It has now been three seasons since the Edmonton Oilers were faced with a tough decision on their goaltending. Soon-to-be 40-year old Dwayne Roloson had been the team’s starting goalie since coming over in trade in 2005-06. With Roloson unwilling to sign a one-year deal and entering free agency, the Oilers had to find a solution between the pipes.
Fortunately for the team, this was a rare opportunity. Most clubs already had their starting goalie job locked down – Edmonton and Colorado were the only teams in clear need of a starter, while the N.Y. Islanders needed insurance for the oft-injured Rick DiPietro. A ton of competent goalies were about to hit the market, and all that seemed clear was that there was going to be a game of musical chairs and more than a few were going to be left without a seat. After recapping that situation, here is how Tyler Dellow assessed things:
One thing that the Oilers might consider is whether or not it makes sense to sign a pair of these guys, say Anderson and Roloson, and let them fight it out. Maybe you give Anderson an extra year so he’s got some incentive to come here. While there’s the Jeff Deslauriers problem, practically speaking, he may well be an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season – if he doesn’t play at least 30 minutes in at least 20 games, he qualifies under the same rule that Curtis Glencross qualified under. With the Oilers most likely to be life or death to make the playoffs, it’s hard to see him playing very many games, particularly if Quinn agrees with MacTavish’s implicit assessment of JDD. It would seem to me to make a great deal of sense to explore whether the Oilers couldn’t get better by having a very good backup, whose identity will be sorted out once the two guys signed to compete for the starter’s job determine a champion.
It’s also interesting to go back and read the comments on that post. Derek Zona of Copper and Blue suggested an Anderson/Legace tandem would be a good route to go. I suggested Martin Biron plus any of Dwayne Roloson, Jason Labarbera or Manny Legace in a tandem scenario. Roloson/Anderson was also suggested as a possible solution.
David Staples’ comment might have been the most interesting. I’m going to quote it in its entirety:
This will be one of the first times we’ll get an idea about Tambellini’s negotiating. Will he give long-term deals to older players, as we saw now and then in Lowe era (Staios, Roloson, Moreau, Souray, Pisani)? Or will Tambo see the current goalie market as you see it, Tyler, (quite correctly, it seems to me) and bargain hard? Of all the Oilers unknowns and crucial issues, Tambo is at the top of my list. The man is a mystery.
We know what happened. The Oilers decided that Jeff Deslauriers was an asset worth protecting, and kept him around in the backup role. Nikolai Khabibulin was brought in on a four year deal with an average cap hit of $3.75 million per season.
The following chart shows the goalies who were available that summer, their records and save percentages over the last three seasons, and their total cap hit over that span:
A few points worth noting:
- With the exception of Labarbera, all of these goalies have spent significant time with terrible teams.
- Dwayne Roloson fell off a cliff this year; over the first two seasons after the Oilers made their decision, he had a 0.910 SV%.
- Money-wise, the guys who got backup jobs have all been dirt-cheap. Labarbera, Clemmensen and Biron have all averaged between $1.0 – $1.2 million per season over the last three years.
- The Oilers not only picked the worst of this group, but shelled out the most cash for the privelege of doing so.
No single decision has been more responsible for the last-place finishes the last two seasons, and the currently-projected 29th place finish this year, than the decision that summer to sign Nikolai Khabibulin.