Should the Edmonton Oilers re-sign Richard Bachman?

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One of the names that occasionally comes up in these parts is that of Richard Bachman, who has been a faithful servant of the Oilers’ organization. He’s offered Oklahoma City reliable netminding and Edmonton a capable No. 3 goalie over two years with the franchise. Should he be back for a third campaign?

There are certainly those who think so. Among their number is 630 CHED’s Bob Stauffer, who has both a close relationship with the Oilers and a network of contacts around the NHL. Here’s what he said on Wednesday about Bachman:

If it were me, I would contemplate signing Bachman to a one-way deal at $600,000 to reward him for what he did in Oklahoma City. Maybe somebody claims him on waivers if he doesn’t start the year here. What happens if he beats Scrivens out in preseason? What happens there?

Does it make sense for the Oilers to keep Bachman under their organizational umbrella? If so, what role would he play?

It’s reasonable to assume that pending free agent Viktor Fasth will not be back with Edmonton. It’s also reasonable to assume that the Oilers will be looking for an upgrade on Ben Scrivens as starter; since Scrivens has a year left on his current deal that slots him into the backup position.

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Scrivens has a long history of strong play as a backup and the 2014-15 campaign was uncharacteristically bad for him. Based on his long-term track record, I’d feel quite confident going into next season with him as my No. 2 option; I’d even be optimistic that he could challenge my starter for playing time. Having just watched Devan Dubnyk rebound from a subpar season in Edmonton, and knowing that Scrivens is just 28 years old and not coming off any kind of major injury, I just don’t see an argument for dumping him at this point in time. In other words, the backup position in the NHL is taken.

Even if it wasn’t or if Bachman were to outplay Scrivens in training camp, there’s little reason to think he’d be the best possible backup option open to the Oilers. There are always way more goalies than there are spots available and the same is true this year; if Edmonton moves on from Scrivens it has lots of choices. A short-term performance in a training camp situation can and often does mean nothing.

At least as importantly, Richard Bachman’s career NHL save percentage of 0.904 over 42 games is a long way from inspiring. He was also only a 0.908 save percentage goalie in the AHL over 52 games in 2013-14. There’s a lot in his track record that makes him an iffy bet for a regular major-league job.

Bachman could be a reasonable backup option behind an established NHL starter, but the Oilers a) don’t have an established NHL starter and b) they already have a backup goalie. There just doesn’t seem to be an obvious major-league role for him.

The AHL

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That leaves the AHL. It’s worth looking at the numbers posted by Bachman and prospect Laurent Brossoit in Oklahoma City last season:

  • Brossoit: 53 games played, 25-22-4 record, 0.918 save percentage
  • Bachman: 23 games played, 14-5-3 record, 0.918 save percentage

The key numbers there are save percentage and games played. Brossoit was pushed into the No. 1 role last season and did pretty well with it. From a winning in the AHL perspective, Edmonton should be comfortable with him as next year’s starter in Bakersfield now that he’s shown he can handle starting minutes. From a development perspective, one wants to see the 22-year-old Brossoit play as much as possible. The starting job in Bakersfield is taken.

What about the backup job? Edmonton just signed Eetu Laurikainen this summer, a signing which was largely overlooked during what has already been an extremely busy summer. 

Laurikainen is 22 years old and just completed his rookie season in Finland’s top league after two years in the WHL. Here are his numbers over the last three years:

  • 2012-13 (WHL): 60 games played, 30-23-6, 0.922 save percentage
  • 2013-14 (WHL): 54 games played, 25-20-6, 0.914 save percentage
  • 2014-15 (Fin.): 37 games played, 17-10-9, 0.933 save percentage

Laurikainen sure looks like a real prospect. He’s familiar with the North American ice, so he shouldn’t have much difficulty adjusting to the angles on this side of the Atlantic. He also just posted a brilliant season in Finland and blew the doors off his backup goalie, 27-year-old Finnish veteran Jani Nieminen (8-11-5, 0.903 SV%).

It won’t be the end of the world if Laurikainen ends up in the ECHL for a bit; Brossoit did and Devan Dubnyk did too, albeit at a younger age. But there’s no organizational imperative to find an AHL running mate for Brossoit; Laurikainen has the resume to handle the job and there’s probably real value for the Oilers in measuring him against AHL competition.

Brossoit gives the Oilers a good AHL option, and he shouldn’t need a veteran like Bachman to play the role of training wheels this season. That leaves just the backup position in the AHL available and as we’ve seen Laurikainen will either be in that slot or be available to take it if the need arises.

To me, it makes absolutely no sense to spend real AHL money and a spot on the 50-man list for a veteran like Bachman to play a bit role in the minors. There’s just no place for him on the organizational depth chart when Edmonton can probably sign the modern equivalent of David LeNeveu to a minor-league deal as a fill-in. It’s tempting to keep him because he’s played well, but it would simply be a bad use of resources.

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It would also be a bad fit for Bachman. He’s a free agent; he can probably make more money overseas or land a better opportunity with a different NHL organization. He filled a valuable role for two years with the Oilers, but the evolution of Brossoit means that role no longer exists in this organization. It’s time for him to move on.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS