One by one, the top free agent goaltenders in Europe and out of college hockey have made decisions about their NHL future. So far, none of them has opted for the Edmonton Oilers, a team desperately in need of rebuilding their depth chart in net, and one that was optimistic earlier in the summer about attracting somebody like Antti Raanta (pictured above; ended up in Chicago).
Where does Edmonton go now?
With Nikolai Khabibulin on the way out of town – and given his injury history that is without question the right decision – the Oilers options are limited to trade or NHL free agency.
In trade, we’ve previously looked at the Anaheim Ducks as a possible target, and they very much remain one. Frederik Andersen is a player who has youth, size and a sterling track record on his side – last season he was a 0.929 save percentage goalie in the AHL; the year prior he managed a 0.943 save percentage in Sweden. Blocked on the depth chart by Viktor Fasth and Jonas Hiller, and with highly-touted John Gibson the team’s probable goalie of the future, Andersen is a player who could be a very good fit as Edmonton’s backup.
In free agency, there are a number of solid veteran options (we’ve considered those previously, too). Ray Emery, Jose Theodore and Jason Labarbera are the three that strike me as the best potential fits/most likely to be available for the Oilers, but there are others. There are also less experienced options. Commonly mentioned are Boston’s Anton Khudobin, who could be a good fit because he’s been good both in limited NHL minutes and in longer stints in Europe and the minors. Also commonly mentioned is Thomas Greiss, who has been good in limited NHL minutes, but has been much less impressive in the minors and Europe.
Yann Danis didn’t have a very good year, but realistically he’s the class of player the Oilers are likely looking at for the number three role, unless they manage to steal a not quite NHL ready prospect from another organization.
Personally, given the choice between another journeyman AHL netminder and Danis, I’d likely stick with the incumbent. His longer track record is excellent (he was the AHL’s goalie of the year last season) and he rebounded in the playoffs after a poor regular season. Unless there’s something that hasn’t been publicized that gives the team reason for concern, simply switching to a different AHL veteran seems unlikely to gain the Oilers much.
The exception would be if the Oilers see an AHL veteran that they feel has NHL potential, something that seems unlikely – looking at the AHL goaltending list, there aren’t a lot of non-prospect types that jump out as future NHL’ers. There’s also the possibility of adding a lower-tier European – such as Bernhard Starkbaum – though it’s debatable how much of an upgrade that is.
Recently around the Nation Network
At Canucks Army, Jeff Angus looks at Diamond in the Rough Free Agents (Forwards). While it’s written from a Vancouver perspective, every team in the league would like to find an unheralded free agent who knocks it out of the park for them. Is there a player on this list that qualifies?:
Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here: