Anders Nilsson’s one-way contract raises plenty of questions

Nilsson, Anders

On Monday, the Edmonton Oilers traded fringe prospect Liam Coughlin to the Chicago Blackhawks for the rights to goalie Anders Nilsson. Nilsson was promptly signed to a one-year, $1.0 million contract, and what had been a relatively clear situation in net suddenly became complicated.

The addition of Nilsson gives the Oilers three goalies on one-way contracts. There is a second buyout window opening up for Edmonton this summer thanks to Justin Schultz’s scheduled arbitration hearing (the buyout window opens up whether Schultz actually goes to arbitration or not) but none of the team’s three goalies make enough money to qualify, so we won’t be seeing one dispatched by that method.

Cam Talbot

It remains clear that Cam Talbot will be the team’s No. 1 goalie; if anything this signing confirms it. Talbot is 33-15-5 with a 0.931 save percentage over his career, and even with the relative uncertainty involved in acquiring a goalie with 57 games it’s pretty obvious he’s head-and-shoulders above Anders Nilsson. In a good year, Ben Scrivens might push Talbot for minutes, but the acquisition of Nilsson strongly suggests that the team isn’t sure of him in a backup role, much less as a guy challenging Talbot.


Jason Gregor wrote about Ben Scrivens on Monday, and I’m largely in agreement with his piece. The key passage to me was this one:

Scrivens proved he was a capable backup before last season. He struggled as a starter, so maybe he is better suited to be a backup, or maybe he just wasn’t ready to handle the burden of being a starter. I think Devan Dubnyk proved goalies can rebound after a sub-par season. I don’t expect Scrivens to become a Vezina trophy finalist, but I also won’t count him out and say he is finished.

Scrivens is a pretty proven backup goalie, and despite his poor performance over the course of the season and particularly late in the year the balance of his career suggests he’ll rebound.

And then there’s Nilsson. Nilsson had a great year in the KHL, but with a team that always posts ridiculous save percentages (Nilsson’s 0.936 save percentage just barely outpaced his backup’s 0.933). Nilsson struggled badly for most of three previous years in North America; he had 25 good games in the AHL in 2011-12 but outside of that the track record is pretty ugly.

Peter Chiarelli3

Peter Chiarelli suggested Monday night that it was all about having competition:

He’s a big goalie. He might have not been dealt the greatest cards when he came over. He had a strong year in the KHL, had an average World Championships, I saw him one game over there. He’s still young for a goalie; he was excited to hear that he has a new start. Really, the bottom line is there’s going to be competition. There’s going to be competition among the goalies and we want that. It gives us insurance and it gives us competition.

If Nilsson outplays Scrivens in camp, particularly if he does it by only a little bit, does that leave the Oilers comfortable with sticking him and his NHL cap hit in the minors? After all, Scrivens himself has shown how misleading a brilliant performance over a short span can be.

If Scrivens outplays Nilsson in camp, what happens then? Does the big Swede return to the AHL on his one-way deal, leaving a modest cap hit on the Oilers’ books? Or does he disappear back to Europe via an out-clause? (Update: Nevermind, as Jason Gregor reported yesterday, there is no out-clause on the deal.)

How does all of this impact Laurent Brossoit? Edmonton’s star goalie prospect is slated to play his second year as an AHL starter, and if he’s sharing the net with either Nilsson or Scrivens how much does he play?

This is going to be a very interesting position to watch. Scrivens wasn’t hired by Chiarelli; he came in under the previous management’s watch. Nilsson, on the other hand, was hand-picked by Chiarelli and given a one-way contract. Nilsson may not have been Chiarelli’s first choice; there were rumours of the Oilers pursuing Michal Neuvirth on July 1 and Chiarelli himself acknowledged that an effort had been made to re-sign Richard Bachman. There’s obviously a level of discomfort with Scrivens, and if he slips in camp it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him with the Bakersfield Condors.


  • Who dat

    I thought there was no Europe out-clause?

    Perhaps they are preparing Scrivenses for a trade package?

    I’ve realized that when Chiarelli says he may not make any future moves, it means he’s about to wheel and deal.

    • radicator

      I can’t see the Oilers moving Scrivens for anything other than a low draft pick, and he’s the only one they would possibly move.

      I feel bad for Brossoit in all of this. I’m hoping he gets at least half the games in Bakersfield.

    • Jason Gregor

      There is no out clause. If Nilsson doesn’t make the team, he will be exposed to waivers and sent to the minors. It just makes for better competition, which is great.

  • freelancer

    In the forward depths you probably have Draisail and Lander probably competing for spots, with Yak and Purcell fighting for top 6 ice time. We have quite the defence log jam right now but guys like Reinhart and Nurse as well as vets like Nikitin and Ference will have to fight for time. Now Scrivens is going to get pushed by Nilsson.

    Competition on all fronts, keep it coming Chia.

  • Gregarov

    Now, what would be the issue with running 3 goalies all season or at least the beginning of season? It would mean one more defenseman down in the minors but is that really a bad thing until they can figure out what goalies to run with?

    Especially if they buyout Nikitin and for his benefit send Nurse to the minors for a time it would probably allow them to run 3 goalies for a stretch to start the year.

    • If they buyout Nikitin and send Nurse to the minors they’re still going to have trouble keeping the roster down to just 21 skaters. Add in a third goalie and one of those spots disappears.

      It creates a logjam elsewhere on the roster, leaves the team less flexible in case of illness or injury and just for good measure insures that it’s difficult to keep two of the three goalies practiced and in games.

      They’ll make a choice in camp. Carrying three goalies is a terrible idea if any alternative exists.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    I’m fine with the 3 goalie situation in camp. Peter knows how to create real competition. More potential NHL players than there are roster spots.

    Peter will likely move the weakest goalie before the season starts. No way he’s letting Brossoit ride the pine because of Scrivens or Nilsson.

    Plus they don’t make much. I’m sure they’ll be easy to move.

  • CMG30

    I like this move. Real competition for all spots is as it should be. Whoever doesn’t make the cut is waived or traded. No more players on this team because they followed a coach or because they’re somebody’s kid.

    Finally, after all these years, this team is being run like a professional organization.

      • Tikkanese

        I don’t know why people are trashing you – you’re exactly right. The cap hit on a one-way contract buried in the minors is reduced by the league minimum salary plus $375,000, which for 2015 will be $950,000. So if Nilsson was reassigned to the AHL, his NHL cap hit would be only $50,000. Scrivens would have a higher cap hit if reassigned to the AHL, but either way, the savings are the same if they demote one of them (assuming they clear waivers).

        • pkam

          My understanding is only one way contract will affect the salary cap, the salary of a 2 way contract is not counted towards the cap if the player is playing in the minors.

        • MattyFranchise

          A 1-way contract means that he will get paid his NHL wage whether he plays in the NHL or not.

          What you are thinking of is a 2-way contract wherein if he plays in the NHL he will get 1 million for the season but if he plays in the AHL then he would get paid whatever was agreed upon in his contract for playing in the AHL.

          For a 1 million dollar NHL deal, on a 2-way contract this is typically between 50-70k.

          If a player on a 1-way contract is sent to the AHL and he successfully clears waivers then he contract no longer counts against the NHL teams salary cap but he still gets paid his full NHL wage. This is why many teams are hesitant and often straight up unwilling to bury bad contracts in the AHL. The owners will still have to pay him anyway.

          EDIT: This should clear up the difference between 1-way and 2-way contracts

  • Kevwan

    Two things are consistent when PC talks about his acquisitions. “It gives the coaches options” and “It creates competition”. The Oilers GM has done what he set out to do.

    Maybe the idea of the 1 million dollar, 1 way contract is to discourage teams from claiming Nillson should he get sent down. He’d have to be one of the highest paid # 3 goalies in the league.

  • Rebuilding the Rebuild

    Competition everywhere!! Love it.

    Can’t help but interpret the subtext of these recent acquisitions as a message to the current roster – ‘better not take the summer off… jobs are on the line’.

    Cultural change, right there.

  • OilCanFan1

    Scrivens has what, one year left? That means that after this season the Oilers are going to cut ties with him which is good for Brossoit and Nilsson. I’m assuming either Scrivens or Nilsson gets sent down and barring a waiver pickup will play in the AHL. It isn’t a huge issue with Nilsson who appears sick of the AHL because Scrivens will be gone next year opening up a regular backup or starting position which also allows Brossoit to get another year under his belt in the AHL.

      • JackB

        Why do you think they might lose Talbot?

        He wanted a chance to be a starting goalie . . . and certainly wasn’t going to get that chance in New York, playing behind Lunquist . . . and he was really glad that he was traded to Edmonton!!

        If he proves he can be a good starting goaltender, then we will have to give him a better contract (of course) . . . and if he proves he can’t be a starter, then we aren’t tied to him as he only has one year left on his contract. It sounds like a perfect situation for the Oilers.

  • Tikkanese

    Last year I actually liked Fasth more than Scrivens. Sure his stats were slightly worse but by the eye test he let in less stinkers per game I thought and he was always “coming back” from injury. That plus he showed passion which was one of the very few entertaining parts about most of last year.

    Though, comparing Fasth to Scrivens last year is like picking which you prefer between a rotten apple or a rotten orange.

  • srelio

    This move makes me realize just how bad the leak in the Oilers organization was and how poor MacT was at not telegraphing his moves. The only moves of Chia’s that havent taken me at least marginally by surprise are Mclellan, Mcdavid, Talbot, and firing half the organization. Finally we’re not letting all our opponents know exactly what we’re doing. Probably a contributing factor to why MacT got swindled on more than a few occasions.

  • srelio

    Im not too worried about losing Talbot after a season, mainly because he seemed genuinely excited to come here. It was nice hearing about how he was following our off season movements.
    The thing people seem to forget about hockey players is they have lives outside of hockey and not many people want to switch cities and uproot their lives every few years for their job, especially when they have a family. If he’s a good fit here i doubt he’ll be in a rush to leave and i doubt chia will be in a rush to let him.

  • radicator

    Scrivens will be motivated and win the backup/challenger spot and Nilsson will be sent packing, which I hope is what management is also hoping for. At that point, they don’t care if Nilsson is upset and Broissoit will still take the Lion’s share in Bakersfield. Too much risk in a Talbot/Nilsson tandem (which is saying a lot when the other option is Talbot/Scrivens). Here’s hoping for a good rebound season.

  • Who dat

    I surprised no one has mentioned that if ol’ Benny gets traded we will no longer have a Oilers’ wife on Hockey Wives, which is the real detriment to any trade involving Scrivenses.

  • Injuries happen and having Brossoit sitting on the Oiler bench does little for his development. We now may have a reasonable alternative to allow Brossoit to play the majority of the Bakersfield games and still have a call-up option if one of the Oiler goalies gets injured. Having some depth at various positions is never a bad thing if it does not adversely impact our cap situation. Scrivens was moved for Bernier in TO and for Martin Jones in LA so neither move could be considered a total fail on his part (his numbers were okay). I believe Scrivens rises to the challenge and benefits from the additional practice time he gets between starts this year. It’s not like they don’t know what he needs to work on.

  • radicator

    Gregor and his minions will say that Scrivens was bad because of the bad defense in front of him. If we are with that, then let’s agree with the following: Scrivens was only a good back-up because of the good defense in front of him. Agree?

    If that agreement is in place than Scrivens is not a man that can stand on his own two, and that might be what Peter recognizes and the reason for the latest signing.

    In my opinion, Scrivens is an average goalie at best, and that is not good enough for me and apparently for the Oilers.

    Gregor might have a personal attachment to Scrivens due to his professor behavior and interviews, but the reality is and should be that Scrivens is not good enough for what the Oilers need.

  • Canadian Hockey Fan

    Nilsson has the frame of Ben Bishop. Here’s hoping he turns out like him as well. I think with the right development he can. Would like to see the Oilers sign Franson.

    • srelio

      nope you dont replace bachman with a one way contract. The way i see it gambling with three unproven goalies is better than gambling with two. Chance are one of them works out (hopefully)

  • camdog

    After a day of reflection of the move I think it’s clear that Ben Scrivens is a back up goalie. I don’t think anybody disputes that, he is never going to be an NHL starting league goalie. I think we can all agree to this.

    Is Talbot capable of being a starting goalie in the NHL? Nobody knows. Could Nilsson be an NHL starting goalie? Highly unlikely, however he’s young enough that it’s possible.

    The Oilers aren’t looking for a back up goalie here, they are looking for a starting goalie that will be able to take them to the playoffs. Low risk move here, if Nilsson doesn’t work he’ll go to the minors at a Cap hit of $150,000 for the season.