Goalie In, Young Gun Out?


If TSN’s top duo of Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger are to be believed, Craig MacTavish is taking measured action in response to the Oilers’ troubles early: assessing the trade market for goalies but not on the verge of making a deal. 

In the TSN story, McKenzie says that MacTavish has been working the phones since at least the weekend, scouring the league for available goaltenders and determining the cost of them. He also indicates that a deal likely isn’t imminent, because teams don’t like making moves this early. Dreger adds that Buffalo probably doesn’t want to move Miller before Christmas and opines that "the Oilers are getting to the point where they realize they’re going to have to give up one of their young guns."

The Goalies

There really isn’t much surprise on the goaltending angle. 

First, MacTavish trying to get a read on who is available and what it might take to land them is an intelligent response to what has happened in Edmonton’s net so far. Both NHL goalies have struggled. The third-stringer, Richard Bachman, has been impressive in Oklahoma City but his prior career makes him an uncertain option long-term. There’s a decent chance that Devan Dubnyk responds if given a little more rope, particularly since this kind of four-game stretch isn’t unheard of – even for good goaltenders. But the preparatory work needs to be done so that if the struggles continue a move can be made with no time lost.

Second, it isn’t shocking that NHL teams are reluctant to deal goalies right now. What applies to Dubnyk (that he’s been bad, but over too short a span to write him off) applies broadly across the league. Even teams getting strong performances early need to be wary; they might find themselves making a trade and then having nowhere to go when a hot streak ends.

The Young Gun

The question with Dreger’s comment is how much of it is informed by knowledge of the inner workings of the Oilers’ brain-trust and how much is his own read on the situation. 

As I see it, there is no pressing salary cap need for Edmonton to dump one of its young stars, and despite the strength at right wing there is no real place where positional constraints are going to force a move. Where it might make sense is if the price of acquiring a desperately needed piece at another position (read: a top defenceman in the prime of his career) is the trade of a young forward. Depending on the specifics, that might be a trade that makes the Oilers a better team, a case of moving strength for weakness rather than hastily mortgaging the future. 

The math on that trade always works out the same way. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is out; without him the Oilers don’t have a top centre. Taylor Hall is out; without him the Oilers’ left wing depth chart looks terrible. Sam Gagner is out; he just signed a deal with a no-trade understanding and he’s hurt anyway. Justin Schultz is likely out, because defence is the position the Oilers need the most help at and there’s still reason to hope Schultz can evolve into a player effective at both ends of the rink (he’s 23 years old and has yet to play his 100th professional game).

If one of the young forwards is out, the position to move is right wing; that’s the only place where there are two guys currently/likely to evolve into first line players. As a secondary point, it’s also the only place where the number three man on the depth chart looks like he could be a pretty nice fit in the second slot for the next few years. If the Oilers are making a top forward for top defenceman swap, it’s almost certainly Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov leaving town.

But nothing in the TSN report indicates such a move is imminent; McKenzie doesn’t talk about it at all and it’s a sure thing that Edmonton isn’t moving an Eberle or a Yakupov for a mediocre goaltender or a pending UFA, the two descriptors that fit all the players actually mentioned by name in the report.

  • DSF

    Multiple problems have festered , but the brunt falls on Gm and coaches . Lowe is nothing more than a liason to Katz now , and has little much else to do in the running of the club . If Katz is fed up , he just needs to tell Lowe to find others whom might replace them actually running club now . MacT. has failed to deliver so far , and thus Eakins looks like he is in same boat . Present on ice personnel unlikely to make either look to good this season . How long should we wait seeing as it’s already going on for nearly 8 years with this campaign ? They make changes but nothing that spells positive results of any value . I guess they are waiting for us to be like Leaf fans , and just accept being continually bad , and fill the turnstiles ? Do we really need or want a contender here , or just the occasional star player to watch ?

  • DSF

    Olivier Roy: A career AHLer that might get a cup of tea at some point. That is the best case scenario now.

    Tyler Bunz: A goalie that can’t succeed in the ECHL. He wont stay past his current contract.

    Samu Perhonen: Wasn’t even good enough to get a pro contract.

    Tuohimaa: I know little about him, but from what I read, I don’t expect much.

    The problem with the goaltending department is not just our current NHLers, we have nothing for the future either. How can this be after so many years of rebuilding?

    Trading away one of the young guns for a pending UFA doesn’t make sense. At best, make a minor trade for a goalie prospect (ex: Grubauer) and ride our current tandem through the $h!t storm ’till the end of the season. Start from scratch in that department next summer, starting with a new goalie’s coach.

  • Old School G

    How long will it take for someone to stand up and say it. These kids are partying hard, likely don’t care. MacT and the coachs working their tails off, even considering trading Yak while the kids are out living it up. Pisses me off. It will only change when someone like ferrence kicks their Ass or when they just get sick of losing

  • Reg Dunlop

    Patience? Oiler mgmt. unwisely forfeited that as an excuse when they stated that this season signalled the end of acquiring talent and the start of competing to win. Personally, I think they always intended to compete to win but were so incompetent that the media were used to spread the ‘re-build’ and ‘intentionally tanking’ mantras.

    Regarding tar-and-feathering Lowe, like madjam points out, does he really have any say in the on ice product anymore? Concentrate instead on Mac and coach Eakins. My take is that these 2 think they are smarter than everyone else and that an untried system will revolutionize the NHL. Didn’t work with Mouse Davis’ run and shoot in the NFL, hasn’t worked with Chip Kelly, and likely won’t work here.

    Trading 1 or 2 ‘young guns’? First off, what have any of them done to warrant the epithet? If the deal brings balance and better chemistry to the room, DO IT. The argument that you can’t have too much skill, well, there are numerous skill sets needed to make a successful hockey team. Skating fast with the puck is 1 but if backchecking, forchecking, and standing up for team mates are not included in the package… there is a serious deficiency that has to be addressed.

    They’re taking the Hobbits to Isengard, to Isengard.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I’ve always believed that goaltenders can be acquired for cheap. Goaltending is such a gamble from place to place that there is no way I would consider moving any of young guns for a goaltender. I would just as soon sign Bryzgalov as trade for a goaltender unless there is one available for cheap. That said, Mactavish is doing the right thing by at least seeing what is out there because this ‘slump’ gets closer to becoming a new reality every game that it continues.