Peter Budaj proved one thing this season, and that is a good backup is not necessarily a good starter. He was very good in spot duty, but a horrible final three months relegated him to third on the Canadiens depth chart.
STATS: 24 Games | 10-8-3 | 2.51 GAA | .909 SV% | 3.4 Point Shares
PLAYOFFS: 1 game | 0-0 | 9.00 GAA | .625 SV%
STORY: It was a tale of two seasons for Peter Budaj. Prior to the Olympic break, Budaj was 6-4-1 with a 1.98 GAA and .926 save percentage which is very respectable for spot duty.
However, after the Olympic break, when he was pushed into duty with the injury to Carey Price, his performance dropped. He was 4-4-2 with a 3.22 GAA and .887 save percentage. You need to wonder if it was the layoff that hurt Budaj’s game.
He looked much better this season technically which would be a testament to Stephane Waite. But I don’t think it’s necessarily the starting job that pushed Budaj to struggle. It may have been the lack of game action prior to the Olympic return.
And, coming in cold in the third period didn’t do Budaj any favours in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final. However, the upside was definitely with Dustin Tokarski and I was impressed with how he handled it.
Budaj was above average when you take his whole season into account which is exactly what you want from a backup goaltender. He won more than he lost, and was great this season – especially against the Boston Bruins.
He just struggled at the wrong time, and lost the confidence of his coaches for the season’s most important time of the year. Plus, Tokarski played well which didn’t help his cause.
FUTURE: My thinking is that Budaj might be the player traded out of the goaltending triangle. Tokarski won’t clear waivers so something has got to give. Budaj won’t bring in the return Tokarski would garner, but more teams are looking for depth at the position instead of a starter.
If Budaj does return, he will continue to be a relief to Carey Price, and an above average backup. At least for one more season.
2015-2016: Unrestricted Free-Agent