In recent weeks on this site, we’ve turned significant attention to the Edmonton Oilers’ salary cap situation, which while reasonable hardly provides the team with unlimited flexibility. Some of that money will be used to bolster the club’s inadequate netminding. The question in this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday is how much of the Oilers’ finite cap space should be spent on a goalie or goalies.
We’ve previously covered the NHL free agent goalie situation in some depth, but the short version is this: Assuming that the Minnesota Wild re-sign Devan Dubnyk, there are basically three openings available for any of the free agents who want to be starters. Buffalo, Edmonton and San Jose are all in need of new No. 1 goalies.
Antti Niemi (current cap hit $3.8 million) is the most established of the front-runners and will likely take one of those three jobs, though he lacks ideal leverage and thus may see his salary come in lower than many projections indicate. Assuming that the Sharks aren’t interested, he needs to hope that both the Oilers and Sabres are or he’ll be in the unfortunate position of having only one bidder who can offer him a No. 1 job.
The remaining free agents (notables include Jhonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth and Karri Ramo) will be competing with each other and the trade options available for the two remaining jobs. None should be able to command serious money and all may eventually be forced to settle for backup work. Enroth is coming off a deal with a $1.25 million cap hit, while Neuvirth ($2.5 million) and Ramo ($2.75 million) were more expensive.
The Oilers’ other option is trade. The downside is that this will cost the team some sort of asset in exchange, but the opportunity exists to land either a more proven goalie or in some cases a much cheaper one than what Edmonton can expect to find in free agency. A list of some goalies who have been suggested as potentially being available in trade follows:
- Corey Crawford, Chicago, $6.0 million
- Jimmy Howard, Detroit, $5.29 million
- Craig Anderson, Ottawa, $4.2 million
- Jonathan Bernier, Toronto, RFA (previously $2.9 million)
- James Reimer, Toronto, $2.3 million
- Robin Lehner, Ottawa, $2.23 million
- Cam Talbot, New York, $1.45 million
- Eddie Lack, Vancouver, $1.15 million
- Martin Jones, Los Angeles, RFA (previously $550,000)
Managing the Cap
Ben Scrivens (barring trade) will occupy one of the two spots on Edmonton’s NHL depth chart, and a bounce-back year should not be ruled out. Scrivens should provide competent backup goaltending and perhaps even challenge the Oilers’ starter for minutes. He’s in the final season of a deal that pays him $2.3 million per year.
Assuming no trades, buyouts and with a fully populated roster the Oilers have about $4.6 million in cap space for next season at the moment. We can subtract Laurent Brossoit’s $925,000 from the equation (as he’ll be in the minors, displaced by Edmonton’s new goalie) leaving a maximum of $5.5 million or so to spend before the team needs to make cuts elsewhere to accommodate salary.
How much of that should the Oilers spend on goaltending and who should they be targeting?