinne is injured long term? I'm not sure that Anders Lindback has done enough to earn the confidence of the team to step into a starting role. While he certainly outperformed Pickard and Dekanich in training camp, I would stop short of saying that he did so with any sort of authority. Flashing back to Dan Ellis's first training camp, coming in as a relative unknown, there was a statement in the way he played. You knew that there was no other option to back up Chris Mason, and you could see the potential for an eventual coup. I'm not sure the same could be said of Lindback, who I would personally rate as "adequate." He stood in the goal, he stopped shots...but there was something missing. I look for a sort of "swagger" from a goaltender, a tell that makes it known that a goalie has the confidence to win a game for his team. It's not something that you're born with or that happens overnight. I like Lindback as a prospect, but I'm not sure he's there yet. Again, it may not even matter--Pekka could play 77 games, relegating Lindback to the tailend of a back to back versus the Blue Jackets and the occasional mop-up-duty game. But...you have to consider the unexpected.
So what if we do claim Ersberg? Jeremy Smith was sent to Cincinnati yesterday, and the tandem of Pickard\Dekanich appears ready for a reprise of last season, in which they split starts nearly down the middle. What do we do with Lindback, in this case? I would guess the best option would be to "loan" him back to the SEL, to ensure that his playing time and development stay on track. This is similar to what we did with Finnish netminder Atte Engren, earlier in the spring.
I would like to see us put in a claim on Ersberg, but if not, I still believe we'd be best served to pick up an experienced backup. I was with many in PredNation that had hoped to snag Jose Theodore, though his eventual contract (1.1 for one year) is likely a little rich for Nashville, given the playing time he could see. Another interesting option that's currently on waivers is Joey MacDonald, of the Red Wings. He acquitted himself well in several appearances for the Islanders last season. Speaking of the Red Wings, there's always former archnemesis Manny Legace to consider...though the sight of his name on a Preds' sweater might induce too much bile for many fans to stomach.
So for now, we can only wait for 5 more days to see what happens. Or...at least until 11 CST tomorrow morning, when Erik Ersberg will either clear--or not clear--waivers.
Speaking of waivers, TSN reports that Aaron Johnson did in fact clear. I have to think that the only reason he's not our seventh defenseman, rather than Alex Sulzer, is his two-way contract. DP was likely not keen on the idea of paying Sulzer 650K to ride the bus in Milwaukee again. Sulzer is likely on his last opportunity to do something to earn his NHL contract. He is a free agent at the end of this year.
See everyone at the meet the team party!