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.
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.
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.
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?