WWYDW: The Goaltending Options

30-Scrivens-16

That the Edmonton Oilers will go out and acquire at least one new goaltender this summer seems obvious. What are the team’s options, and who should it add?

Over the weekend, I took a look at the state of goaltending across the NHL, listing each team’s starter, backup and in some cases an interesting third goalie. The graph showing the league’s 30 depth charts can be found here.

Edmonton’s own situation sees Ben Scrivens under contract for next season, and Viktor Fasth bound for free agency in the summer. The Oilers are one of what will probably be four-to-five teams looking for a new starter.

Free Agents

Devan Dubnyk2

My assumption is that any free agent goalie added must be good enough to at least assume the 1A role to Ben Scrivens’ 1B. By my count, there are perhaps a half-dozen players who qualify; I’ve ranked them in the order I prefer them (your mileage may vary):

  • Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild. I think he’s going to get Hart Trophy votes. I also think he’s going to re-sign in Minnesota, and even if he doesn’t the chances of him returning to Edmonton have to be somewhere between slim and none.
  • Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks. He’s 31 years old, and he’s going to be expensive. However, 2014-15 will (barring a collapse late) be his sixth consecutive season with a save percentage north of 0.912. Remember when Calgary signed Jonas Hiller last summer? This would be something like that.
  • Michal Neuvirth, New York Islanders. His early moments in New York have not gone well but he did a superb job providing quality goaltending to a wretched Buffalo team early in the year. The 27-year-old has flirted with starting minutes in Washington before but on balance his 0.912 career save percentage isn’t anything special.
  • Karri Ramo, Calgary Flames. Ramo has performed at a reasonable level over two seasons in Calgary, sporting a 0.911 and 0.912 save percentage respectively. The 28-year-old combines sub-average numbers for a starter with the risk of being unproven.
  • Thomas Griess, Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s played just 88 career games, but comes with a 0.914 save percentage and has been solid at pretty much every stop.
  • Jhonas Enroth, Dallas Stars. Long-time Sabres backup Jhonas Enroth has struggled since being dealt to the Dallas Stars. He has a 0.908 save percentage over 126 career games and is a better fit for the 1B than 1A role.

As I see it, Niemi is the most compelling option on this list for Edmonton. He likely won’t be back in San Jose, Minnesota’s open slot is likely to be covered by Dubnyk and among clubs looking for a starter that really just leaves Buffalo, a team which may or may not be worried about respectable goaltending next season.

Of course, free agency is far from the only place the Oilers could land goaltending.

Alternatives

If we were to make a list of teams plausibly looking to move a goalie who in turn might plausibly be of interest to Edmonton, what might that list look like?

  • Ottawa Senators. They’ll need to trade someone this summer. The only question is whether it will be veteran starter Craig Anderson, understudy Robin Lehner or the shocking Andrew Hammond.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs. There have been persistent rumours that restricted free agent Jonathan Bernier could be dealt. If he isn’t James Reimer is another option.
  • Detroit Red Wings. There’s a goaltending controversy in Detroit at the moment, as up-and-coming goalie Petr Mrazek pushes established starter Jimmy Howard for playing time. Eventually one of those guys will shake loose.
  • Vancouver Canucks. Given the restrictiveness of Ryan Miller’s contract and that Lack will be entering his walk year next season, my guess is that the young Swede will be moved on down the line this summer.
  • New York Rangers. Cam Talbot is 32-15-5 with a 0.932 save percentage on his career, but plays behind Henrik Lundqvist. There’s lots of history between Edmonton and New York and Talbot’s an awfully intriguing player. Add that he’s in a similar contractual situation to Lack and this is a pretty interesting option.
  • Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago has three goalies: Corey Crawford and the dirt-cheap duo of Scott Darling and Antti Raanta. In Stan Bowman’s shoes I’d think hard about moving Crawford, despite his reasonably solid play, mostly due to cap concerns. Raanta and Darling are both inexperienced but interesting.
  • Los Angeles Kings. Jonathan Quick is their forever starter, so Martin Jones might be available.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy is a special young goalie, and his 0.920 save percentage over 15 NHL games is backed by solid work in the AHL and KHL. I’m guessing the Lightning are willing to keep both Vasilevskiy and starter Ben Bishop together a while longer, which is why the team falls so low on this list.
  • Boston Bruins. Malcolm Subban is in the pipeline and Niklas Svedberg has been an awfully good backup this year. I think the Oilers would be taking an insane risk if it were to bet on either in a starting role next season.

There are plenty of attractive options out there, and it makes sense for Edmonton to shop around. The goal here is to acquire the best goaltender for the smallest expenditure of dollars and assets and from that perspective Lack is the name that interests me most, but that’s complicated by the dynamics of trading in-division and may not be a realistic option for the Oilers. Talbot is in a similar situation out East and at the right price would be a good add.

Antti Niemi2

And if there isn’t a trade to be had, I’d feel comfortable in Craig MacTavish’s shoes going to July 1 and making a play for Niemi, probably on a deal similar to Hiller’s last summer.

What does the comments section here think?

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Rdubb

    To everyone saying “it’s the defence” although I agree the defence on this team is flawed, the goaltending has always been poor. This whole notion that the goalie just needs to give the team a chance to win is ridiculous. A true starter wins games on nights the team doesn’t show up, they regularly stop the puck with confidence and don’t sweat shots from forty feet out. Every time I hear “Scrivens didn’t have a chance on that one” I lose my mind. It’s a goalies job to stop the puck, without excuses. A thought for anyone who disputes this post, think about it, if the puck comes in our end in the first couple minutes of a game you cleanch up cause you know there’s a good chance it’ll be in our net on one of the first couple shots. IF the goalie can make a few saves you start to relax. How do you think the dmen and forwards are feeling if that’s how you feel.

  • toprightcorner

    The Oilers are 2-3 years before they will get into the playoffs so it doesn’t make sense to blow their wad on a top tier goalie this summer. Pleus the goalie will only be as good as the defense in front of him so I think the Oilers should focus on improving defense first.

    If they can get a good young goalie with promise that can peak in a couple years or sign a veteran for only 2 years that would be the best option. Either way, trading for a goalie like Crawford or Howard would be dumb as you would have to pay $6 mill and their contracts would end just when the team was competitive.

    A veteran like Niemi or Anderson on a 2 year deal or someone turning the corner like Lack or Ramo would also work as they would be cheaper.

  • toprightcorner

    I would bring in couple goalies, enroth( just have a feeling this guy is ready to be thrown into the fire)and talbot or martin jones and have a competition with scrivens for the starting job, having an extra goalie is not abad thing, other teams are always looking also, not a good idea to sign a guy like neimi to a large contract that your stuck with and then he sucks.Hamburglar mite be a 1hit(year) wonder,i would pass on him also.

  • Phuryous George

    What would I do? I’d start from the top and give Sean Burke the management position he wants in the form of being in charge of goalie scouting and development. This organization doesn’t have a clue what to look for, how to manage them, how to scout them, or how to develop them. Chabot did all that before and I’ll have to go out on a limb and just assume that either he was completely incompetent or was in over his head. I’d like to believe the latter. So for long term success, it needs to start with a successful program developed by a successful pro goaltender who happens to also have been a successful goalie coach. If he does well, he can ease himself into an assistant GM position in time. At least he’ll be management, like he wants, and he can start developing a quality staff that will serve the Oilers well for years.

    Second, for the short term, I’d offer Niemi a deal more or less identical to Hiller’s. He almost assuredly won’t take it but to me that’s all his stats warrant. Anything more than that is a repeat of the Khabby mistake. If he doesn’t sign, MacT has to do the deal to get Anderson from Ottawa. The Oilers should have grabbed him years ago and still should.

    None of this matters though, since this management is incompetent, and we’ll just simply have to settle for whatever next hail mary they’re going to shoot for in Talbot, Jones, etc. Cuz that’s ultimately what’s going to happen and we’re gonna have yet another unproven goalie tandem next year. Completely ridiculous and completely realistic, sadly.

  • Rdubb

    Question; what about this kid in Boston College, when is he supposed to sign with an NHL team and is Edmonton still on his radar?
    Should he sign a deal with Edmonton, will we see him play @ least one NHL game this season? And, if this kid is supposed to that good and a late bloomer from all accounts, would we really need to see Another goalie signed by Edmonton? What I mean by that is, would it be in the best interest of the Oilers to say sign one of the FA goalie, or, & I prefer this, make a deal for one those other goalies and deal Scrivens for them and keep this kid as the back-up, if he is that good that is?

  • Phuryous George

    It is pretty nutty to read some of the things going down on this comment thread. People are tossing all kinds of crazy ideas out there, from trading away valuable assets to signing kids out of college. REALLY? Your first plan wouldn’t be to go after an established NHL goalie in Free Agency?

    I’m talking Niemi again. Is he Carey Price…..no. Cause no team is letting a goalie that good get to free agency unsigned! No team is letting a bona fide #1 starter stud who is on the upside of his prime get away. And talking about trading away assets for another backup, or signing Hammond( with his small sample size) or (wtf, poster?) a kid out of college that has not even played at the AHL level MAKES ME WANT TO EAT MY OWN FACE?? SIgning an unproven goalie???? We might as well just resign Fasth, at least we know what that looks like.

    My mind reels….. really i have alot of good points to make here, but my brain is on fire with incredulous comments and uninformed monkeys at typewriters. YOU PEOPLE WOULD BE THE FIRST TO HANG MACT FOR DOING THE VERY THING YOU ARE SUGGESTING!!! Some people must feel the need to just have a different opinion no matter how crazy and unintelligent it might sound, so they just throw out a name. STOP USING THE NAME SHEA WEBER IN THESE POSTS, GD it!!

    Anyway, i don’t work for ON, and this is as long as an article now, apologies…..

  • McDavid for PM

    What about Craig Anderson in Ottawa? Looking like Hammond and Lehner may push him out if they keep playing well and get healthy. He looks like a solid candidate with decent numbers that could be a temporary fix until we get a decent young guy to take his spot

  • Phuryous George

    The Oilers play against some of the biggest teams in the west and they never do well against them. I don’t think any goalie can withstand hundreds and hundreds of high quality shots from with 30 feet night in and night out. We have the players and picks to get some big mean players, I like Chara right now, sure he’s slowed down a little but against slower teams like LA, San Jose and Anaheims cycle his vet presence will be useful. Once we get guys like Nurse and Marancin learning how to box out and compete down low from Big Z these guys will be ready for prime time in three years. Don’t count out having vet players here, Adam Oates almost inadvertently won us a cup when his year here helped guys like Horcoff and Stoll win mucho face offs and become good centres.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I would want Cam Talbot. I think he appears to be a good, athletic goalie, right in our wheelhouse, age-wise. Good trading partner, too – which around here is a very important thing as we’re not too experienced, or comfortable in that role.

    Aside from Talbot I might try to get John Gibson out of Anaheim, depending how things shake down during the playoffs.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Can I just say that, like it was with Dubnyk, the problem isn’t goaltending? It’s always been about lack of defensive strength from the skaters. We saw the same thing with Dubnyk as we’re seeing with Scrivens – flashes of brilliance mixed with a seeming lack of focus. Why does Scrivens feel the need to handle the puck, usually shooting himself in the foot? Trying to do more than he needs to. Because of a lack of trust of those in front of him. It DOES work both ways, that thing we say about skaters playing better when they can trust the goalie. Get the defence clearing bodies and pucks, improving their stick work, keeping shots from the outside…oh, and staying healthy would be huge. Get the skilled forwards using their skills defensively, too. Pretty soon, like right now, Dubnyk starts looking pretty damn good with a team like that in front of him. MacT needs to put some faith there, too – in Scrivens. Is goaltending going to get them to the playoffs next year? Not likely. Keep Scrivens, get another journeyman. Wait for Broissoit. If a Talbot or Tokarski falls into MacT’s grasp, I guarantee those guys will be another Fasth or Scrivens if the state of the Oilers defensive system stays the same. Just look at the D corps in front of those two.