Crossroads

Jonathan Willis
August 26 2013 11:01AM

Devan Dubnyk is in the final season of his two-year, $3.5 million/season contract. So far this summer, there has been no word on extension talks, meaning either that the Oilers are doing a masterful job of concealing their intentions or that they aren’t entirely sure that Dubnyk will be the team’s starter a year from now.

The Verbal

General manager Craig MacTavish has talked a lot about the goaltending this summer; I keep going back to his comments at the end of May.

Devan, as I said last night to our season ticket holders, I’ve always believed with goaltending if you have to ask the question you really know the answer. I think the question is still very much out there whether Devan is a real legitimate number one goalie… [Devan] feels like he is a number one goalie, obviously, but there is a sense when you talk to Devan that he really realizes there is some significant growth for him, too. I think the question is still out there and I think Devan is trending in the right direction. What the feeling is and when he’s going to get there is another question, but it’s a position that we need to solidify and we’ll be working hard to do that.

It’s pretty straight forward: the organization doesn’t feel that their goaltending is as good as it needs to be right now, but there is a belief that Devan Dubnyk can still improve. With one season between the player and unrestricted free agency, it’s probably fair to say that Devan Dubnyk needs a big 2013-14 if he’s going to stay in Edmonton.

The Alternatives

Photo: S.Yume/Wikimedia

If the Oilers choose to go another direction, which goalie might they be looking at next summer? There are a number of starters eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues. If I were betting on which pending free agent goalie the Oilers were interested in, Halak would be my pick. At age 28 he’s still in the prime of his career, and in two of the last four seasons has topped the 0.920 save percentage mark. St. Louis might let him go after a disastrous and deeply concerning 2013 campaign that saw him post a 0.899 save percentage. If last season was an aberration, he’s a high-end starter.

Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres. This is a possibility. The 33 year-old is an established starting goalie and has a Vezina Trophy; the trade rumours have already started and there’s a decent chance he moves prior to next year’s deadline. If the Oilers aren’t happy with Dubnyk at that point, a trade between the two teams is entirely plausible. Worth asking is whether Miller’s a better goalie, though: over the last three years, Dubnyk has posted a 0.917 save percentage to Miller’s 0.916.

Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks. Another possibility. Last year, Hiller and rookie Viktor Fasth split playing time almost right down the middle, though Hiller took over in the post-season. It seems unlikely that the Ducks will still have both players a year from now. Again, it’s fair to ask if he’s really an upgrade: Hiller is a 0.915 save percentage goalie since 2009-10; Dubnyk has managed a 0.917.

Ilya Bryzgalov, unrestricted free agent. It’s fair to laugh, but it’s also wise to remember that this guy was a Vezina candidate before he signed in Philadelphia. I think he’s probably best off in some small market where there’s one reporter and no pressure, but if a team is looking for a potential impact player on a bargain contract, he’s a possibility.

Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues. He has alternated between unbelievably good – a 0.940 save percentage in 2011-12 is off the charts – and unable to play in the NHL (witness that 0.893 save percentage the year before). His long-term track record shows a goaltender inferior to Devan Dubnyk.

Ray Emery, Philadelphia Flyers. As I see it, if Emery proves himself as a starter this year, the Flyers will re-sign him; if he doesn’t, the Oilers won’t be interested.

Tomas Vokoun, Pittsburgh Penguins. A fantastic and terribly underrated goaltender, the only real issue with Vokoun is age – he turns 38 next summer. He isn’t a long-term solution.

Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks. Crawford’s had an odd career, posting a 0.926 save percentage last season and willing the Stanley Cup after looking like he couldn’t stop a beach ball in 2011-12. It would be a surprise if Chicago chose not to re-sign him.

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers. Don’t bet on it. Contract talks between the Rangers and Lundqvist have already started, and there seems to be a sense that the Rangers will pay whatever it takes to lock down their franchise player.

My Guess

Devan Dubnyk is a pretty good goalie, for my money a middle-third NHL starter. There are better options out there, but they don’t become available all that often and when they do they tend to be expensive. I suspect the Oilers look around and think of other options, but wind up signing the first real starter they’ve drafted and developed since the days of Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog.

Recently around the Nation Network

We've talked quite a bit about realignment's impact on the Oilers, so it's interesting to read Ryan Pike's take at Flames Nation on what it means for Calgary. Pike looks at how Calgary has fared against their new Pacific Division opponents over the last three seasons:

Here's the last three seasons against each of their Pacific Division foe: 11-5-0 against the Oilers, 5-9-3 against the Canucks, 4-5-2 against the Coyotes, 4-5-2 against the Sharks, 3-4-4 against the Ducks, 3-6-2 against the Kings. That's pretty ugly. The Flames cleaned up against the perpetually terrible Oilers (who are finally poised to take a step out of the basement) and got beat up by everyone else. Keep in mind, this is the pre-rebuild Flames we're talking about.

Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff:

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#51 j
August 27 2013, 08:29AM
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Probably a bit too early to start ranting about the Olympic line up. That said, Hall does have a rather large wild card - Krueger. The coaches have tasked Krueg with strategic insight i.e. how to beat the Euro's on big ice. Hall may be one of the keys to the game in Krueg's estimation as Hall exemplifies all the qualities required. Big, fast, fearless, great shot, wide skating stance... Hall was built for these tournaments. In Kreug we trust?

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#52 DSF
August 27 2013, 10:07AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Team Canada is one of those places where being able to play centre has absolutely zero value.

Look at your list. You have eight centres and one natural wing. One.

Of the hopefuls list, Hall's probably a better fit than practically all of them.

Is he a better fit than LW James Neal who scored 21 goals last season?

Or LW Andrew Ladd who scored 18?

Or C/W Jeff Carter who scored 26 goals?

Or LW Patrick Sharp?

Based on what the team brass are saying, they want goal scorers with a solid 2 way game.

All of the above are exactly that.

I would think Hall would be picked ahead of Sharp but he's in pretty tough against Neal, Carter and Ladd.

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#53 TV6
August 27 2013, 11:21AM
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@DSF

"Lord knows the team doesn't need more scoring with Stamkos, Tavares, Perry and Bergeron likely playing top 6 wing."

~~~

I'm willing to bet a "rest of the season & playoffs" stay from posting, in saying that...> Bergeron will NOT be a Top 6 winger on the Oly' team.

Care to put your $$$ where your keystrokes are DSF..?

x6

oly

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#54 Zarny
August 27 2013, 11:36AM
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K_Mart wrote:

Nash, not a lock.

The fact that Hall is a natural left winger in a camp dominated by centres also gives him an edge. He plays a game that revolve around speed, also advantageous on the big ice.

Last season he was 6th in the league in pts/60, another huge reason.

If his defensive game improves I'd definitely give him great odds at making the team.

Ummm sorry but Nash is a lock.

And Bergeron will be playing C not W.

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#55 Zarny
August 27 2013, 12:03PM
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I agree with the analysis. To date, Dubnyk has proven to be no more than a middle-third NHL starter.

He is also 27 not 21. While he can certainly still improve he's not a prospect anymore. He's also never started more than 47 games in the NHL and has only started more than 30 games three times in his career.

That resume does not demand a long term extension.

This is Dubnyk's year to prove his worth and he's shown enough for the Oilers to see what they really have.

As for the options listed none are sure things. I don't see Crawford or Lundqvist being available. Miller is 33 and hasn't been any better than Dubnyk over the past 3 years. The rest are as unproven as Dubnyk or worse.

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#56 harry
August 27 2013, 07:48PM
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Westcoastoil wrote:

What troll bait. Go to my first post. Hall was paired up with J. Stall (who will not make the team and a scrub fill in from UofC - obviously it's only the orientation camp, but he was out in the lowest possible F line which has to say something of their opinion of where he fits. The fact that he's 21 will likely work against him and he wasn't exactly given a feature role by Ruff at the WC.

Top 10 or not in a 2 week tourney coaches will go with who they feel is a safe pick which usually falls back to experience: Perry, Couture, Richards, Carter, Thornton all have playoff and/or Oly experience.

Hall will have to rip the cover off the ball to make the team. Good news for us Oiler fans is that he just may do so.

It was a pickup game of ball hockey. Calm down buddy. Also the first half of the season will be huge in determining the roster theres alot to be figured out before anyone becomes a lock other than the obvious

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