Crossroads

Devan Dubnyk is in the final season of his two-year, $3.5 million/season contract. So far this summer, there has been no word on extension talks, meaning either that the Oilers are doing a masterful job of concealing their intentions or that they aren’t entirely sure that Dubnyk will be the team’s starter a year from now.

The Verbal

General manager Craig MacTavish has talked a lot about the goaltending this summer; I keep going back to his comments at the end of May.

Devan, as I said last night to our season ticket holders, I’ve always believed with goaltending if you have to ask the question you really know the answer. I think the question is still very much out there whether Devan is a real legitimate number one goalie… [Devan] feels like he is a number one goalie, obviously, but there is a sense when you talk to Devan that he really realizes there is some significant growth for him, too. I think the question is still out there and I think Devan is trending in the right direction. What the feeling is and when he’s going to get there is another question, but it’s a position that we need to solidify and we’ll be working hard to do that.

It’s pretty straight forward: the organization doesn’t feel that their goaltending is as good as it needs to be right now, but there is a belief that Devan Dubnyk can still improve. With one season between the player and unrestricted free agency, it’s probably fair to say that Devan Dubnyk needs a big 2013-14 if he’s going to stay in Edmonton.

The Alternatives

Photo: S.Yume/Wikimedia

If the Oilers choose to go another direction, which goalie might they be looking at next summer? There are a number of starters eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues. If I were betting on which pending free agent goalie the Oilers were interested in, Halak would be my pick. At age 28 he’s still in the prime of his career, and in two of the last four seasons has topped the 0.920 save percentage mark. St. Louis might let him go after a disastrous and deeply concerning 2013 campaign that saw him post a 0.899 save percentage. If last season was an aberration, he’s a high-end starter.

Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres. This is a possibility. The 33 year-old is an established starting goalie and has a Vezina Trophy; the trade rumours have already started and there’s a decent chance he moves prior to next year’s deadline. If the Oilers aren’t happy with Dubnyk at that point, a trade between the two teams is entirely plausible. Worth asking is whether Miller’s a better goalie, though: over the last three years, Dubnyk has posted a 0.917 save percentage to Miller’s 0.916.

Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks. Another possibility. Last year, Hiller and rookie Viktor Fasth split playing time almost right down the middle, though Hiller took over in the post-season. It seems unlikely that the Ducks will still have both players a year from now. Again, it’s fair to ask if he’s really an upgrade: Hiller is a 0.915 save percentage goalie since 2009-10; Dubnyk has managed a 0.917.

Ilya Bryzgalov, unrestricted free agent. It’s fair to laugh, but it’s also wise to remember that this guy was a Vezina candidate before he signed in Philadelphia. I think he’s probably best off in some small market where there’s one reporter and no pressure, but if a team is looking for a potential impact player on a bargain contract, he’s a possibility.

Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues. He has alternated between unbelievably good – a 0.940 save percentage in 2011-12 is off the charts – and unable to play in the NHL (witness that 0.893 save percentage the year before). His long-term track record shows a goaltender inferior to Devan Dubnyk.

Ray Emery, Philadelphia Flyers. As I see it, if Emery proves himself as a starter this year, the Flyers will re-sign him; if he doesn’t, the Oilers won’t be interested.

Tomas Vokoun, Pittsburgh Penguins. A fantastic and terribly underrated goaltender, the only real issue with Vokoun is age – he turns 38 next summer. He isn’t a long-term solution.

Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks. Crawford’s had an odd career, posting a 0.926 save percentage last season and willing the Stanley Cup after looking like he couldn’t stop a beach ball in 2011-12. It would be a surprise if Chicago chose not to re-sign him.

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers. Don’t bet on it. Contract talks between the Rangers and Lundqvist have already started, and there seems to be a sense that the Rangers will pay whatever it takes to lock down their franchise player.

My Guess

Devan Dubnyk is a pretty good goalie, for my money a middle-third NHL starter. There are better options out there, but they don’t become available all that often and when they do they tend to be expensive. I suspect the Oilers look around and think of other options, but wind up signing the first real starter they’ve drafted and developed since the days of Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog.

Recently around the Nation Network

We’ve talked quite a bit about realignment’s impact on the Oilers, so it’s interesting to read Ryan Pike’s take at Flames Nation on what it means for Calgary. Pike looks at how Calgary has fared against their new Pacific Division opponents over the last three seasons:

Here’s the last three seasons against each of their Pacific Division foe: 11-5-0 against the Oilers, 5-9-3 against the Canucks, 4-5-2 against the Coyotes, 4-5-2 against the Sharks, 3-4-4 against the Ducks, 3-6-2 against the Kings. That’s pretty ugly. The Flames cleaned up against the perpetually terrible Oilers (who are finally poised to take a step out of the basement) and got beat up by everyone else. Keep in mind, this is the pre-rebuild Flames we’re talking about.

Click the link above to read more, or check out some of my recent stuff:

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    With the talents that the Oilers have coming in for their back end I would think that DD’s performance will only get better. Fair to say that he’s been lacking support over the last couple of years.

  • Sammy27

    I think we’relucky to have dodged the Schneider bullet and it’s an indication that the Oilers aren’t done shopping.

    So far this offseason I’m not entirely impressed with MacTm, and would be appaled if his deal for Schneider and overpay to Clarkson had gone through.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    NA goalies are a crapshoot. Instead of wasting almost a decade developing one, just cherry pick euro free agents during the summer after they’ve had some success at the pro level.

  • Sammy27

    Jaroslav Halak seems like the best bang for the buck. One thing that concerns me is that he has been traded away and will be unrestricted free agent. When Montreal traded him he looked like the best goalie in the NHL.

    Does he have a bad attitude or is he injury prone or is he a steal?

  • vetinari

    Dubnyk (and the Oilers) are between a rock and a hard place on this one.

    If Dubnyk plays well, that’s great for the team but it’s also likely going to price Dubnyk into a range that the Oilers may not be comfortable with on a starter without a Vezina or a Cup. I suspect that $5M+ per season may not be out of line and if so, may result in Dubnyk being traded.

    On the other hand, if Dubnyk doesn’t play well, it’s unlikely that the Oilers will bring him back unless he’s prepared to take a significant pay cut. However, in this case, at least they know if they should pursue other options.

    The worst case scenario is if Dubnyk plays just average– do you keep him or do you let him go? Do you go mid-range term value contract (2 to 3 years at around his current pay grade) or give him a one year deal to see if he bounces back or washes out?

  • Dan the Man

    I think Dubnyk is better than MacTavish perceives him to be. A .917 save percentage behind what was likely the worst group of D in the league over the last few years is a pretty good number.

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    The optimist in me hopes they lock up Dubnyk. Plenty of teams in the past have proven that you can win a Stanley with superior skaters and average goaltending.

    The pessimist in me looks at Vokoun and prays that they don’t sign him to a 7-year, 200 million dollar contract.