The Canadiens signed goaltender Peter Budaj to a two year 2.8 million dollar contract extension Wednesday.
Budaj has been a special asset for the Canadiens. He is Carey Price’s backup which means a lot of hard work in practice maintaining conditioning and mental readiness leading to around fifteen sporadic starts a season. His willingness to sacrifice ego and ambition for the team without complaint is a rare commodity in professional sports.
After starting the season with two losses, Budaj has put together a six game winning streak which included that spectacular third period in Boston in relief of Carey Price. Overall he has a 2.27 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. He will make his ninth appearance in Buffalo Thursday.
In reality the Canadiens didn’t have many options if Budaj had opted to move on.
In his eleven seasons since he took over as Canadiens Director of Amateur Scouting Trevor Timmins has drafted only four goaltenders. Outside of Price, only Jaroslav Halak, the 271st overall pick in 2003, has worked out. The others are the long forgotten Loic Lacasse (2004) and Jason Missaen (2008).
The goaltenders in Hamilton are Robert Mayer and Dustin Tokarski. Mayer has decided he can’t support a family on AHL wages and has signed a two year contract with EHC Biel in the Swiss National League. Tokarksi was acquired by the Canadiens in February for Cedrick Desjardins in a straight swap of goaltenders with TampaBay. At 23, Tokarski already has a long record of success. He led the Spokane Chiefs to the 2008 Memorial Cup,Team Canada to the 2009 World Junior championship and last year he won the AHL’s Calder Cup with the Norfolk Admirals. There is some question about his consistency but he has been very good in Hamilton since he was acquired in mid February. Right now he can only be considered a prospect.
The other goaltender in the organization is Peter Delmas who was re-assigned to the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL but will probably wind up as Tokarski’s backup in Hamilton next season.