The Oilers have apparently decided to burn the ships behind them and forge ahead despite the consequences when it comes to Ben Scrivens and their situation in net. They are going to play him until he finds his rhythm no matter how many goals he lets in (76 in total, 11 in his last 2 games and 5 minutes). That’s great with Connor McDavid on the line but what about next year?
Viktor Fasth cant get playing time even now and he’s set to become a UFA. With another year on Scrivens’ deal I understand the desire to salvage his career for the team’s sake but it’s pretty clear that Fasth is not part of the solution moving forward. There’s always the trade market but that means giving up assets that I don’t believe the team is comfortable doing just yet.
Most players, given the choice, aren’t going to willingly join the Oilers at the bottom of the NHL, but goaltending positions are extremely limited and the chance to become a starter is even more so. The Oilers will be able to offer money and the chance for someone to establish himself as an NHL starter. It’s the deal that was offered to both Fasth and Scrivens this past summer. Both failed and now there’s going to be an opening for someone else.
Here are the pending UFA netminders that might intrigue the Oilers and who might want to establish themselves here.
He has NHL size at a bulky 6’1″, 220lbs but he’s still not overly tall by NHL goaltending standards. Based solely on save percentage he is atop the list of pending UFA goalies with .917 right now playing for the Penguins. He has a career NHL sv% of .915 and the last two seasons have been above that. His 5v5 Save Percentage is .952 which is actually 3rd in the NHL with a minimum of 300 minutes played. That’s a fantastic number and a significant upgrade over Scrivens’ .904 5v5.
The problem is that he’s a career backup. Greiss has only appeared in 7 games this year and never in more than 25 during any NHL season he’s played. His AHL numbers (though several years old) aren’t particularly good either.
He should be a solid bet for a team looking to sign a veteran backup but the Oilers played that gambit and have lost big. I don’t believe that’s the route this team should take and I doubt they feel any differently. At 28 years old he’s young enough to still become a starter but that’s a heck of a risk.
The Sharks goalie has made a reputation for himself as a “good not great” netminder his whole career. He is 6’2″ and will be 32 at the beginning of next year which places him firmly on the wrong side of 30 but he should still have some life in him over his next contract (assuming it isn’t more than 3 years long).
He has a .917 save percentage this year which is just above his career average of .916 so he is delivering pretty much exactly what you expect from him. Now .916 isn’t that great by modern standards but it’s passable. His 5v5 percentage is .919 which is 17th out of the 24 goalies who have played at least 1000 minutes. It isn’t great but neither is Niemi.
What Niemi is something which is not really available elsewhere via the UFA market in that he is a legitimate NHL starter. He’s not the best goalie, but he IS as starting Goalie. The Oilers havent really had one that was up for the job since they had Roloson so that’s what makes Niemi potentially attractive.
The concern is that the best has already happened for Niemi and that he’s only played for 2 solid organizations so moving to Edmonton might not bring out the best in him. There are a few organizations that will probably throw money at him because he’s the least risky of all the UFA guys, but none of them are any good.
The first of 2 Sabre goalies who could hit the open market in the summer. The Sabres allow an insane 35.6 shots against per game so their goalies are used to getting shelled every night. Despite that, both of them have put up reasonably good numbers and are the only reason that the Sabres aren’t scraping the bottom of the NHL barrel with the Oil.
Neuvirth is 26 years old and stands 6’1″. He’s a former 2nd Round pick of the Capitals, if you’re into pedigree (you probably shouldn’t be with goalies), having gone 34th in 2006. He almost won the Starting job in Washington after playing 48 games in 2010-2011 but fell back to Earth and played only 13 games in each of his last 2 years with the Caps.
He has a .915 in 12 games with the Sabres this year and his career average is .911 over 148 NHL games. His 5v5 sv% in .922 this year which ranks him 21st out of 40 goalies that have played at least 500 minutes.
There might just be a starting Goalie in there yet given his age and past performance. He shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg and if Ben Scrivens can lift his play out of the trash heap he could be a decent 1B with plenty of experience playing on bad teams that experience winter.
The 2nd of the Buffalo goalies is the one who grabbed the starting job in Sabreville. He is teeny tiny by NHL standards at 5’10 and 160 lbs. He is roughly the size of your average highschooler and that might be his biggest problem on the free market. The NHL loves their bigger goalies and while Enroth stops the puck, he isn’t doing it at a rate that is knocking anyone’s socks off.
His save percentage this year is .912 over 23 games. For his career Enroth has a .913 over 104 games, all with the Sabres. Like the other Sabre goalie on this list he is a former 2nd Round pick (of the same year though lower) who has played his entire career as a backup. The highest number of games he ever played was 28 last year, thoiugh he will be sure to top that this season.
One good thing that Enroth has going for him is his 5v5 Save Percentage which is .928, good enough to be 9th of 24 Goalies to play at least 1000 minutes. He is stopping a large percentage of shots at Even Strength and with the Sabres that also means a large volume of shots. No other starter in the NHL sees as much rubber as Enroth does.
Just kidding guys. But seriously though, he’s having one heck of a rebound season. Credit to him and to Sean Burke for resurrecting that career.
Nobody who is available as a UFA this year is a no-brainer. Each of them poses a significant risk. For my money I like the experience that Niemi has and the potential that both Sabre goalies have. If MacTavish wont acquire someone more established via trade then the safest best is probably Niemi.
Unfortunately Niemi is not a Silver Bullet. He has proven by now that he isnt going to be more than what he is. The good news for the Oilers, though, is that they just need someone to be thoroughly average and they have a significant upgrade right there.