In the summer of 2008, the Capitals were in goaltending limbo. They had two young goalies who weren’t yet ready for steady NHL work. They had just finished a year with three goalies on the roster, a sticky situation that caused franchise netminder Olaf Kolzig to leave the team with some ill will. The man who got them into the playoffs, Cristabol Huet, left to chase money in Chicago.
With only backup Brent Johnson left, the Capitals needed a solidified starter to hold down the team until the kids were ready to take the reins. They then went out and signed 2002 Vezina and Hart winner (with the Montreal Canadiens) Jose Theodore.
For the last two seasons, at 4.5 million per year, Theo has manned the pipes with back-to-back 30-win seasons. He has helped push both Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth into their potential. Now, with the time finally coming for the prospects to take over full-time, Theodore was one of many starting goalies who found themselves without a job this summer.
That is, until today, when Theodore signed a $1.1 million one-year contract with the Minnesota Wild, a significant pay cut for a player coming off one of the best seasons of his career. Wild goalie Josh Harding tore his ACL and MCL during training camp, and it was just the kind of unfortunate opportunity that Theo needed to get his number called.
The goalie market was very thin this off-season, a result of teams going with younger tenders to cut costs and stay under the salary cap. It was a rough time for someone who knows a thing or two about rough times.
The last two summers haven’t been kind to Jose Theodore. In the summer of 2009, his son was born. What was joy turned into heartbreak when complications from a premature birth. He died two months later without ever leaving the hospital.
Theodore took that pain and turned it into productivity, putting together one of (if not the best) campaign of his career which included a stretch of 19 games in which he did not lose. His year was capped off with a Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.
After a rocky relationship with the fan base during his first season in DC, Theodore really touched fans this year with his tragedy and commitment. He was outstanding all year behind an average defense on the best team during the regular season.
Though both Theodore and the team knew he would most likely not stay in Washington, it was still a sad departure with mutual respect. Now it will be interesting to see how Theo plays behind a defensively-centric team in the all-around tighter Western Conference. We wish him all the best of luck.
Except the next time he plays the Capitals.