• VIDEO: Biron Highlights
By Dan David, newyorkrangers.com
It was hardly a coincidence that Martin Biron
became the first unrestricted free agent to sign with the Rangers -- and one of the first to sign with any NHL team -- when the free agency period began on July 1.
The Blueshirts were looking for a veteran, experienced goaltender who would make it possible for the team to lessen the work load of Henrik Lundqvist
, and Biron was looking to land with a playoff-caliber team that offered him both stability and a chance to sharpen his game back to the level that made him one of the NHL's top goaltenders for much of the past decade.
"I think the Rangers organization and their track record of being competitive is something that you look for as a player," Biron said. "I didn't want to be in the position that I was in last summer of expecting something to happen on July 1 and then not signing until the end of July. This year, I was looking to find some stability and wanted to move my whole family somewhere for longer than one year, and the Rangers definitely were open to that idea."
|A rival of Rangers forward Chris Drury while he was with Philadelphia and the Islanders in the past three seasons, goalie Martin Biron is excited to call Drury both his teammate and captain once again. |
Biron in a Blueshirt was indeed the perfect match for both parties, and as a result, in Lundqvist and Biron the Rangers now have one of the most formidable goaltending tandems in the NHL.
"I have a chance to go and work with a guy like Lundqvist that I have battled many, many times over the past few years." Biron said. "It's going to be fun to work with him."
Biron and his family, which includes four young children, spent much of this summer hunting for a home in the New York area. One of the people who helped him in this quest was Rangers captain Chris Drury, who was Biron's teammate in Buffalo for nearly four full years between 2003 and 2007.
"I've texted Chris and talked to him a couple of times. My wife has been on the phone with his wife practically every other day for the past month," Biron said. "They know each other really well."
The Drury family's assistance in the house-hunting process has been no surprise to Biron, who lived a short drive from Drury when the two were with the Sabres. Helping a teammate get settled in a new city is just the sort of thing a good captain might do.
"He (Drury) was a great influence when he came into Buffalo. His leadership and the fact that he won the Stanley Cup and the way that he conducts himself as a professional and as a captain just speaks very well of his character," Biron said. "It is really good to have the support system people like him have been able to give me to come in to a new city and a new organization."
How serious is Biron about moving to New York? Serious enough to sell his longtime home in the Buffalo area, where his family maintained an off-season base even when Biron was playing for the Flyers and Rangers over the past few years. Home will now be in Westchester County, as Biron is really throwing himself into his new hockey locale.
"We'll be there full-time, including the summer," Biron said of his new house. "I've got four kids, and the oldest is 6, so he'll be in school for first grade next year. We're expecting to make the move and really enjoy our time over there."
Biron said he and his wife knew they would not be moving the family all the way into Manhattan, even though many of his new Rangers teammates currently live in the city.
"We're more country kind of people," he said with a chuckle when asked about choosing to live in Westchester. "We'll go down and visit the city, and have a lot of fun doing that, but we'll go back to the wide open spaces and the quiet life of the suburbs, I guess."
Drury isn't the only familiar Rangers face for Biron. A big factor in his decision to sign with the Blueshirts was the ability to reconnect with goaltending coach Benoit Allaire.
Allaire and Biron first met nearly 20 years ago at the Montreal-based goaltending camp run by Allaire and his brother Francois, a longtime NHL goalie coach who is now a goaltending consultant with Toronto. The Allaire brothers took Biron under their wing, helping mold him into an eventual major-junior and AHL All-Star as well as the Sabres' 1995 first-round pick. By 2001, Biron was the full-time, No. 1 goalie in Buffalo. He maintained that status after a February 2007 trade to Philadelphia, where his goaltending helped the Flyers to reach the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals.
To this day, Biron credits the Allaire brothers for a good part of his success and feels that the reunion with Benoit will do wonders for his future.
"A lot of Benoit and Francois' school was incorporated in my game, although I always had my own a little bit of style," he said. "I'm a little bit unorthodox at times. I've tried to set a good pattern in my play. So I'm very excited about having a chance to go back and work with Benoit. We've already talked on the phone two or three times in the last month. He's already talking about some videos that he's working on. He knows my style, and I know his way of working. I think that's going to be great. And the fact that I'm on a more than a one-year deal makes you know you have time look at your progression and how you want to work as opposed to just saying that you only have six months to try to get something accomplished."
Well-spoken and remarkably frank when discussing his own career, Biron is the first to acknowledge that his 2009-10 season with the Islanders was a personal disappointment and has made him that much hungrier to succeed in 2010-11.
"I was in a situation with the Islanders where there was the possibility of going with three goalies all season," said Biron. "There was also a lot of upside to signing there last year, but unfortunately for me and for everybody else, it didn't work out the way that I was hoping to with that team. It was an experiment that didn't work out for me or the Islanders, but that's OK."
Despite the Islanders' struggles, some stretches in Biron's season were on par with his best days in Buffalo and Philadelphia. He was at the heart of the Islanders late-season surge, leading the Islanders to five wins in seven games between March 25 and April 6. Biron was in net for four of the wins, including victories over playoff-bound Philadelphia and Montreal teams.
Biron feels one of the things that will really help him this season is the commitment he has made to conditioning. Coming into training camp, he already knows about the physical toll he can expect to experience under head coach John Tortorella, because his younger brother, Mathieu, a former NHL defenseman who now plays in Europe, attended Tortorella-led camps with Tampa Bay Lightning in 2001 and 2002. Martin said he spoke with Mathieu about what to expect from his new coach, and that information has influenced his more intense off-ice workouts this summer.
"I started working out very early this summer when I came back from Long Island," said Biron. "I took a couple of weeks off, but I have been working out since then. I have been trying to do a lot more cardio, which is a big part of training camp and testing and all of that. I just feel like over the last year or two, I think that it was maybe a weak point. I've been trying to work a lot on that and continuing to do this and hoping that."
Biron is happy to be putting in the extra off-ice work.
"Last year, the Rangers got off to a great start, and that (conditioning) had a lot to do with it," he said. "I'll be ready for it. Right now it's still a work in progress, but I've tried to commit to following a program and getting a personal trainer here with me. In this month of August, and moving into the first couple of weeks in September, I'll be moving into the area and be able to be at the practice facility every day to work with the training and conditioning staff over there. I'll have to make little adjustments moving forward, but I think it's going to be really good."