Almost lost in all of the draft talk last week was a report coming out of Syracuse that Crunch GM Julien BriseBois expected goaltender Jaroslav Janus to play out his existing KHL contract in 2013-2014. In other words, Janus is no longer expected to return to North America next season, and the Lightning's goalie situation grows a little murkier, at least in terms of depth.
It's a strange situation the Lightning have now, with several highly-touted prospects they who are unavailable to them. Andrey Vasilevskiy, we found out a few weeks ago, would also be staying in the KHL rather than coming to develop in Syracuse (and help out the Crunch, let's be honest). So where as June began there were more goaltenders than spots, the Lightning now have more spots than reliable goaltenders.
At the NHL level, the roster is almost certainly set, barring one of Steve Yzerman's patented surprises. Anders Lindback and Ben Bishop will work together to try to solidify the Lightning's goaltending situation. Still, consider this: These two netminders have a combined total of 107 NHL games (62 games for Lindback; 45 for Bishop). The uncertainty level has to be fairly high. And that uncertainty is going to affect the approach in Syracuse.
Steve Yzerman is already taking not one, but two huge risks at the NHL level. He's also taking a risk in Syracuse with Riku Helenius, whose contract becomes a one-way deal for the 2013-14 season.
Helenius struggled quite a bit at times in 2012-13, and it's impossible to know how much that was due to the transition to a new team, new league, and new ice; how much was random variation; and how much was due to missing playing time for personal reasons. At this point the team has only a slightly better idea of what they've got in Helenius than they did this time last year. Is the "real" Riku the goalie who dominated the SM-Liiga with a .936/1.64 in 2011-12 or the goalie who put up a .900/2.57 in Syracuse in 2012-13? Or will he end up at some other point altogether?
With all this risk, Yzerman needs a goalie who he can count on to be able to put up solid numbers most of the time. And right now, that looks like Cedrick Desjardins, who would be a veteran AHL presence to balance the unpredictability of the other three. Whereas a few weeks ago I would not have confidently predicted a return for either Desjardins or Helenius in the face of the opportunity to have Andrey Vasilevskiy working next to Jaroslav Janus, today it seems that re-signing Desjardins is one of the best options available to the Lightning.
Desjardins is more than capable of holding his own in the AHL. He can be counted on to put up at least acceptable goaltending in more situations than not, which provides needed balance to the likely ups and downs of the rest of the Lightning's goaltending. Essentially, what this means is that he can keep the Crunch competitive when Helenius falters (and he will at some point). At the same time, should the Lightning need to call up a goalie, Desjardins can be considered safer than Helenius.
That means giving Desjardins a new deal, however, as his current contract expires July 1. At the moment there seems to be no reason not to come to terms with him, but there is no current news on contract talks.