Will the Oilers sign Bernhard Starkbaum?

Reports out of Europe suggest that the Oilers could be interested in 27-year old goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum, who spent last season in the Swedish Elite League. Who is he, and would he be a good signing for the Oilers?

The Report

Via Bob Stauffer, here’s the report from the Swedish media outlet Aftonbladet. Using Google Translate, the key points seem to be as follow:

  • Starkbaum has an out-clause in his contract that allows him to pursue NHL opportunities
  • Agent Patrick Pilloni says there are NHL teams interested in Starkbaum for 2013-14
  • The Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers are two of the clubs interested

A Unique Résumé

There isn’t a goaltender in the NHL with Starkbaum’s CV. To begin with, he’s both Austrian-born and Austrian-trained – there are currently three Austrians in the NHL (Thomas Vanek, Michael Grabner and Andreas Nodl) and all of them came over to play hockey in North America before they were drafted. Among goaltenders, in league history only one Austrian – Reinhard Divis, who was briefly lit up in St. Louis around the time of the second Bettman lockout – has ever played NHL hockey.

Like Divis, Starkbaum came up through the Austrian system and then made the jump to Sweden, where he caught the attention of NHL teams. Unlike Divis, however, Starkbaum was immediately an exceptional starter in the Elitserien.

Starkbaum worked his way up the Austrian system and emerged as a quality backup option for Villacher SV in the top Austrian league around the age of 22. At 24, he took over the starting role in that league, recording a 0.923 save percentage in his debut season as starter and a 0.936 save percentage over 48 games at the age of 26. That latter performance earned him a contract with Sweden’s famous MODO, and he was exceptional there, too, posting a 0.933 save percentage (good for third in that league). He had a rough few games in the playoffs, however, and found himself replaced by Sabres draft pick Linus Ullmark between the pipes.

Where He Might Fit

Starkbaum’s regular season performance in the Swedish Elite League is enough to suggest he may be ready for work as an NHL backup, but assuming he’s ready for the role would be a significant risk for the Oilers organization.

A safer play would be to bring Starkbaum in for the third-string role currently held by Yann Danis and see how he adjusts to playing in North America; sometimes good European goaltenders hit the ground running and sometimes they need time to adapt. If Starkbaum’s success in Sweden translates immediately, he’s the kind of player who could force his way on to the NHL roster in relatively short order.

UPDATE. The suggestion that Starkbaum should start in the minors fits with the view of player agent Gunnar Svensson, who saw quite a bit of Starkbaum this season: 


Don’t forget that it’s not too late to play StreakCred – the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Now it’s only $10 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.

Recently around the Nation Network

As both the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers are likely looking for a similar player out of the draft (and because the two teams pick back-to-back), Kent Wilson’s series on first-round targets is of interest for Oilers fans. From First Round Targets – Elias Lindholm:

Aside from Sean Monahan, Elitersen rookie Elias Lindholm is perhaps the Flames most likely choice at 6th overall this coming June. Like Monahan and Aleksandr Barkov, Lindholm is a center with a offensive capabilities and an advanced two-way game. So, like the two targets we have already profiled, Lindholm ticks a lot of the organization’s boxes.

 Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

  • Philly has got cap prblems and with Bryzgalov they have a huge buyout to make if this is what they do.

    Besides Philly wants that big name goaltender now and the flyers would look at Miller, Smith, Emery, Khudobin, etc, before looking at a guy like Starkbaum. Hell, they would evben look at getting Luongo if they can.

    I like that the guy has the initials B.S. anyways…lol.

    The Oil should grab this guy for the farm team and while getting either Barkov, Lindholm, or Monahan at #4 to #7, they gotta try for one of the kids (Fucale, Comrie, Jarry, etc, too at #37 or for sure by #58.

    • A-Mc

      I’d pass on Lindholm with his injury problems and size . Monohan looks to be the Flames pick and Barkov unlikely to be there at Nbr.7 . Ristolainen is most NHL ready and may be equal / better than Jones.

  • So, on a complete side note, does anyone think Cheechoo will be up with the Oilers next year?

    I mean, a third line with Paajarvi, ? , and Cheechoo could be pretty deadly depending on who that centre is. Plus, as a right wing with decent size 200 lbs. He could be used just like Paajarvi as someone who can jump up a line depending on the situation. I know we still need size in our top six, but in terms of reworking the bottom six, he could be great.

    • A-Mc

      I’ve heard it explained on the radio that Cheechoo would need to clear waivers to get back onto an NHL team.

      So if he returns to the NHL, it’s unlikely that he does so with the Oilers based on waiver claim order alone.

      BUT! i wonder if that all changes if he’s offered an NHL contract over the summer, and is brought in to edmonton for training camp before the season starts. Those radio quotes i heard were addressing bringing him up during the season, not over the summer. You can’t waive players when there’s no season.

  • OilersBrass

    If it’s between Edmonton and Philly, I definitely see the Oilers having the edge. Depending on if Bryz gets bought out, he’ll be competing with Mason, and Bryz versus Dubnyk, and maybe Roy or Danis if he’s still in the system, so basically very slim competition.

    Even if Bryzgalov gets bought out, they’re likely looking for a more experienced goaltender, even though Starkbaum likely spends time in the AHL.

  • Randaman

    Man!!!….some guys out here complaining already of this guy have no brains. There is absolutely nothing wrong by bringing him in for 3rd goalie status, coming to camp then working on the Barons for awhile.

    He wont cost any big money and if he doesnt work out with the Barons then Olivier Roy moves up some more.

    The Oilers must do their homework on the guy too, but if he played for one of Sweden’s better teams and did excellent, then bring the guy over and see what he’s got.

  • OilersBrass

    Good read as always Jonathan. Did Gunnar say what he thought of the progress of 91? Any suggestions what kind of contract he’s going to ask for this summer?


  • OilersBrass

    I like that they are at least exploring options outside of Smith, who I can’t see getting better, but getting worse, especially on any team that doesn’t play a trap and has to face as many shots as Dubnyk does. Let Calgary overpay for him and regret the contract.

    Thinking outside the box is what Edmonton needs. We don’t need Weber, Lundquist, or Getzlaf. We need the next Weber, Lundquist and Getzlaf.

    Maybe this guy is it.

  • OilersBrass

    Baum as in another bomb ? If that’s all we can get , better bring him over . R.Ristolainen should be our target in draft for need of an NHL ready top 4 defenseman minimum with size and skill !

  • vetinari

    If Starkbaum > Khabibulin > Danis, then yes, he’s worth a contract. Now, if it was Tony Stark and he could bring his own equipment with him, then sign Iron Man instead.

    We need two goalies (assuming Danis walks) by training camp and my opinion, at least one should be a 1B type player to either push Dubnyk or at least be able to step in for a period should he falter or get injured– is Starkbaum capable of that?

      • Randaman

        I like Dubnyk but every time he plays the puck it blows up in his face. We need Smith to take the pressure off our Defence. Breakouts would be much more efficient, help eliminate the oppositions forecheck, etc.

        • 106 and 106

          Isn’t that what defensemen are supposed to do? As long as Dubey gets back there and stops dump-ins behind the net, A-ok with me.

          Upgrade the D, and this won’t be an issue next season.

  • Vaclav

    SHUT UP!

    Nothing wrong with taking a gamble on Starkbaum. Maybe he’s the next Fasth, Hiller or Backstrom or maybe he’s not. It’s not like he’d be blocking the progression of the two ECHL goaltenders the Oilers have in the system now.

    Goaltending depth is an organizational weak point and this could help strengthen the position.

  • Both of the Ducks’ goaltenders came from risky free agent signings… so you just never know. I don’t have a problem with it as long as this is their AHL answer (for now) and not their NHL answer. I don’t think there is reason to believe that MacT and crew are trying to sign him with hopes of him starting with the big club. Now that Tambo is gone, and the “suck phase” of the rebuild is clearly over (well, intended to be over), I’ll give some benefit of doubt to management until they prove incompetent. Clean slate (namely because MacTavish’s words make it clear that they are definitely committed to winning now).

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      These aren’t risky moves. They are free moves that cost you nothing if they flop. Only way it’s risky is if we trade Dubnyk and put all our eggs in this guys basket.

  • Big Cap

    @ Jonathan Willis,

    You make a good point.

    However keep in mind Backstrom had one of the best defensive systems and defensive coaches playing in front of him.

    Coming to Oil Country would probably mean a little more wide open hockey, with team defence not our strongest point.

  • OilersBrass

    If Philly is looking at this goalie to, there’s little hope for him going to Edmonton. Philly has way to much money to throw around for players (bonuses).

      • RexLibris

        My concern was when I read that Philadelphia was interested perhaps that should be the “tell” that they’d best steer clear.

        If the Flyers think the goalie has potential, perhaps it is best to look elsewhere.

        I’m being partially facetious here, because the numbers would suggest that this fellow is a potential player, but given that the Oilers also claimed Niko Hovinen off waivers this year from the Flyers it does worry me that their line of thinking when it comes to goalies is somehow aligned with that of the Flyers.

          • OilersBrass

            *Sigh* I’m not saying you aren’t right nor am I trying to prove you wrong.

            There’s also no guarantee the Oilers even want this goalie. All i’m saying is that if it came down to Philly and Edmonton both in a fight for him, Philly knows Edmonton couldn’t afford to throw to much money at him with a lot of their players needing new contracts soon. So all Philly has to do is offer more money, which the owner has a ton of. Philly really needs goalies, and they have shown plenty of times if they really want someone they’ll throw a ton of money their way to make sure they play for them.

          • Vaclav

            No kidding.

            “Okay Malkin your next contract is for the league minimum but we’ll give you $10M a year in bonuses so your cap hit will only be $525K”

            This cap management stuff is easy.

          • Ducey

            Philly is $6 million over the Cap for next season and traditionally spends to the Cap.

            Assuming this guy makes the NHL at some point, Philly may not have the flexibility to offer a bigger contract.

            As well, they have Bryzgalov and Mason and will likely go out and get a big name in goal (as they are not rebuilding), blocking Starkbaum’s way to the NHL. Edmonton has DD and then ?

            Plus Philly is the Bermuda Triangle for goalies. Edmonton has as good, if not better chance of landing this guy, than Philly.

          • Ducey

            Maybe. But thats a big ticket and big blow to the ego of the owner. I would think they would stick with with him for another year and hope he improves.

            Anyway, if they do buy him out, they will just bring in another big contract for some other established goalie, blocking Starkbaum.

          • GVBlackhawk

            Given his latest media train wreck, I think it is a given that he will be bought out. Ed Snider is a very rich man (owns cable giant Comcast) and Bryz’s buy out is like pocket change to normal folks.

  • Big Cap

    Com on?!?!?!? Why do we have to be the organization that would even consider such a high risk move?? Without listing every FA, UFA or available 2nd or 3rd Stringer who might be available, can’t we take the safe bet and sign one of them?

    Instead of pulling a “Feaster” and taking a player no one has ever really heard of.

    My belief is the Oil have other concerns and bigger fish to fry this summer. Please don’t wast your time with some obscure Austrian.

  • Yah, #3 sounds about right. He did mention that they were looking at “at least a couple” goalies, which could mean a backup, an AHL starter, and possibly (although less likely) a replacement for Dubnyk.

    So I assume this is the AHL starter to replace Danis, as you say above. And with any luck, he may push his way up to the big club if he shines in Oklahoma City. And I assume MacT would still be looking for that #2 guy.

    I missed Svensson’s comment about him needing a season in the AHL. I guess all this points to him being a signing for the AHL for now.