Jose Theodore is still an unrestricted free agent on August 10. Most teams have solidified their goaltending position and there just aren't enough seats for all the kids at the party.
On the surface, it appears like his career could be winding down as he faces another crossroads. The NHL landscape has taken a sudden turn and it has players like Theodore asking himself—what now?
Personal tragedy, new economic and philosophical realities, and negative stigmas stand between him and another shot at the Stanley Cup.
Theodore has many challenges ahead of him, but I will outline five reasons why this former league MVP can go from unemployed to a Cup parade.
The veteran netminder has had to overcome significant challenges in both his personal and professional life during the last couple years.
For perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey, Theodore was awarded the Bill Masterton Trophy in 2010. This coming after his infant son Chace tragically died last summer due to premature birth complications.
He was also signed by Washington to be the number one goalie, but he lost the starting job and won it back, only to lose it again in last year’s playoffs. Throughout the entire process, Theodore worked hard, put the team before himself, and handled it with class.
At the moment the prospects of him finding a good situation don't appear to be good, but if anyone can overcome another challenge—it's Theodore.
Due to the monumental upset of the Capitals by the Canadiens in Round One, the Theodore versus Varlamov debate did not have much vigor to it despite the fact that coach Bruce Boudreau switched goalies in two consecutive postseasons.
Many think the switch was justified and Varlamov’s play did not prove otherwise. In contrast, the other side of the debate is adamant that Boudreau had an itchy trigger finger.
Regardless of whether it was the right move or not, Boudreau did not give Theodore a chance to play out an entire series. The perception around the league is that Theodore cannot get it done when it counts the most. In the eyes of most, he is a fading starting goalie.
However, he is not a stranger to adversity or competition. Theodore battled against these factors and won the starting job in two consecutive regular seasons—and he can do it again.
The new economic reality of the NHL has been a primary reason why goaltenders such as Theodore are looking for work. It appears the days of Roberto Luongo-like contracts are well behind us.
More than ever before, organizations are cutting costs wherever they can and goaltending has been the main casualty. Whoever signs Theodore will be getting a bargain basement price for someone more than capable of backstopping a team.
This might be bad for Theodore financially, but it also opens up opportunities to play for a lot more teams that would not have been able to afford him otherwise.
He just might find himself on a Stanley Cup contender who can now afford to sign him.
The other primary reason goalies are currently playing a game of musical chairs is the new fad of giving anybody a shot. During the 2010 post-season, three of the final four teams were using starting goalies that started the year as a backup—Anyti Niemi, Michael Leighton, and Jaroslav Halak.
As we all know, the current trend is to go cheap at goalie and take your chances by investing more in the rest of the lineup. While this buyer’s market has led to Theodore sitting by the telephone well into August, it also promises him an opportunity to win back the confidence of a coach with his play and eventually become a starter again.
At some point along the ride, he will get his chance to start in the playoffs again. Except this time, he will likely be playing for a coach who doesn't rely on the panic button every time his team surrenders a questionable goal.
The Laval, Quebec native had his best season since 2002. In the last three months, he backstopped the Capitals with a 20-0-3 run. The 33-year-old netminder has sound fundamentals, great lateral movement, and superb agility.
Everything else becomes irrelevant if he cannot play at a high level, but last season he clearly demonstrated that he still has the ability to be a difference maker in this league.
It is uncertain who is going to take a chance on him at this point, but someone will. What they don't know, is that they may have unwittingly added the final piece of the puzzle en route to Lord Stanley.
This is the new NHL where anything can happen.