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Dwayne Roloson: Playing his best hockey at 42
Dwayne Roloson was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for a first-round pick in 2006. At the time he was acquired from the Minnesota Wild, he was still considered a great goalie—37 years old, but with a couple of good years left.
Roloson had been an All-Star goalie. He backstopped the Wild to the division playoffs in 2003, but Minnesota lost to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in four straight games. It was billed to be a goaltenders' battle, and Roloson came up short to an up-and-coming J.S Giguere.
In 2006 "Roli" had been demoted to the backup goalie on the Wild, mainly greasing the bench. At the trade deadline, he was picked up by the Edmonton Oilers. Roloson struggled in the regular season, leaving fans doubting Kevin Lowe's choice.
Lowe was vindicated when "Roli" led the Oilers to a Stanley Cup finals appearance. During the playoff run, he played 18 games and had a 2.33 goals against and .927 save percentage. In the first game of the finals against the Carolina Hurricanes, he twisted a knee and was not able to finish the playoffs. The Oilers lost in seven games, the closest Roloson would ever be to the Stanley Cup.
A few years later, he signed as a free agent with the New York Islanders, and it looked like he would be a conference-bottom-dwelling young-goalie trainer for the rest of his career, with little hope of seeing either the playoffs or the cup.
In a career twist of fate, the Tampa Bay Lighting recognized that they were light on goaltending and traded for a 41-year-old Roloson in January 2011. Who trades for a 41-year-old goalie? Steve Yzerman, hockey extraordinaire and new general manager of the Bolts.
Roloson immediately improved the depth between the pipes and had four shutouts in his first 11 games, making Yzerman seem like a wizard. Roli led the Lightning to the Eastern Conference finals by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, but Tampa Bay lost to the Boston Bruins in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference finals.
In the summer of 2011, Roloson at 42 is the last active player born in the 1960s, and he signed a $3 million, one-year deal with the Bolts.
He has to be thinking, "Bring on the cup."
Roloson has already been in the hunt twice and has proven he can elevate his game to be a difference maker in a Stanley Cup run.
The Bolts can contend, and Roli can battle to win his ultimate reward—to have his name on the Stanley Cup.