What is a good MLS keeper worth?

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About an hour before MLS Cup 2008 kicked off at Home Depot Center last month, San Jose keeper Joe Cannon confirmed he'd been informed by Earthquakes management the option on his contract wasn't being picked up for 2009.

Now that the official deadline passed on Monday for teams to notify the league of such decisions, negotiations can begin in earnest. If the two sides cannot reach an agreement, the Quakes can retain the right of first refusal indefinitely if it attempts to re-sign him, regardless of the terms -- salary, bonuses, length of contract, etc. -- it offers.

Pat Noonan left MLS last winter after New England declined his option and offered him a much lower salary. He played for a few months in Austria before coming back to MLS last summer, and had to wait until Columbus negotiated a deal with the Revs for his rights.

Although San Jose still holds Cannon's MLS rights, he is free to negotiate a deal with a foreign club, and so could leave the league for the second time in his career. Following the '02 season, Cannon's contract expired and he spent six months in France with Lens, before returning to MLS via a trade by San Jose which, in the interim, had signed Pat Onstad and traded Cannon's rights to the Rapids.

Cannon's former coach in San Jose, Frank Yallop, acquired him in '06 to play for the Galaxy, and after being fired in Los Angeles, Yallop swapped allocation money last year to get his favorite keeper back in San Jose. Cannon led the league in '08 with 124 saves, compiled nine shutouts (the leaders notched 10) and placed fifth with a 1.27 goals-allowed average.

Cannon was due to make about $225,000 in '09 and, while a source said the team does want him back, it wants him at a salary commensurate with other MLS keepers, who don't earn much in most cases. Until Kasey Keller signed with Seattle Sounders FC at a salary estimated in the $350,000 range (not including allocation money, of which Seattle is loaded) Cannon had commanded the highest salary among current MLS keepers.

Onstad, Kevin Hartman, Matt Reis, Greg Sutton, Jon Conway, LouisCrayton and Darío Sala are the only other goalies whose salaries exceed $100,000. Chicago's Jon Busch, named Goalkeeper of the Year last month, earned $80,000 in base salary. Troy Perkins, who left D.C. United last year in a $750,000 transfer deal with Norwegian club Valerenga, made $85,000 in his final MLS season.

Despite his experience and accomplishments -- two Goalkeeper of the Year awards and an MLS Cup -- teams may balk at picking up Cannon's salary. Yet the Quakes are risking a backlash from fans, most of whom appreciate his fearless play and genial personality, if they lose him to save $50,000 or $75,000.