Each summer, free agent goaltenders ride a carousel when the free agent market opens with many players moving around the league.
Sometimes, however, the ride can quickly turn into a game of musical chairs with more goalies looking for spots than there are jobs to fill. So when opportunities come along, the rule of thumb is that sooner is generally better for those on the open market rather than waiting around only to see all the jobs dry up quicker than a single summer raindrop falling on the sidewalk of Channelside Drive.
That is precisely the approach veteran netminder Mathieu Garon had when he hit the open market on July 1, signing a two-year deal worth $2.6 million with Tampa Bay, becoming one of the first players to agree to a free agent contract shortly after the free agent frenzy kicked off.
Garon took a tour of the St. Pete Times Forum on Friday and will remain through the weekend with his family looking for a place to live during the season. They will return to their off-season home in Quebec City, Quebec, to pack up and head back to Tampa before school starts on Aug. 23.
When it came to finding a new place to play, it didn't hurt that Garon did his homework before free agency opened and saw a potential fit with the Lightning, which was in the market for a backup to 41-year-old Dwayne Roloson. So while there was contact from other teams early in the process, when Garon heard from the Lightning, he essentially stopped listening to others.
"Some teams you expect to get offers from and some you don't, but I didn't know what to expect from Tampa Bay, so as soon as I got the offer, it was on the top of my list for sure,'' Garon said. "I want to be on a good team, I haven't been on great teams in my career before, so I think this is a bit fortunate for me and I'm really excited for the opportunity.''
While the appeal of playing for a team that went from the bottom part of the standings in 2009-10 to within a game of the Stanley Cup Final last season is enticement enough, Garon also saw the opportunity to reunite with Roloson.
The two were teammates together in Edmonton from 2007-09, splitting time in net before Garon was traded to Pittsburgh on Jan. 17, 2009, earning his name on the Stanley Cup with the Penguins.
"He's a true professional, been in the league for a long time and he's just a great guy. He cares about his teammates and he's good to be around,'' Garon said. "I played with him for a year-and-a-half, so I know how he is and I had a good time playing with him. I know he had a good year last year, but I know that I'm going to have to play and I think both of together can do a great job.''
Since being a second-round selection of Montreal in 1996, the 33-year-old has been somewhat of a journeymen, but has never been out of work since breaking into the NHL fulltime as the backup to Jose Theodore with the Canadiens in 2003-04. Garon has enjoyed stints with Los Angeles, Edmonton and Pittsburgh before spending the past two seasons with Columbus. Along the way, he's appeared in more than 45 games just twice in seven seasons but has played more than 30 games five times.
In that time he's amassed a career record of 116-106-25 with a 2.82 goals against average and .904 save percentage. Only twice in his career in which he has played at least 19 games has Garon failed to have a save percentage below .900.
While Roloson, acquired from the New York Islanders on New Year's Day and re-signed to a one-year contract in June, is solidified as Tampa Bay's No. 1 guy heading into training camp, it's a good bet that Garon will once again cross the 30-game threshold this coming season despite being labeled as the backup.
"I just want to be ready, I know my role and as a backup sometimes all the games you play are really important, those two points count at the end of year,'' Garon said. "But whatever the number of games that I play, and the less I play probably means that Roli is playing better. So I just want to win, I'm just here to win and I don't care how many games I'm going to play.''
Defenseman Scott Jackson was re-signed to a one-year, two-way contract accepting his qualifying offer before Friday's deadline.
Jackson, 24, played the past three season with the Norfolk Admirals, Tampa Bay's affiliate in the American Hockey League, appearing in 174 games with the Admirals. Originally a second-round pick of St. Louis in 2005, Jackson made his NHL debut with Tampa Bay in the regular season finale against Florida in 2009-10.