If the Ducks win the Stanley Cup as it increasingly looks like they will, goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere stands to win his second Conn Smythe Trophy for being the MVP of the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.
Not bad for a guy who didn't even play in the first three games of the first series against Minnesota.
Giguere has been outstanding for the Ducks this postseason, and if not for his play in the west finals against Detroit, Anaheim probably wouldn't even be here.
And because of that, Anaheim would be crazy to let him walk away this summer. Not saying the Ducks aren't going to do just that, but it's going to be hard for them to allow it.
Giguere is going to be a hit on the free agent market, with the Panthers leading the charge for his services. The Panthers are desperate for a goalie of Giguere's stature, after realizing what they had in Roberto Luongo once he left. It's not Florida's fault Todd Bertuzzi got hurt. But the trade was a bust -- no matter how good Bryan Allen played in the second half of the season -- and signing Giguere this offseason would offset much of the damage done.
So how do the Panthers bring Giguere to South Florida?
First, he has to decide he's not going back to the O.C. The Ducks are paying him almost $4 million this year on a $40-plus million payroll. The Ducks are going to have to dole out some raises next year and at the same time probably bring some on as they try to tweak things to ensure they stick around the top of the league. The Ducks are going to reap financial benefits for winning the Cup, but GM Brian Burke says the team has a budget he will adhere to.
With Giguere to demand a boost from his $4 million salary (look for him to start negotiations at $6 million per), the Ducks may say they are happy with Ilya Bryzgalov ($1 mil this year) as their No. 1. Why not? He's proved he can do the job and deserves a shot somewhere (the Ducks could sign Giguere and trade Bryzgalov, but Bryz is a bargain so they might as well keep him.)
Even if Giguere and the Ducks part ways, that doesn't mean the 30-year-old is headed to Broward County. Tampa Bay would be interested in signing him, although the Bolts' financial restraints could keep them on the sidelines in this one. There have been rumblings Montreal would be interested in bringing the Montreal native home, and after missing the playoffs last year, the Habs are desperate for a big splash. Detroit, Los Angeles and Boston have also been mentioned as possible suitors.
The one major thing the Panthers have in their favor is mucho dinero. The Cats have Cash. Will they spend it? There's the question. The thought here is Florida has to go after Giguere and go after him hard. This is a team that needs to not only make the playoffs but be good enough to do something once they make them. A world-class goalie like Giguere may be that catalyst. Sure, you can say Florida never made it when Luongo was here. The truth is, some of Luongo's best young years were wasted in Florida. The team tried building up and it never caught up before Mike Keenan sent Luongo west to Vancouver.
Will the Panthers have to over pay to get Giguere? Probably. Will folks question why said money didn't go to Luongo in the first place to avoid this mess? Yep. The Panthers can't worry about second guessing in this case. And by all accounts, JM and his crew don't seem to care what outsiders think anyway.
If Giguere decides to stay with the Ducks, great. The Panthers can't blame the guy for staying with the franchise he led to a Cup championship (probably). But if he ventures onto the open market, JM and the organization needs to do everything in its power to get him here.
What if Giguere isn't out there?
Florida can look west to San Jose and maybe swing a deal for Evgeni Nabokov or Vesa Toskala; maybe they go after Minnesota's Manny Fernandez or even Niklas Backstrom.
The Panthers are expected to be active once the Stanley Cup Finals come to a close. Getting a true No. 1 goalie should be at the top of their list.