Chiarelli Creating Competition In Net

With the Oilers trading Liam Coughlin for Anders Nilsson and
giving him a 1-way contract for $1 million immediately afterwards, Peter Chiarelli has done a good job adding competition at the goaltending
position.

In many respects, the strategy employed by Chiarelli is not
remarkably different than what MacTavish had tried previously. What I mean to
say is that the Oilers have paid in picks, or fringe prospects, to fill the depth
chart with goaltenders who have not yet proven to be NHL starters.

When MacTavish took charge he famously (infamously)
questioned Dubnyk’s status as a starting netminder. “If you have to ask the
question” is going to be a phrase forever associated with the MacT tenure.
However, despite voicing his doubts over Devan Dubnyk, MacTavish didn’t fill
the goaltending positions with established NHL goalies.

The closest he came was taking on the bought out Ilya Bryzgalov
who was always going to be a project. The two goaltenders he ended up settling
on were Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens.

Before coming to Edmonton Ben Scrivens had played 51 NHL games. To get him the Oilers paid a 3rd round pick (2014) in a trade with the Kings.

Before coming to Edmonton Viktor Fasth had played 30 NHL games and
the Oilers paid a 3rd (2015) and a 5th (2014) round pick
in a trade with Anaheim.

To MacTavish’s credit, and I don’t get to say that a lot, he
also added Laurent Brossoit in the Smid trade. At the time it looked like he
had dumped an NHL body without getting one in return, but Brossoit looks like he
might have a future and when the season ended he was their best prospect
between the pipes.

Both Scrivens and Fasth were gambles that ended up turning out very
badly for the team, but while Chiarelli has made several additions to goaltending,
they also represent gambles.

At the end of the year the depth chart in net was
pretty barren. The club knew it needed a new number one and that Brossoit would
get the majority of the games in Bakersfield. To put it another way, Chiarelli inherited something
that looked like this:

???

Scrivens

Brossoit

???

So far this off-season the Oilers have added Cam
Talbot, Anders Nilsson, and Eetu Laurikainen to their system.

CAM TALBOT

Talbot was identified early as the best goaltender available
on the trade market. He was the one Edmonton keyed in on and with the amount of
players available compared to the amount of spots that were open Chiarelli
identified the situation as a buyer’s market. He said he was open to trading a
2nd round pick if necessary but the 16th overall was off
the table.

There didn’t seem like any reason for GMs to pay exorbitant prices
for unproven goaltenders and then Tim Murray said something about taking
mushrooms and paid a 1st Round pick and 3 million dollars in cap
space (Legwand) for Robin Lehner. This was an interesting wrinkle because I wouldn’t
have wanted Lehner for free and Murray paid a premium for the guy. Still,
Chiarelli played a game of chicken with Sather and the market that he
ultimately won. He paid a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 7th
Round pick for Talbot and a 7th.

Not long afterwards, the San Jose Sharks ended up paying the
Bruins a 2016 1st Round pick and a prospect for Martin Jones even
though the Bruins didn’t even need Martin Jones.

So even though all logic pointed to there being a buyer’s
market for unproven goaltenders, 3 were moved at the Draft and 2 required 1st
Round picks. Somehow Chiarelli got the best of the trio for significantly less
than what the others paid. That’s an impressive feat that maybe got lost in the
shuffle.

EETU LAURIKAINEN

This kid cost the Oilers nothing but money since he was an
undrafted free agent. He is just 6 feet tall so he’s smaller than the average
goalie prospect but at 22 years old he is still of prospect age.

He spent 2 seasons with the Swift Current Broncos as their
starter going 60GP, .922 sv% and 54GP, .914 sv% in those years. He left North
America for the Finnish Elite League where he started more than half the games
for the Espoo Blues posting a .933 sv% in 37 games.

Laurikainen has a solid history in the WHL and did well in
his pro debut. He cost absolutely nothing in assets to acquire and if he can
bring the success he experience in Finland to the AHL then he should push
Brossoit in the depth chart. They are the same age (born not even 2 months
apart) and the future of Edmonton’s netminding could be in either one of them.

ANDERS NILSSON

The acquisition cost for Nilsson was Liam Coughlin. This is
roughly the equivalent of paying for a used car with a picture of car you
wanted when you were younger but would never drive now. What I’m getting at is
that if Nilsson ever plays a game for the Oilers then they’ve already won the
trade.

Considering they’ve given Nilsson a 1 way, 1 Million dollar
deal it’s a pretty good bet they are prepared for him to play games for the
team.

After some unsuccessful seasons with the Islanders
organization bouncing from the NHL to the AHL, Nilsson went to the KHL and
posted a .936 sv% in 38 regular season games then a .935 in 20 playoff games.

Like Laurikainen (but at a higher level of hockey), Nilsson
left North America and found success. Unlike Laurikainen, Nilsson has size. At
6’5” and 220 pounds he is a giant in net. Much like draft pedigree in skaters,
size in goaltenders draws NHL attention like a moth to flame.

THOUGHTS

thinking cap

Chiarelli isn’t re-inventing the wheel with his strategy for
the goaltending positions. He targeted unproven players who are on the cusp of
breaking out. There are differences between the bet that he made on Talbot and
the bet that MacT made on Scrivens, but how it turns out is something that has
yet to be determined. What we know is that even if it fails, the team has not
paid premium assets to fill the holes on the roster.

For Scrivens, Fasth, and Brossoit MacTavish paid a 3rd,
3rd, 5th, and Ladislav Smid.

For Talbot, Nilsson, and Laurikainen Chiarelli paid a total of a 2nd,
3rd, 7th, and Liam Coughlin.

The new depth Chart looks something like this (all subject to change at the drop of a hat):

Talbot

Scrivens

Nilsson

Brossoit

Laurekainen

We are still gambling on success based on small sample
sizes, but Chiarelli has added competition at every level of the organization. The
strategy isn’t different, let’s just hope the club has done a better job identifying
talent than it did before.

However, this competition in net opens up a world of possibilities and insurances in the event that players falter. Can Ben Scrivens still win a job with the Oilers? Yes he can. However, after having one of the worst seasons imaginable he will need to beat other contenders for a spot, even the backup position. This is an exciting development for a team that had no options a year ago but to soldier on and endure bad performances.

  • ralph_u

    I really think this is the area Oilers need to really upgrade really tired of watching us tryout goalies instead of getting a proven #1. Guess we will see. Love most Chiarelli’s other moves though.