Having been the backup goaltender on the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, Ty Conklin took the only possible step forward Tuesday when he signed a one-year contract to play for the 2008 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. He joins his fifth NHL team in a little over two years.
The Penguins' defeat was the third time in nine years and second time in three years that Conklin had played on the losing team in a championship. He was with the Edmonton Oilers when they lost the 2006 Stanley Cup in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes. Conklin was the goaltender for the University of New Hampshire when they lost the 1999 NCAA Frozen Four championship game to the University of Maine, 3-2, in overtime.
Conklin, 32, has a 48-32-12 record with four shutouts and a 2.60 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 109 NHL games over five NHL seasons. The 2000 Hockey East Player of the Year signed as a free agent with the Oilers in 2001. Conklin became the starter during the 2003-04 season, posting a 17-14-4 record in 38 games. He played in Germany during the lockout year.
Conklin was injured early in the 2005-06 season and lost his job. The Oilers went through three goalies that season before trading for Dwayne Roloson, who helped them get into the playoffs.
Roloson was injured late in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final and was replaced by Conklin. He soon mishandled a puck behind his net that Rod Brind'Amour stole and scored the winning goal with 32 seconds remaining. Conklin was replaced for the rest of the series by Jussi Markkanen.
The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Conklin to a free-agent contract in July 2006. He played 11 games as the backup goaltender, with a 2-3-2 record, and was dealt at the trading deadline to the Buffalo Sabres, where he backed up Ryan Miller, going 1-2 in five games.
Conklin seemed down-and-out when Buffalo passed on re-signing him a year ago. But the Penguins signed him to split duties with former Boston University goalie John Curry on their AHL affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton Penguins. Conklin went 11-7-0 there with a 2.11 GAA and .919 save percentage and was called up Dec. 7 when Marc-Andre Fleury was hurt.
Conklin Won eight-straight games from Dec. 20th through Jan. 10th and had a 1.82 GAA and .946 save percentage while going 10-1-2 in the 14 games that he replaced Fleury.
Included in that run was his fine performance in the Winter Classic outdoor game against the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Conklin stopped 36 shots in regulation and overtime and then stopped two of three shots in the shootout as Pittsburgh won, 2-1. Conklin had shut out Buffalo in Pittsburgh, 2-0, two nights earlier.
Conklin finished the 2007-08 season with a 18-8-5 record in 33 games with a 2.51 GAA and .923 save percentage that was the second-best in the NHL.
Chris Osgood, 35, remains the Red Wings' No. 1 goaltender. With the retirement of veteran Dominick Hasek, the backup job is open in Detroit. Until the Conklin signing, it was expected that former University of Maine goaltender James Howard, 24, would back up Osgood this season. He has played three seasons with the Red Wings' AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The Griffins list only one goalie on their roster, Adam Berkhoel, 27, who played 31 games for them last year with a 10-14-4 record. Interestingly, Berkhoel led the University of Denver to the 2004 NCAA championship, defeating Maine and Howard.