So Long, Jason LaBarbera


The Edmonton Oilers announced this morning that they had traded goaltender Jason LaBarbera to the Chicago Blackhawks for the proverbial bag of pucks.

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This is good news for basically everybody involved.

For the Edmonton Oilers…

This means a bunch of things for Edmonton, and basically all of them are good.

First, it means that Ilya Bryzgalov is ready to go. With Devan Dubnyk crashing and burning this season, the Oilers need a starting goalie they have some confidence in, and Bryzgalov has done nothing but play extremely well in Edmonton. 

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Second, it gives the team additional flexibility to make other moves, as Bob Stauffer points out:

Third, this restores the natural order to the goaltending depth chart. Edmonton now has two veterans at the NHL level, a good third-string veteran in Oklahoma (Richard Bachman, who filled in ably in Edmonton prior to getting hurt) and space on the farm for Laurent Brossoit, the club’s top goaltending prospect. 

For the Chicago Blackhawks…

Chicago has had some injury problems in net, and LaBarbera gives the team some valuable depth.

Finnish rookie Antti Raanta, who the Oilers tried to sign in the summer, has played extremely well in the Blackhawks’ net, going 5-0-1 with a 0.926 save percentage after being elevated from the starting role in Rockford to the starting role in Chicago. 

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But he’s all Chicago has right now. Starter Corey Crawford is expected to miss roughly three weeks thanks to a lower body injury and Raanta’s backup right now is Kent Simpson, a rookie pro who has provided the AHL’s Rockford Icehogs with a 0.900 save percentage goaltending over 15 games. That’s not much of a backup policy.

Mostly, though, it seems likely this move was brought on by Nikolai Khabibulin being Nikolai Khabibulin.


Khabibulin has been on injured reserve for a month now with a lower body injury (as per TSN). In the four games he played for the Blackhawks, he posted a 0.811 save percentage. He’s been well and thoroughly beaten for an NHL job by Raanta and when everybody’s healthy it’s hard to see how the ‘Hawks could send down the superior goaltender to hang on to a guy who was signed as a veteran stopgap. 

That leaves a hole long-term in Rockford, where Simpson seems unready to take on the starting role. Because of his reasonable contract, LaBarbera can fill that slot and provide Chicago’s farm team with exceptional AHL goaltending and the Blackhawks themselves with a reliable third-stringer. 

For LaBarbera…

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This is a chance to play.

The Oilers couldn’t afford to give LaBarbera a chance to play his way back into form; with Devan Dubnyk imploding and LaBarbera unable to calm the waters the team really had no choice but to go out and find somebody else. It put the goaltending depth chart into disarray, and once the music stopped and everybody got healthy there weren’t going to be enough chairs for everyone involved.

LaBarbera goes to a contender, which leaves him the chance of being the backup for a Stanley Cup winner if injuries strike again. While he’s probably looking at a long stint in the AHL, that was going to happen regardless, and this move means at least he’ll be playing in the minors rather than fighting for time with another solid third-stringer. It gives him an opportunity to rehabilitate a career badly tarnished by his short stint in Edmonton.  

It’s a win-win-win.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • outdoorzguy

    Does Kevin Lowe approve these BOLD MOVES? He’s a useless fixture in the Oiler organization. Serves no purpose other than calling Katz in Vancouver to tell him we lost again. As for McTavish, I’ve just moved him up a notch on the GM pedestal. He’s at the same level now as Garth Snow.
    Hey Lowe/Katz, Jay Feaster is available. His Calgary rebuild was years ahead of the Oilers’, and it only started this year!! Ours has been going on for a decade.
    How do these idiots keep their jobs???

  • Spydyr

    Anyone who follows the Oilers know they are a horrible team. 8th straight year no playoffs.

    It’s more than likely most fans will never see Oilers win another Stanley Cup.

  • outdoorzguy

    That kid from the U of A played better at the Bruins practice than Dubnyk could even hope for. I can’t wait for the next game…same lousy lineup, same bad coaches, same terrible mismanagement and same atrocious absent leadership.
    I can’t believe there will be people in the seats for the next home game. I can’t believe anyone would buy anything with an Oiler logo on it. THIS IS BEYOND AN EMBARRASMENT, ITS DISGUSTING!!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    There should be some type of mechanism where a team finishes last,they are dropped to a lower division. I wonder if the Oilers would win in the AHL.

          • Oilergasm

            Can you honestly say at anytime since the Smid trade “If only we still had Smid we coulda won that game”

            Looking back, since the trade we’ve had a somewhat respectable record and the flames have dropped off( I know they’ve also had key injuries)

            Maybe the Smid trade was one of the culture changes that we’ve been hearing about. Also freeing up cap space if someone of significance comes available.

          • camdog

            Calgary is now 5 points up on us , on a 2 game winning streak and 2 games in hand . How do you get the Oilers are doing better since trade ? We are not better without Smid .

          • Oilergasm

            Hate to break it to you, but we were 4-11-2 before we traded Smid, and 7-9-1 since. We actually are better without Smid, I’m not saying that he’s the reason we’ve won a few more games, but I am saying he’s definitely not the reason we aren’t losing more games.

            At the time, I absolutely hated the trade but based on a very small sample size since, he hasn’t been missed.

            Sounds like you’d rather just head down to the mall, buy a Nieuwendyk jersey and hop all over the Brian Burke band wagon.

            Have at ‘er Champ!

    • oilersfan123

      What makes you think that Bachman is a better backup than Dubnyk? Sure, he had the one good game against LA, but the rest of his time this year he was either terrible or injured. Give Dubnyk some credit, he’s kept the oilers in more than a few games this year. Not saying he should be a starter though.

  • reaperfunkss

    Side point but does this make the Smid trade any clearer? The thought was there was more coming but obviously there isnt. I have no clue why he was traded for what we got. Yet i still see people thinking macT does the little things right. Are we Oiler fans as delusional as the Oilers?

    Just horrendous to think that mediocrity is a step up for our hockey club

    sorry just had to vent a little more

  • Oilerz4life

    LA’s third string backup is better than our starter. I wonder if when Quick comes back if we can trade Dubnyk for Jones. Bryzgalov/Jones tandem would be sick.

  • Oilerz4life

    Jonathan, can you tell us anything about “future considerations?” What is it going to be? How did other trades occur with “future considerations?”

  • I for one would love to “Fast Track” Laurent Brossoit into back up role for the Oilers ASAP. We all know this season is shot and Dub’s contract will probably not be renewed due to his performance. I like Dub very much, but he is not a #1 goaltender. Give Brossoit the experience and exposure now.

    • camdog

      Brossoit isn’t even a good AHL goalie right now. When we traded for him Calgary had him playing in the East Coast hockey league. If Brossoit had been playing against the Canucks the other night he would have easily given up 10-12 goals. There is no fast tracking Brossoit. Maybe try Bachman out, but Brossoit isn’t even a realistic option right now.

  • I hope Barbie gets to play in the SCP and carries Chicago to a cup. The notion that that the Oilers could not allow him to get back into form is silly. We are not going anywhere. We gave Sam Gagner 15 games to return form, and Dubby cost us like ten games…

    Anyways go Oilers…I just want to beat Calgary and I’ll be happy this year.

  • Oilergasm

    Why is everybody so hook up on Smid? He’s not the savior of the team, all the young guns are soft, they are easy to defend against. We need more players in Perron, some players not back down from the goons of other teams.
    All of the ex-Oilers are playing well with other teams, why is that? WE gave Dustin Penner $5 millions a year and he did dick all here. Now he lead the league in plus and minus. They are all lazy and under performed in Edmonton for some reasons

    • Oilergasm

      My problem wit h the Smid trade is not just the return but the clear indication that the club doesn’t understand the deficit with the team. The Oilers need more rugged, tough to play against players who finish checks and play with aggression. While Smid is not the savior he is exactly the kind of player this team needs more of not less. Moving him makes one wonder about the vision for this squad. We have too many of the same small soft skilled guys and not enough big strong skilled guys. No coincidence that Calgary and Edmonton are at bottom of West and are two of smaller teams in the league. Both teams lost too any puck battles on the boards.