Choices In Net

The conventional view is that the Edmonton Oilers are stuck with their goaltending tandem of Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk. The Oilers can’t move the former because of his decline in performance, his heavy contract, and they can’t dump him because of the over-35 clauses in the CBA. The Oilers don’t want to move the latter because he had a breakthrough in 2010-11 and provided the team with starter-calibre goaltending.

The reality, though, is that the Oilers do have a choice.

The Islanders!

If the Oilers decide they want to rid themselves of Nikolai Khabibulin, they have some options. The first, most appetizing prospect is the trade route. We’ve seen teams like the Islanders (Brian Rolston) and the Panthers (Brian Campbell) take on players whose contracts are disproportionately heavy relative to their contributions. The possibility exists that the Oilers could trade Khabibulin, provided they were willing to sweeten the pot with a draft pick or promising prospect.

Back to Russia

If a trade proves impossible, or the cost simply too dear, the Oilers could always dump Khabibulin. Sheldon Souray was paid $4.5 million last season to play for the Hershey Bears after making some disparaging comments about Oilers’ management, so the team isn’t afraid to spend money for nothing if the provocation is sufficient. With Khabibulin, the Oilers could also do what teams like Chicago (Cristobal Huet) and Tampa Bay (Radim Vrbata) have done with their disappointments – work out an arrangement with a European team that would see the Oilers pick up the bulk of Khabibulin’s contract while he plays overseas.

The point here is that the Oilers aren’t trapped with Khabibulin: if they want to, they can pay either money (which they’ll be paying anyway) or futures to remove him from the team and open up a spot for someone else.

The question is whether such a move is worthwhile.

If the Oilers plan to contend for a playoff berth this coming season, my argument would be that such a move would be not only valuable, but necessary. Khabibulin’s post-lockout performance has been exceedingly poor, particularly last season, and no team serious about winning would rely on him. At the same time, a team serious about winning wouldn’t just hand over the reins to an unproven Dubnyk; they would want insurance – in the form of a player like Sergei Bobrovsky or Marty Turco – to give the team a second option in the event Dubnyk struggles. Those players are always available; as Bobrovsky’s replacement in Philly, Ilya Bryzgalov put it, “it’s a wolf’s world. Especially for goaltenders. There are so many of them and there is only one place in goal.”

If, on the other hand, the plan is to have one more poor season prior to contending seriously for a playoff berth, there’s no harm at all in hanging on to Khabibulin. Without Khabibulin last season, there’s no way the Oilers would have been able to secure the Nugent-Hopkins pick; they would still have finished the season with a high selection, but Khabibulin’s shoddy performance acted like an anchor, holding the team in place. The Oilers are on the hook for the money anyway, they don’t want to part with futures, and a few extra goals allowed only helps to add another draft pick.

Actions, more than words, show what a team’s goals are. As long as the team allows an obvious weakness like this to go unfixed, I’m content to believe that they’re chasing one more draft pick. No number of assurances (such as Tom Renney’s laughable suggestion last year that the team could make the postseason) are going to sway that belief unless they are accompanied by action.

That said, I’m not convinced that another bad year is directly contrary to the Oilers’ interests. The fan-base is still on-side, and the very real improvements from players like Hall and Eberle make it easy to cheer for the team and easier to enjoy the games. The defense is still a work in progress and much more difficult to solve than the goaltending; an extra year will allow a player like Jeff Petry to solidify a spot in the top-four, give long-shot Cam Barker a chance at showing something, and give prospects like Marincin and Teubert another year of growth. More importantly, it will allow the Oilers a little more time to address those blue-line weaknesses via trade.

It isn’t the course I’d prefer to see the team take. It’s hard not to grow impatient with losing, and given the pieces already in place it’s easy to believe that the time to aggressively move to improve the club is now. But the decision to continue the rebuilding work is entirely understandable, at least for one more year.

  • Stack Pad Save

    I think for the team, or anyone else for that matter, to assume that the fans are necessarily OK with sucking again might be short sighted. I am absolutely fed up with watching a terrible team and I want to see real progress this year, not at some undetermined time in the future. Tambellini has had an easy time making first picks and keeping the roster poor to collect high picks; now he needs to start earning his pay and building a team that is competitive.

  • paul wodehouse

    …i’m thinking that our goalies’ short leash ends him up in OKC after twenty starts where he goes 2 and 18…that coupled with RNH going back to junior assures this club another top five draft pick …

    …then we’ll contend …i think

  • Lofty

    A 2 year contract for Roli sure would have been nice. Still don’t understand how 4 years for ReKhab was a better option. We got exactly what we thought we would get out of him: injuries, embarrassment and top notch draft picks.

  • paul wodehouse

    I’m not sure dumping NK’s salary on another team would be easy at this stage. The Islanders already have too many goalies under contract. The Panthers’ acquisition was not a salary dump; Dale Tallon loves Bryan Campbell and is willing to pay him over $7M. And it is not the style of other sub-cap-floor teams like Colorado or Winnipeg to take on unnecessary contracts.

    I like the idea of sending NK to the minors or to a European team, but after the Souray debacle I’m not sure how Katz would appreciate having millions more of his money spent on a guy who is not on the NHL roster. I guess the plus side of doing this is that Katz would start to question Tambo’s judgment, like many of us already have.

  • Lofty

    I’d say we spike his water bottle in preseason … Send him down Wayne greztky drive in a fast car … Call the cops and we never see him again.
    It’s an option!

  • I’m still holding out hope for an Omark for Schneider trade with Vancouver, but after what Colorado gave up to get their new goalie I think the price was driven up. Add in the assumption that Vancouver wouldnt want to help make another western conference team better and it’s surely Pie in th Sky. Still. A guy can dream.

  • There is a wide gap in what the fan base believes about Bulins ability to deliver the goods and what managment believes he can deliver. I think Tambo is risking his neck unnecessarily with Bulin. The fan base would like nothing better than to see Bulin shippped out the door.The Souray dramedy proved what can be done with a player who isn’t wanted. All the options you suggested are in play. Tambo hooking his wagon to a three legged horse does not seem wise. Unless as you suggest the desire to lose is the plan going into this season. Even still the fan base would rather see the team lose with Dubnyk and ???? in net than Bulin for another 60 games. The fanbase as you say has embraced this process. My question is should Bulin be here when the final product reaches the stage when we can challenge for the Stanley Cup? This is a case where I think Tambo needs to move to plan b,c or d sooner than later. Bulin isn’t worth losing a GM’s job over. Time to move on.

  • Stack Pad Save

    Can someone please tell me why everyone is so high on Cory Schneider, Why on earth would the Oilers want to add another young unproven goalie in either Schneider or Brobrovsky? What do the Oilers gain in adding either of those 2? Schneider played one of the best teams in hockey and Brobovsky lost his job come play off times last season. How are either of those 2 an improvement over Dubnyk? I think some of you need to have more coffee this morning or at least think before you type.

    Brobovsky 54 GP 2.59 GAA .915 SP

    Schnieder 25 GP 2.23 GAA .929 SP

    Dubnyk 35 GP 2.71 GAA .916 SP

    Based on the stats and quality of the teams they played on Brobovsky is probably the worst of the 3 and it is hard to say if Dubnyks stats on the worst team in the NHL during the regular season are just as good as Schnieders stats on the best team in the NHL during the regular season

      • Stack Pad Save

        What’s the point of bringing in young unproven talent behind Dubnyk, do you think competition will improve 2 young goalies? Or is a mentor/experienced backup better for Dubnyk?

        • Because I think if you do one of the two is bound ot pan out into something special. And forgive me if I lost faith in Khabibulin as a “mentor”. I know some of the writers will go on about how “professional” Khabibulin has been but he obviously has forgotten what it takes to be a top goalie in this league so I dont know how hes going to teach it.

          Besides if we ended up with two goalies that could put up 0.910 SPs or better a year instead of one at 0.915 and one at 0.890 the team will be fine.

          • Stack Pad Save

            The only problem I see with playing 2 young goalies off of each other is eventually you get yourself in a bad situation like Montreal with Halak and Price. Price’s career almost went down the crapper. That is the most recent 2 young stud goalie experiment I can recall off of the top of my head and I am sure there are other instances where 2 young goalies didn’t work out. I think that if you want to create an excellent goalie situation you either need to have a bon a fide number 1 goalie and a serviceable back up or you need to have 2 middle of the road professional goalies compeiting with each other in the prime of their careers (like what minni did when they had Roloson). The question should be can Dubnyk be a bon a fide #1 goalie or are we better off getting 2 middle of the road goalies to outcompete each other?

    • Thats purely a guess on your part. Schneider has long been one of the league’s best goaltending prospects and has proven himself at the AHL level in addition to crushing Dubnyk this season. How ISNT Schneider an upgrade over Dubnyk?

      I like Oiler kool-aid too, but Dubnyk is not a better goalie than Schneider. And he comes up in conversation because he is not a backup goalie but Luongo and his contract dictate that Schneider will not be taking Vancouver’s #1 spot.

      Schneider is more valuable to other teams than on Vancouver.

      • To be fair “crushing” Dubnyk this season is a bit of a misnomer. A jump of 0.013 of a SP isn’t that huge when considering that Dubnyk was on a 30th place team and Schneider was on the first placed team.

        • Half a goal per game less and .929 is crushing Dubnyk who, in turn, was crushing Khabibulin.

          Im not saying Dubnyk was bad, Im saying that Schneider has been better and hes outshined Dubnyk in both North American pro leagues.

          • Stack Pad Save

            Did you watch the Oilers dfence last year? They were the worst in the leuge. Cory Schnieder has some of the best D in the game playing in front of him. If Cory Schnieder didn’t “crush” Dubnyk than I would really think he was a horrible goalie and not just a good prospect.

        • Stack Pad Save

          I think archeology guy spends too much time listening to commentators blow smoke up Cory Schneiders you know what rather than watch his games and look at his stats. From what I saw when edmonton played vancouver, the oilers got their only wins against vancouver when cory schnieder was playing in their goal … I wonder why…

          • I think Schneider has great potential. I just think stats have to be tempered by common sense. Actually, the reason I would like to get Schnieder (if the price wasn’t outrageous of course) was his play in the playoffs. He came in and played really well in really tough situations and that to me speaks of his long term growth potential.

      • justDOit

        I don’t see how the goalies of the first place and last place teams can be compared to each other. I’ll bet that NK’s save percentage would have been over .900 if he had played as a backup for Vancouver.

          • Stack Pad Save

            It’s the lack of goggles that allows me to understand that Dubnyk has ALWAYS (AHL and NHL) played on sub par teams compared to Schnieder. Vancouvers AHL farm team has long been one of the best. Think why would MacT go to their farm team, he wants to win so he can get back the nhl, so go to where there is a tradition of winning. Your hate for the oilers has got you seeing superstar in a guy who is unproven. Dubnyk is on par with schnieder in every aspect except for the team he plays behind.

          • justDOit

            I didn’t say Schnieder wasn’t as good as DD, just that the comparison by stats alone doesn’t work. I think DD’s numbers while playing for the 30th place team were very good, and I expect him to show us that he’s ready for more responsibility.

            I would love to have a CS/DD tandem in net, but I’m not sure I’d like to see Omark doing spinarama’s at center ice at Rexall while wearing a Canucks jersey. And I don’t think that will speed up the rebuild by very much.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    If ST really wants to see this team start winning this season and fight for a playoff spot in game 82 he’d give NK the pre-season to see where the “MVP” is, if NK cant stop pucks against other teams rookies then what makes the GM think Khabby would stop pucks when points really matter during the season.

    IMO the Oilers have enough prospects right now to throw in a draft pick or 2, for this yr anyway, to get a better player back in return to help make the team that much better and show the kids that even if they dont make the playoffs this yr the playoffs are within reach otherwise it will be that much harder to re-sign H.O.P.E when the time comes.

    If the Oilers are still in last place come xmas ST should be givin the boot.

  • Deep Oil

    I think it is fair to question why the Oilers are in this “boat anchor” position to begin with…

    Why did GMSTEVE feel compelled to give this player a 4 year contract at higher price than the proven, but aging Roloson at a lower cost and less term, I am still upset over this.

    The Oilers are not a cap team, Dubnyk is not a starter, so the plan here is to play this convicted drunk driver still on house arrest and have a lottery pick again….. the bigger question is where do the Oil take this boat after the demise of the Khabibulin contract, a bigger hangover ?

    If they make Nik do a PSA against drunk driving, will they make Louie Debrusk do one against assaulting cabbies – really.

    By all accounts, I don’t think GMSTEVE called Nik in jail, (his past history shows he does not care about his $9 to $10 million dollars assets). And since most of the training staff have been fired, some quietly rehired (oh brother), it appears there is a positive, they have went away from plumpy and dumpy – the octane cheer team actually have abs this year and are not 160 lbs.

    • Stack Pad Save

      Are you related to one of the trainers that got fired? You seem to have a lot of anger over that. Maybe some counseling could help you get over that incident.

      • Deep Oil

        I am saddened that many Oiler fans took issue with Sheldon Souray over his comments, the Oilers publicly banished him, then took his advice and fired the lot. Seems Oilers did not appreciate Sheldons comments without permission, but opened their controlling eyes.

  • @BitchumenNation

    Well the issue is that you already implied that Dubnyk is not a #1 goalie. So for any of your scenarios to work we would need to get rid of both Khabibulin and Dubnyk to find two other FA goalies (I know that isn’t what you want or are implying, just saying) or go find a ” bon a fide number 1 goalie”.

    I don’t see a bunch of those #1 goalies just sitting in their summer homes atm. So basically we are either stuck with Khabibulin and Dubnyk or in my mind we have two other options.

    1) We go get someone like Emery (no thanks).

    2) We get a young goalie, who can fit nicely into a rebuild, who has a chance to turn into something great, and has no prospect of being a #1 goalie in their current market so probably would have no problem playing 35-45 games competing for a #1 job here.

    Also never mind the fact that they would be given a year (I think we all understand deep down the liklihood of this team being a playoff team this year is pretty low) to battle it out and prove that one (or both/none) can be a #1 and that gives Edmonton options again in the offseason next year.

  • Deep Oil

    PREVIOUS MENTOR COMMENT IS OFF BASE

    Anyone that pumps the tires that NIK is a leader (didn’t GM STEVE say that after his DUI charge) is blowing smoke up your butt.

    Does anyone want Nik showing Dubnyk how to take a bunch of pain killers, guzzle so much wine and hop in a ferrari at 2am, while getting paid on the LTIR is idiotic.

    Then again Nik is a leader right Steve.

    At least Louie Debrusk took a cab (OUCH).

  • Stack Pad Save

    I think Dubnyk is our best chance of a bona fide number 1 goalie right now. I think cory schnieder would cost too much to get from vancouver and is not a substantial upgrade over dubnyk and there is NO proof he is an upgrade. I think we should play Dubnyk as a number 1 goalie and see what we get out of him rather than waste more time on the goal tending situation see if Dubnyk is the solution and if he isnt we move on get another goalie after we find out if Dubnyk is not the guy.

    • Stack Pad Save

      I think culture starts from the top and the top is Katz. He dictates the culture and there are signs that the culture is changing. From an outsiders view their are culture changes with more money and time is being spent on drafting and developing prospects. Also coaches have been changed and guys being traded away and let go are of the penner and osullivan variety.

  • I hear quite a few people clamouring for a goaltending change. The question is, what are these people willing to give up? Are Oil fans willing to take the plunge like Colorado?

    If you were the Oilers GM, would you be willing to trade next years first and second rounder for, say, Semyon Varlamov?

    EDIT: No, me neither. It’s going to be another year of suckage, and you damn well know it!

    • justDOit

      Even the thought of giving up Omark for Schnieder has my stomach twisting into knots!

      I think Colorado’s overpayment for a young goalie will come back to haunt them, as will their puzzling trade of Anderson.

  • book¡e

    There are two choices when it comes to interpreting the NK is our MVP statement.

    1 – Tambellini, an NHL GM who has been around the game his entire life, cannot see that a sub-.900 save percentage is bad.

    or

    2. – Tambellini is just saying things for public/team relations and likely understands how bad NK is (and didn’t care because the goal was to finish last)

    As JW indicates, option 2 is more likley

  • Devan Dubnyk played in the AHL for the Springfield Falcons for 3 years where the team itself went:

    09/10 – 25-39-0-16
    08/09 – 24-44-0-12
    07/08 – 35-35-0-10
    That puts them at 84-118-0-38 which means they won at a clip of 0.350

    During this time Dubnyk was: 40-75-0-4 (he won at a clip of 0.336)

    128 GP: 2.906 GAA, 0.908 SP

    It must also be noted he had a steady progression each year.

    Cory Schnieder played in the AHL for the Manitoba Moose over 3 seasons where the team itself went:

    09/10 – 40-33-0-7
    08/09 – 50-23-0-7
    07/08 – 47-26-0-7
    That puts them at 137-82-0-21 which means they won at a clip of 0.571

    During this time Schieder was: 84-45-0-5
    134 GP: 2.28 GAA, 0.921 DP

    He again was on a very very superior team but he played impressively.

    **Disclaimer: I’m not a mathmetician. I think all my numbers are right (but they may not be)and I am getting them off of HockeyDB.com

    • It’s an excuse, but dont mistake it for anything else. Dubnyk has played on bad teams and performed Mediocre to Average. Schneider has played on good teams and played Very Well to Stellar.

      Either way you slice it, Schneider has performed better. Even accounting for the fact that neither played in the exact same circumstances, you still have to stop the puck. One of the two has proven to stop it more often than the other… and it isnt Dubnyk.

      I’m not saying Dubnyk wont be a starter, or even a good one. I’m just saying that Schneider is better right now by all measurable standards.

      • Shapeman

        Ok. In the 09/10 (the year we called Dubnyk up midseason) Springfield was fighting for a playoff spot. He STILL had a 3.02 GAA but a very solid .915%. If we all remember correctly Springfield finished deadlast and thus the OKC Barons were born. In my books, if a goalie has a GAA of 3 or over but still has a SVP of .912 or over, the team is horrible defensively but the goalie is keeping them in it.

        • Again, Dubnyk isnt bad, and if all stays status quo he appears to be on track to start in the NHL. I still think Schneider has a higher upside, but then again we’re talking about goalies…so obviously Yann Danis will be the best of the bunch 😛

      • I still think it is significant to note the teams each goalie played for when comparing their stats. Raw stats are useless if not tempered with some common sense. Remember when Edmonton won that game against Calgary in game 1 last year? We were not going to go undefeated all season if you smell what I’m cooking. (I know that example is obviously exaggerated, don’t anyone get their knickers in a knot)

        Hey look, I agree with you on the fact that if we could get Schneider for a reasonable price (maybe even pay a bit more than reasonable…) then we should. I just don’t think I’m ready to say that Schneider is MILES ahead of Dubnyk just yet. I’d like to see them both sustain what they’ve done or continue growing before I’m sold.

        Like I said earlier, the thing that makes me want Schneider is his playoff performances last year.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’d do that Dubnyk for Schnieder if at all possible. Schnieder is twice the goalie Dubnyk will ever be. Devan would’ve been better off playing 55 games in Oklahoma last season. Cory Schnieder is exactly what’s needed till the Perhonen phenomena arrives in 2013-2014. I’m fine with Khabibulin for 2 more seasons, it’s Dubnyk who’s all dressed up with nowhere to go as far as i’m concerned. The gapping holes 2 yrs ago throughout the roster is why he’s here now. That one way contract can hurt him as much as it’s keeping him on a weak NHL roster today.

  • two smokes

    at least we know what we’re going to get with Dubnyk, he wont be in jail, he can grow with the team, and maybe he isn’t what we want in the long run, but at least he wants to be part of the team.
    thats why he is in that dressing room, cause the team has his back

  • Stack Pad Save

    looking at last years stats there are only 11 goailes with more than 50 starts who had a better save percentage than Dubnyk. Dubnyk is not the problem with the Oilers. The problem is with defence and NK and the more currency (in the form of draft picks and prospects) we waste on getting Cory Schnieder, who is not a vast improvement over Dubnyk (Dubnyk is not a problem the Oilers have,) than that leaves us with less currency to solve legitimate problems on this roster. You would lose your job if your ST if you waste time and effort on an overpriced Cory Schnieder.

      • Stack Pad Save

        If your Tambo there is too much to lose. Vancouver isn’t selling this guy cheap or they would have traded him before the playoffs last year. If anyone you trade away for Schnieder gets good you look bad in the trade and if Schnieder doesnt outright take the job from Dubnyk you look bad. So if you trade for Schnieder and give up any talent than you have to be sure Schnieder is going to be gold and and is going to be much better than Dubnyk. Would you risk your job for Cory Schnieder?