So Long, Jason LaBarbera


The Edmonton Oilers announced this morning that they had traded goaltender Jason LaBarbera to the Chicago Blackhawks for the proverbial bag of pucks.

This is good news for basically everybody involved.

For the Edmonton Oilers…

This means a bunch of things for Edmonton, and basically all of them are good.

First, it means that Ilya Bryzgalov is ready to go. With Devan Dubnyk crashing and burning this season, the Oilers need a starting goalie they have some confidence in, and Bryzgalov has done nothing but play extremely well in Edmonton. 

Second, it gives the team additional flexibility to make other moves, as Bob Stauffer points out:

Third, this restores the natural order to the goaltending depth chart. Edmonton now has two veterans at the NHL level, a good third-string veteran in Oklahoma (Richard Bachman, who filled in ably in Edmonton prior to getting hurt) and space on the farm for Laurent Brossoit, the club’s top goaltending prospect. 

For the Chicago Blackhawks…

Chicago has had some injury problems in net, and LaBarbera gives the team some valuable depth.

Finnish rookie Antti Raanta, who the Oilers tried to sign in the summer, has played extremely well in the Blackhawks’ net, going 5-0-1 with a 0.926 save percentage after being elevated from the starting role in Rockford to the starting role in Chicago. 

But he’s all Chicago has right now. Starter Corey Crawford is expected to miss roughly three weeks thanks to a lower body injury and Raanta’s backup right now is Kent Simpson, a rookie pro who has provided the AHL’s Rockford Icehogs with a 0.900 save percentage goaltending over 15 games. That’s not much of a backup policy.

Mostly, though, it seems likely this move was brought on by Nikolai Khabibulin being Nikolai Khabibulin.


Khabibulin has been on injured reserve for a month now with a lower body injury (as per TSN). In the four games he played for the Blackhawks, he posted a 0.811 save percentage. He’s been well and thoroughly beaten for an NHL job by Raanta and when everybody’s healthy it’s hard to see how the ‘Hawks could send down the superior goaltender to hang on to a guy who was signed as a veteran stopgap. 

That leaves a hole long-term in Rockford, where Simpson seems unready to take on the starting role. Because of his reasonable contract, LaBarbera can fill that slot and provide Chicago’s farm team with exceptional AHL goaltending and the Blackhawks themselves with a reliable third-stringer. 

For LaBarbera…

This is a chance to play.

The Oilers couldn’t afford to give LaBarbera a chance to play his way back into form; with Devan Dubnyk imploding and LaBarbera unable to calm the waters the team really had no choice but to go out and find somebody else. It put the goaltending depth chart into disarray, and once the music stopped and everybody got healthy there weren’t going to be enough chairs for everyone involved.

LaBarbera goes to a contender, which leaves him the chance of being the backup for a Stanley Cup winner if injuries strike again. While he’s probably looking at a long stint in the AHL, that was going to happen regardless, and this move means at least he’ll be playing in the minors rather than fighting for time with another solid third-stringer. It gives him an opportunity to rehabilitate a career badly tarnished by his short stint in Edmonton.  

It’s a win-win-win.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    As far as the whole goaltending situation in Edmonton, we have to be the worst (or at least among the worst )in the League. LaBarbra has always been a backup—no help and no loss to us. Dubnyk, until his current contract, has always been a backup and today has no confidence in himself or from anyone else. Most erratic guy in the league. I’m sure he won’t earn himself another contract here, and at best maybe a back up goalie elsewhere. Bryzgalov, we have to wait and. see.He looked good before injury. Hopefully he can give us some hope, but with almost 50 games left to play, my expectations are low.

  • redhot1

    Forget about any hypothetical “bold moves” until the trade deadline.
    Breezer’s back & I can guarantee that Dubnyk has played is last game for as long as possible. It would be absolute incompetence from Eakins to start that guy ever again, as long as the Bryz
    is healthy.
    Trades might as well happen when convenient though… Time to take this imploded team into a rebuild mode since there was never one to start with.
    What is KLOWE thinking about now?

    • Johnnydapunk

      I actually felt sorry for Dubynk last night, I was a goaltender and I couldn’t imagine playing for a team that can’t get the puck out of our end, letting opposing players free lance around the net , playing with no heart against a team that broke the jaw on one of your character guys, this has to be driving Mac T crazy as well as everyone else.
      Do you think his skype to Labarbra started with”You are in a better place now”.

      • Spydyr

        I feel sorry too.Sorry Dubnyk is the Oilers starting goalie.

        He never earned it.They paid like a starter before he earned it.Next year he will be what he really is. A back-up, most likely for another team.

        • Oilergasm

          If you read any of my other comments you would know I am not a fan at all of Dubynk as a #1 and I agree with you, but at the same time he did battle hard for the first 40 minutes last night with no help, did you happen to see Coaches Corner tonight where it showed Vancouver’s first shift last night? It was for sure little girls against NHL players, Larson was knocked down 3 times, they had about 5 shots on goal and kept the puck in the Oilers end for at least a minute.

  • Spydyr

    If the Hawks are taking our leftovers.See if they want Gagner, Hemsky,Jones ,Dubnyk or any of the defencemen.They do have about eight third pairing defencemen available.

  • Serious Gord

    WOW!!! Absolutely WOW for Jason!!!!
    Christmas came early for LaBarbera!!!
    Bail out of this deadbeat of a town must be like winning the lottery.
    Another bold move by macT. I would have moved Dubnyk before Jason.

  • Serious Gord

    First let’s make a proper accounting of this. Making labarbera the second tender behind dubnyk was MacT’s fault. It is well documented that Bachman was the better tender in preseason but not making labarbera a member of the oil meant possibly losing him.

    Well now he is gone – for nothing. And while he was here he managed to lose a few games for the oil.

    So score it as a bad move by a rookie GM.

    As for Chicago taking him – boy the supply of below average goalies must be pretty low. Then again they did get him for nothing. And after getting the dud khabi from EDM you would think they would have learned a lesson – not to pick up oil cAstoffs.

    • Oilergasm

      It’s the same rhetoric over & over again from you every single time… Just like you do on the call-in shows.

      Sadly… Your stink reaches ALL the way down here to California.

      Don’t you ever get bored of your repetitive thought process & magniloquence at some point..?

      I LUV the way you point the finger at MacT for a bad pick-up, but when the Stanley Cup Champion GM does the exact same thing, you applaud him.

      Your hypocrisy is laughable, not too mention tediously pedestrian.

      Future considerations mean “nothing”… For a pick-up that cost MacT nothing in the 1st place…
      I wonder what your definition of “nothing” is when it comes to “anything”..?

      There is ‘nothing’ more ironic & gelastic than pointing the finger 1 way when it is pointing straight at yourself.

      At least you didn’t mention Gagner or Hemsky this time… (that may be a 1st)

      Bloody Ridiculous…

      Merry Ho~Ho..!


    • I think it’s generally dangerous to toss out years of history based on pre-season stuff. LaBarbera had the longer track record of success, and Bachman had been lit up as the backup in Dallas.

      In this case it didn’t work out, but there always has to be a balance between ‘earned a job in camp’ and ‘let’s weigh the long-term over the short-term’ and in my view in this instance that balance favoured LaBarbera starting out as the backup.

      The results weren’t as hoped for but I’m not convinced the process in that case was wrong.

      • Serious Gord

        So the preseason performance had no merit? What the heck is the point of having a preseason?

        Bachman came with the huge advantage of a two-way contract. Even if they were even in performance Bachman was the better option. Especially in light of how tight the team is in cap and roster size.

        MacT went against the consensus and now we must remember that it was a mistake.

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Lucky Jason. He’s gone from the bottom to a cup contender. He must be ecstatic. I kind of envy him.

    I wonder if I could be traded for a Hawks fan? Toews, Kane, Chelsea Dagger!

    How much was left for that $1million contract? How much did that bag of pucks cost?

    I can’t imagine how many other players want off of this team. No matter how much they shuffle players, you can’t grow anything out of salted earth.

    Take care Jason, do your best to forget the misery that is the Edmonton Oilers.

  • Zarny

    Now thats bold!!!

    I’m curious JW……..with the announcement of the cap going up do you see trades becoming more of a reality? I think it’s fair to say that trading was near impossible over the last five years…….it use to be teams could address their shortcomings through trades, but this never happens anymore?

    I know that the cap increases next year, but could this announcement speed things up?

    • Johnnydapunk

      I agree, Barbs can have a job till he is 40 if he really wanted, after this season if there isn’t tiny NHL feelers, he could always go to the DEL which is where a lot of NHLers go to die 🙂

      Amazing how short of goalies the Hawks are though.

  • Young Oil

    I like the way MacT does the little things. Got a pick and a roster spot for something we got for nothing.

    Hopefully the roster spot is the precursor for a big thing.

  • Zarny

    Fistly, who is going to push dubs now, we needed labarbara ,
    Him and dubs are best friends, dubnyk well never be able to lead this team without him, what is up with 6 rings and Mac t