The Free Agent Goalie List

If the Oilers decide to acquire a new goaltender, the best route at the moment is probably free agency. Yes, the talent’s been picked over, but the acquisition cost is a willingness to put Jason LaBarbera on waivers, rather than something ludicrous. What’s out there?

The List

  • Ilya Bryzgalov. The best option out there. Bryzgalov was bought out by Philadelphia after imploding with the Flyers, but in three of the four seasons prior to that disaster he posted a 0.920 save percentage or better. Of course, a high-pressure situation under heavy media scrutiny in a city where it sometimes gets as cold as minus-32 might not be the ideal fit for him. Could you imagine?
  • Jose Theodore. This is another possibility. Let’s start with the bad: Theodore’s coming off a rough year with the Panthers where he missed 27 games to a groin injury and had a 0.893 save percentage in the 15 contests he did play. The good: in three seasons leading up to 2012-13, spent with three different teams, Theodore played 30+ games every year and posted 0.911, 0.916 and 0.917 save percentages.
  • Rick DiPietro. Seriously, people need to stop talking about this guy. In DiPietro’s last full season (2007-08) he had a 0.902 save percentage, which is terrible. In the five seasons since, split between the NHL and AHL, DiPietro has played all of 67 games and managed a 0.887 save percentage. He’s always hurt and in those brief windows where he isn’t he plays very poorly. Realistically, at this point it’s fair to ask if he would even be a capable starter at the AHL level.

The Problem(s)

Edmonton currently sits at 49 NHL contracts, thanks to a busy off-season of acquisition, a quick preseason waivers binge, and the refusal of other NHL teams to claim any of the guys the Oilers placed on the waiver wire. So adding a player like Bryzgalov puts the Oilers in a tough spot, flexibility-wise. Maybe there’s a situation elsewhere (Winnipeg is at only 42 NHL contracts right now) where the Oilers could do something like trade Tyler Bunz and a sixth round pick for a seventh round pick.

Making such a move also almost certainly requires putting Jason LaBarbera on waivers (he’d likely clear) and shipping him to the minors. The Barons already have a pretty good starter in Richard Bachman, and while Olivier Roy’s development clearly isn’t an organizational priority that’s less than ideal. It would also leave $75,000 of LaBarbera’s contract counting against the Oilers’ cap, as his $1.0 million salary exceeds the $925,000 maximum deduction for buried NHL’ers.

Finally, even adding the best of the free agents above (in my opinion Bryzgalov) may not solve anything. Not only has Bryzgalov been prone to meltdowns, but LaBarbera has posted a better save percentage than the ex-Flyer in three of the last four seasons. Bryzgalov’s career save percentage is higher, and he’s played more games, but it’s close enough that he might not be an upgrade.

There’s also this:

What to do?

Wait and see. The Oilers play the Islanders tonight; presumably Devan Dubnyk will get the start but we’ll see. If Dubnyk bounces back with a strong game, the Oilers can afford to hold off on a decision. If Dubnyk gets lit up again, it might be time to see if Bryzgalov can be talked down to $1.5 million – both because Edmonton can’t afford to keep losing games and because Bryzgalov is the one guy still out there who might legitimately be a better goalie than either of the guys the Oilers have right now.

And who knows, Bryzgalov just might take it. After all, Theodore is still out there, there aren’t many NHL jobs available and there might be added motivation in an Olympic year.