Twelve Potential Starting Goalies for the Edmonton Oilers

Antti Niemi2

One of the obvious priorities for the Edmonton Oilers this summer is the goaltending position. Ben Scrivens had a difficult first season as an NHL starter and likely won’t get a second crack at the gig, meaning that Edmonton will go shopping for a No. 1 this summer.

We’ve talked a lot about potential names, but this morning I wanted to consider the most-mentioned candidates from an analytics perspective.

My preferred method is generally to look at the last three years of a goaltender’s career, and I’ve recently been convinced to move to adjusted five-on-five save percentage, which is minutely more predictive than regular five-on-five save percentage. Darcy McLeod did something very similar last month (his post is here) at the Because Oilers blog, but when I ran the numbers I got slightly different results and my assessment approach varies somewhat so I’m going to go through the exercise again.

The following are 12 goaltenders who should plausibly be available and might potentially be regarded as starters for the Oilers next season. Because we don’t normally use adjusted save percentages, I’ve included some reference numbers under the chart:

2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 Three Year
Goalie SV% Shots SV% Shots SV% Shots SV% Shots SV% Shots
Craig Anderson 0.932 1574 0.944 751 0.929 1260 0.940 971 0.936 2982
Jonas Hiller 0.922 1578 0.942 669 0.933 1071 0.932 1292 0.935 3032
Jonathan Bernier 0.918 278 0.944 246 0.937 1376 0.930 1292 0.935 2914
Cam Talbot 1.000  0 1.000 0 0.939 441 0.930 876 0.934 1317
Thomas Greiss 0.933 366 0.917 121 0.941 498 0.927 385 0.933 1004
Kari Lehtonen 0.928 1274 0.936 786 0.934 1538 0.923 1434 0.930 3758
Eddie Lack 1.000 0 1.000 0 0.928 826 0.932 978 0.930 1804
Jhonas Enroth 0.932 575 0.937 259 0.935 659 0.924 1202 0.929 2120
Karri Ramo 1.000 0 1.000 0 0.927 868 0.929 825 0.929 1693
Michal Neuvirth 0.920 738 0.915 274 0.927 344 0.932 837 0.928 1455
Antti Niemi 0.933 1612 0.933 1187 0.922 1475 0.929 1422 0.927 4084
Robin Lehner 0.963 131 0.938 348 0.920 840 0.913 615 0.921 1803

Ben Scrivens’ numbers, 2011-14: 1,647 shots, 0.929 adjusted 5-on-5 save percentage

Viktor Fasth’s numbers, 2011-14: 792 shots, 0.925 adjusted 5-on-5 save percentage

Median starting goaltender, 2014-15: 0.930 adjusted 5-on-5 save percentage

30-Scrivens-16

Looking at the reference numbers, it’s easy to see why the Oilers decided to gamble on Scrivens; in retrospect the real mistake was that a 32-year-old Fasth wasn’t a very good choice for the 1B role. I say “in retrospect” because I didn’t catch that mistake last summer, although the method I’m using today would have flagged it as an issue.

For each of these potential goalies, we need to consider several key factors. As I see it, the main ones are these:

  • Goalie performance. We need to establish both how good the goalie has been (save percentage) and how confident we are that he really is that good (number of shots faced) and how comfortable we are that he isn’t going to decline (age).
  • Acquisition cost. We also need to determine what adding a goalie will cost the Oilers. Some of that is contract (both dollars and term) and some of it is whether the player is a free agent or will cost Edmonton organizational assets (trade value).

Performance and Acquisition Cost

Eddie Lack

The following chart offers my best guess as to trade cost for signed players and dollar cost for free agents, as well as the performance, age and sample size for each of the dozen goalies listed above:

Goalie 3YR ASV% 3YR Shots Age (9/15) AAV Term Trade Value
Craig Anderson 0.936 2982 34 $4.2MM 3 years Medium
Jonas Hiller 0.935 3032 33 $4.5MM 1 year Med.-Low
Jonathan Bernier 0.935 2914 27 Med.-High Med.-High High
Cam Talbot 0.934 1317 28 $1.5MM 1 year Medium
Thomas Greiss 0.933 1004 29 Low Low N/A
Kari Lehtonen 0.930 3758 31 $5.9MM 3 years Low
Eddie Lack 0.930 1804 27 $1.2MM 1 year Medium
Jhonas Enroth 0.929 2120 27 Med.-Low Med.-Low N/A
Karri Ramo 0.929 1693 29 Med.-Low Med.-Low N/A
Michal Neuvirth 0.928 1455 27 Med.-Low Med.-Low N/A
Antti Niemi 0.927 4084 32 Med.-High Med.-Low N/A
Robin Lehner 0.921 1803 24 $2.2MM 2 years Medium

At first blush, I’d eliminate several candidates from consideration. Craig Anderson’s age and term make him a poor fit for a rebuilding team, despite his obvious competence. Kari Lehtonen is even worse. Antti Niemi is likely to be an expensive add, and while he’s proven his performance is near the bottom of this list and his age isn’t ideal for Edmonton.

Jonas Hiller is a nice option as a stopgap, but the question is whether a stopgap makes sense for Edmonton. He shouldn’t cost too much to acquire but the Oilers would need to address the position again next year.

Ignoring acquisition/contract cost, Jonathan Bernier is the best option for the Oilers. He’s still in the heart of his career, he’s been a well-above average starter for the last three seasons, and he’s a proven commodity. It’s certainly worth sounding out Toronto on what they would want in exchange, but it strikes me as probable that the price would be quite high, and that would be followed by the necessity of a big contract to secure the player. He would, however, lock the position down for the foreseeable future.

Cam Talbot is appealing because he’s cheap, still in his prime years and extremely effective. The caveats here include the trade cost of adding him; my guess is that the Oilers would have to part with the No. 33 overall and early rumours suggest the Rangers are looking for a first-round pick (I’m skeptical they get it, but we’ll see). The other issue is that a) he’s played behind the New York defence, and even adjusted save percentage may not compensate for that and b) we aren’t talking about many shots against, really.

Thomas Greiss shows really well here, and he’s going to cost nothing in free agency. I’d love to take a gamble on him as an NHL G.M., but the trouble is when you look at his three-year numbers they were really boosted by one season in Arizona and outside of that he’s just been okay. He’s the kind of guy a team might be able to sign for two or three years at $1.5 million, though.

Eddie Lack is the obvious alternative to Cam Talbot. He’s a little younger, a little more proven, a little cheaper and doesn’t play for New York. If the acquisition cost is significantly less than Talbot he gets interesting in a hurry.

Jhonas Enroth, Karri Ramo and Michal Neuvirth are all in basically the same category. Enroth is probably the most interesting of the three; he’s the most proven and at the younger end of the spectrum. Ramo and Neuvirth are very much in the Scrivens’ range last season.

Robin Lehner’s an interesting case. If we knock off last year, where he struggled with injury, we’re looking at a guy very much in the range of the other goalies (0.929 adjusted save percentage) over the last three years and he’s also younger than the other goalies on this list. I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that, and I’d be worried about his concussion, too. This would be a major roll of the dice, particularly if a second-round pick is the asking price.

In Peter Chiarelli’s shoes, my Plan A would be Cam Talbot, but I wouldn’t be willing to go above the No. 33 pick in trade. Plan B would be Eddie Lack, but I wouldn’t give up the No. 33 to Vancouver for him; of the Oilers current picks the No. 57 would be my upper limit (though in the event the Oilers were to trade down from No. 33 like they did in 2013, a mid-second round selection would be fair value in my books).

Assuming neither of those players were available for that price, any of Enroth, Greiss, Neuvirth or Ramo (in that order) via free agency would be a somewhat reasonable outcome. It’s a gamble, to be sure, but 2015-16 is less critical than future years will be. It would also not be an expensive bet and given the Oilers’ cap situation and other needs I don’t think the club can afford to spend significant money or assets on a goaltender this summer.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    JW, when you factor in acquisition cost, do you think that any of these guys make the Oilers appreciably better than if they just decide to run with Scrivens for another year?

    • I don’t think running Scrivens again next year is an option after the season he just had. I’d lean towards keeping him around as the backup, because we’ve seen goalies rebound from that kind of campaign, but wouldn’t trust him as a starter.

      But you raise a good point. If you go to free agency and grab Enroth or Neuvirth or Ramo you aren’t landing a goalie who looks any better than Scrivens did a year ago. Lack’s numbers are a little better over a slightly longer sample. Talbot’s numbers are better over a shorter sample (and in New York).

      Outside of Bernier, though, you aren’t seeing massive upgrades.

      • Mike Krushelnyski

        That’s my concern with grabbing Enroth or Ramo or the like – you’d have to give them term, and you might not be getting anything better than what you already have.

        I know it’s nigh impossible to quantify, but there was definitely a “defence in front of him was awful” component to Scrivens’ downfall last year. If you remove last year from consideration (which admittedly is not easy or necessarily smart to do), every indication is he’s a pretty middle-of-the-road NHL starter.

        The advantages of waiting 1 more year on finding a starter as I see them are:

        -More cap space with the subtraction of Nikitin, Purcell etc

        -You’re not tied to a $2.3M backup

        -The defence is hopefully much more settled

        -You get a full season to see what Brossoit can do as a pro starter

        -Maybe there are better goaltending options via trade or free agency

        So if you can grab a clear cut, no doubt top-15 starter without selling the farm, absolutely do it. I’m wary of a lot of these guys being Scrivens 2.0 though.

        • One of then ice things about the UFA market for goalies this year (and most years, for that matter) is that there really aren’t that many jobs available.

          So Edmonton really ought to be able and get a guy on a deal no worse than the one Scrivens is currently on, and if it doesn’t work out all you have is a moderately-overpriced backup for next season.

      • ubermiguel

        Willis, you have to watch your unstated premises; in this case your premise is “there are better goalies available than Scrivens” or perhaps “Oilers management thinks there are better goalies available than Scrivens”.

        Compile all the numbers again without names attached, include Scrivens in there, and you’ll see that he’s objectively as good as what’s out there already, and his acquisition cost is zero. Objectively Scrivens is the best goalie for the Oilers.

        So what’s happening subjectively? You say you don’t “trust” him as a starter. Also you assume the Oilers will not give him another shot at the #1 job.

        So you’ve done all this work to go and ignore your objective findings in favour of your gut feeling.

        This is where the revolving door of goaltenders continues.

        Hopefully Dellow has done similar work but recognizes his assumptions and says to management “the numbers say Scrivens is still a good choice”. What management does with that info is up to them, but good analytics checks assumptions at the door.

        I’m a strong believer (and your work here strengthens this belief) that we need to fix our defence first and foremost.

        • Regarding Ben Scrivens, you need to keep in mind that the numbers I posted for reference are for 2011-14.

          You seem to think I’m starting from the point that Scrivens isn’t an option despite excellent numbers, when really what I’m doing is acknowledging that while last season was uncharacteristically bad it still forms part of our information base on the goalie.

          Scriven’s adjusted save percentage number from 2012-15 is 0.921. I think he’s probably better than that, and I do think it’s worth keeping him around and hoping for a rebound. But I also think, based on last season, that going into next year with Scrivens as the No. 1 and no fallback option is a terrible idea.

          So the conclusion I come to is take a chance on a guy who looked like Scrivens did last year, make him first crack at the No. 1 job behind a revamped defence, and then see whether he or Scrivens ultimately ends up holding down the position.

          • ubermiguel

            Thank you for clarifying. I did miss that you used different seasons for the Scrivens’ frame of reference. His 12-15 (0.921) numbers are clearly weaker.

            “Take a chance on a guy who looked like Scrivens did last year…”, still feels like doing-the-same-thing-over-and-over-and-expecting-the-same-results insanity. I also see those numbers as saying other options aren’t that much better than Scrivens was when we brought him on-board. I’m more confortable saying we’re replacing Fasth with another goalie who’s will compete for that #1 job rather than saying we’re just handing over the #1 job to the new guy.

        • HardBoiledOil 1.0

          Finally some wise words on here. It is not a goalie problem it is a defence problem. I don’t care who you put in goal he will not look good until the defense improves.

          • Jaxon

            I don’t think he is suggesting to out Scrivens, on the contrary, the article shows that there is hope that he can rebound and be as good as whoever is coming in this summer. For me, this article has shed light on the available options at goalie and it’s much appreciated.

            I think we have collectively come to a fan-valuation of the available tenders. Anxious to see what the team does.

            I’m equally anxious to see if the team does anything about the goalie coaching situation, are they going to bring anyone else in to help?

    • Because while Peter Chiarelli has reportedly asked, I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that the Ducks trade John Gibson.

      If anything, I think Anaheim eventually moves Anderson, but I think that’s probably a year-or-so away.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    All hockey all the time, this is great. In the middle of June no less.

    Once the poison (hockey) enters the bloodstream, any chance of rehabilitation is unlikely.

  • Strange Tamer

    Whatever goalie we get off of that list I’m sure glad we are off the Martin Jones train that Jim Matheson was championing all season. That old dinosaur is so out to lunch nowadays its embarrassing that he is associated with this team anymore with some of his takes. Even scarier is to think that he is connected with the old regime and that some of his stupid ideas were actually theirs.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Throw a dart at that list, and whoever it lands on is an instant mega-upgrade on what we have now. Eddie Lack is really interesting, though. It’s rather shocking, if he’s available. He’s played very well for Vancouver, and the fans love him. What is with that organization? Are they allergic to solid goaltending?

  • Strange Tamer

    Slightly off topic . Crunching some numbers for a defenseman we might be going after . Adam Larsson and Doug Hamilton . Larsson had heavy playing minutes 22-25/game . Points at even strength 1.2 /60minutes with Larsson. Eric Karlsson and D.Hamilton 1.1 pts./60minutes . Klefbom .90/60 minutes . Larsson did not get any power play time despite being a top 1-2 defender , however , and thus would be cheaper than Hamilton I suspect . I wonder if we might even check out a price for OEL in Arizona if we entertain moving a major piece .

    • Strange Tamer

      I use to be all over OEL. But Phoenix won’t trade. And he’s a left shot a d we really need a right shot. If we can land Larssen or Hamilton and nothing else it would be an awesome off season

    • Ready to Win

      New Jersy has more cap space than us so an offer sheet for Larsson is pretty much pointless. A trade for Larsson is going to be as expensive as a trade for any other young D playing top 2 minutes.

  • Very informative work J.W. Thank you.

    The adjusted save percentages of your top 4 potential acquisitions are: Enroth (.929), Greiss (.933), Neuvirth (.928) or Ramo (.929).

    Given that we have Scrivens at .929, your work seems to clearly indicate 2 possible things:

    1. Adjusted save percentage is bunk or is missing some important information.

    2. The Oilers should just acknowledge that Scrivens had an uncharacteristically bad year behind a characteristically bad defence and will rebound.
    Therefore they should just grab Greiss for $1.5 million on the cheap and focus on improving the defence.

    I was on the Talbot train to Tulita for twenty tuesdays, but this article has changed my mind.

    • Adjusted 5v5 save percentage is, in my view, the best metric we have but it’s only marginally better than regular 5v5 save percentage.

      The correlation for starting goalies from one three-year period to the next three-year period is only in the 0.35 range; obviously it’s less than ideal.

      I think Greiss has the best potential to be a massive steal of this group, but I’m also worried by the degree to which that season in Arizona is the tentpole for his numbers.

  • Zarny

    Good analysis. Performance versus cost are certainly the key factors.

    I think you have to give consideration to certainty too. It goes towards the overall cost. Whatever the cost to acquire a G this year, add it to the two 3rd round picks and the 5th the Oilers spent on Scrivens and Fasth. The Oilers are further ahead giving up the 16th or 33rd for a solution that works versus giving up the 57th for one that doesn’t and necessitates giving up more picks next year.

    Gibson is the only G I think is worth the 16th. Understandable he’s not on the list. There are many reason why Ana wouldn’t want to trade him now (if ever). I think the 16th overall in this draft might intrigue them.

  • radicator

    Great article, JW, but I really think the quality of scoring chances is essential to consider. (Where was that link again that summarized the available goalies by this stat?)
    I like the idea of Talbot, but he’s used to playing with a superb D in front of him. That’s why I also want a goalie that is familiar with some heat – like Enroth.

    Long time reader, first time poster. Thanks for having me.

  • Ever the Optimist

    There is opportunity here with as many goalies out there.

    I believe that an experienced goalie will help settle the team and be cap space that directly relates to wins.
    I think Anderson from ottawa is the best bet if they take back salary in purcell with a 3rd round choice to even up the deal. Even if we retain a million from purcells deal its well worth it.

    There is also a chance to set up the goaltending position for 5 to 10 years.
    Look at trade options for guys like Gibson, Talbot or Lack. Pay the second round pick and maybe a plus in a player for Gibson.

    That gives 3 years of platooning to ensure you have the right young goalie who is familiar and comfortable in the systems here when we look at contending for anything.

  • Spoils

    we need a goalie, but i can’t stop thinking about the…

    HARD TARGET

    the #1D

    What about shaking OEL out of an organization starved for excitement and needing to rebuild.

    OEL for #16 + #33 + next years #1 + Yak and Draisaitl…

    I think that is too rich, but nobody thinks you can trade for a #1D (despite Chara, Pronger, Jack Johnson rare but real trades)

    look at the last 5 cups- Doughty, Keith (Calder), Chara… look at the impact of Hedman, Pronger, Lidstrom, Neidermeyer.

  • A-Mc

    I wont give up a damn thing for a goalie that’s basically the same as Scrivens.

    The margin on goalies is so small when you think of the actual numbers. Combine that with the absolute worst defensive team in the league, several years running, and it’s a Christmas miracle Scrivens was able to get anywhere near the avg.

    Upgrade the guys in front of the net with the picks/assets, use cash to grab the best goalie you can, and lets see where we are.

  • A-Mc

    Why do so many people on here think the ducks will give up Gibson at all never mind for just the 16th overall? He is worth substantially more than that and it’s almost a given that he won’t be moved.

  • Cheap Shot Charlie

    If Ilya Samsonov is available at #33 I wouldn’t trade for any goalie on this list (based on what I hear about the kid). If #33 is to move, I’d do it at the last possible minute.

    I’d also give Scrivens another shot with a new backup if we are paying anything higher than a mid-second rounder. Goaltending gets better with good defense the majority of the time.

    Good thing I’m not the Oilers GM…I’d be worse than Tambo, but I don’t have the luck to win 3 draft lotteries.

  • Tikkanese

    Do not trade for backups and hope they can be starters. For every Bishop that pans out, there are a lot of failed Lindback, Scrivens, Fasth. Not worth the assets and really, not worth the gamble. Besides there are UFA backups to gamble on that wouldn’t cost assets. Or better yet sign the UFA starters like Niemi instead. Maybe he’s on the lower end stats wise, but at least he’s a proven starter who can handle the load. I’d much rather have a lower end stats wise starter, than no starter at all.

    Given the poor quality UFA Defense available, they will need every trade asset to aqcuire the top pairing D that they desperately need.

  • JasontheSchoolTeacher

    Why I like Ramo:

    1.) He will not cost us players or draft picks.
    2.) He will not be expensive dollar wise
    3.) Comparable numbers with other goalie candidates(Flames defence does not
    compare to NYR or Kings defence.)
    4.) Save assets to add d-man(Number 1 priority)
    5.) Reduce goalie depth of your main rival!!!

  • camdog

    You can’t put too much stock into goalie numbers. The greatest factor in the numbers is the team in front of you. I seem to remember a few headlines coming out last year about the Oilers goaltending problem being fixed with Scrivens and Fasth in net; it wasn’t just Mact that thought the Oilers problems in net were fixed. The numbers tend to lead to conclusions that are well, just a guess.

    As to Greiss I wouldn’t be putting any bets on him, he’s another Ben Scrivens at best.

  • toddpaw

    At the start of last season I would guess the team had confidence in Scrivens, they won’t this year. Oilers need a veteran tender to instill confidence again, prior to the start of 2015/16.

    According to your posted SV%, Neuvirth and Lack’s rose with shots faced.

    Scrivens has to go, my choice is to go with Neuvirth.

  • ubermiguel

    Would be interesting to discuss/ factor for a goalies puck handling (behind the net etc). The Brodeur rating.
    Out of these goalies who breaks up more shoot-in’s? Giveaways?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    With so much talk about Larsson i thought i’d take a look at his draft crop (2011). Quite a top 10.
    (1) Nuge (2) landeskog (3) Huberdeau (4) Larsson (5) Strome (6) Zibanejad (7) Scheifle (8) Couterier (9) Dougie Hamilton (10) J Brodin .

    Interesting to note that until 2014-15 when he played 64 games Larsson had a tough time earning playing time in NJ. It was only in the last 2 or 3 months of the season that he started getting reviews that suggested he had turned the corner. Hmmm…sounds a lot like Yakupov’s development line. I think Yak for Larsson would be a very fair trade for both teams. Lots of risk and potential for both teams, and meets each others needs.

    I’d hate losing Yak , but would much rather trade him than Draisaitl whose size we desperately need in the top six.

  • Thumby

    I’ve been following Oilers Nation for about a year and a half. During that time there have been a significant portion of the fans complaining that the Oil made a huge mistake taking Yak instead of Murray, and that they only took Yak because Katz insisted on it. At the same time any suggestion of trading Yak to fill our great need for a d-man receives many more thumbs down than up.

    Does that mean that Yak is now considered superior to Murray ? Hamilton ? Larrson ? Fans would rather trade Eberle or Draisaitl for Larsson ? Seriously ?

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      we really needed to *NOT* move up from 2nd to 1st and draft Nail. we really could have used a talent like D Ryan Murray on this team way worse, even though he’s had injury problems and has yet to have much of an impact.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I had hope for Scrivens when the Oil signed him but i don’t think he will be our guy. Toronto didn’t keep him and then in LA he ended up getting passed over for Jones, now in Edmonton had he chance to be the number one twice in one year with two different coach’s, so now I’m pretty sure we seen the best we can get out of him, sorry but the defense in Edmonton didn’t help his situation one bit.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      I’d rather spend the 5mil it’d take to sign Neimi, to sign Dubnyk. Younger, posted the same numbers through out his career as Neimi.

      Don’t think DD would sign here but if I’m offering 5mil to a FA goalie that’s who I call first.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Lets see, to sign Neimi it would eat up about 5 per and bring us right up to the cap. With no wiggle room left we’re still needing to go hard after 2 (noticed you mentioned dmen instead of dman, insinuating more than one) impact blue liners.

      Okay bud, i’m on board. Lets go wizzing into the wind…. what’s the plan? 2 top pairing dmen who will play for free. I admire your spunk.

  • The big concern regarding goalies is that Edmonton has been a black hole for goalies.

    Scrivens came in with good numbers. Now he’d be lucky to get a job in the NHL with another team. I don’t think we’ve had a goalie since Roli that left with better numbers than he came in with. Certainly no goalies any team was anxious to pick up.

    I expect most goalies, given a choice, will go to a team other than Edmonton. That leaves us with left overs. I don’t expect that will change till team defence picks up and GAA drops.

  • Jaxon

    Hi Jonathan, great post. Would you be able to add Chad Johnson, Darcy Kuemper and Dustin Tokarski? I’m sure their smaple sizes are a bit small so they need a big dose of caution (25gp or less than 1500min. for Tokarski, including playoffs), but I would love to see how they stack up with your methodology.

    • JasontheSchoolTeacher

      I’m a big Darcy Kuemper fan, the other two not so much. I find it a little strange Kuemper doesn’t get brought up more often as he fits a lot of categories being a young goalie with some success as a starter at virtually every level of hockey he’s played. That and the likelihood Minnesota is handing the reigns over to DD would make sense to me Minnie would entertain moving their young G.

      • camdog

        He could be a younger version of DD. Last season when he was the Wild’s starting goalie his goaltending just about got the GM and coach fired and 6-7 players off of the roster traded. He’s not a fit in Etown right now.

  • camdog

    I’m wondering why Bernier is not mentioned more for a fit in Edmonton. Assuming Toronto can get over losing McDavid, I believe a trade can be made here. Toronto needs to rebuild and it isn’t like Reimer is a terrible goalie. As a armchair GM, if I was going to give up the 16th pick, I think Reimer is a more solid gamble. Not sure of his contract status though.