It’s abundantly clear that Cam Talbot is going to enter the season as the Edmonton Oilers’ No. 1 goaltender. After that, though, things get decidedly unclear. In this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday, we ask our readers to explain how they would deal with the team’s two contenders for the job of backup goalie.
Keep three goalies. This is an option available to the Oilers, and one that general manager Peter Chiarelli mentioned in an interview earlier this month with TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
“It’s a little clunky but you could carry three,” Chiarelli said then. “The idea is to have it determined after training camp, but we’ll see.”
Steve Tambellini did this in 2008-09, keeping all of Dwayne Roloson, Mathieu Garon and Jeff Deslauriers on the roster. The problems are two-fold. First, it’s difficult to keep all three goalies busy both in terms of game-time and in practice. Second, keeping three goalies limits the team to 13 forwards and seven defencemen, which may well mean putting somebody extra on waivers.
Attempt a trade. There’s no guarantee that this works, for several reasons. Consider what the Tampa Bay Lightning did when their backup went down this fall: first they brought in Ray Emery on a tryout deal, then they claimed Kevin Poulin off waivers from the Islanders. There aren’t a lot of teams out there obviously in need of a goalie, and those that are may well prefer to wait and see what shows up on the waiver wire, knowing that a lot of teams have No. 3 goalies who are plausible backups.
Consider also the Calgary Flames. Calgary has three waiver-eligible goalies in Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio. Hiller’s been a fixture in trade rumours going back to July; there’s very little question that the Flames would like to get a deal done. The fact that a move hasn’t been made speaks to the difficulty in dealing a goalie at this point of the season.
Demote Nilsson, employ Scrivens. Jason Gregor reported earlier today that Nilsson doesn’t require waivers. I’d been operating under the assumption that spending 2014-15 in the KHL counted against his waiver exemption, but Gregor writes that because he wasn’t on an NHL contract at the time it does not. So problem solved, right? The trouble is that a) Nilsson has been very good in camp, and b) assigning him to the minors will take starts away from top prospect Laurent Brossoit. The latter is a problem no matter what, but presumably the Oilers want to employ the best available goalie as their backup, and there’s a plausible case that Nilsson is it.
Waive Scrivens, employ Nilsson. On the other hand, sending Scrivens down does require waivers, and there’s a risk that the Oilers would end up losing their goalie insurance; if Talbot gets hurt or Nilsson struggles things could get hairy. Just a year ago Scrivens was a plausible starting goalie; does Edmonton really want to a) lose a guy who might bounce back in a big way and b) put all of its eggs in the Nilsson basket?
The real trouble for me is that it isn’t clear which of Nilsson and Scrivens is the better goalie. I do think a choice needs to be made, but the distinction between Nilsson (sketchy North American pro record, good results in the KHL lately) and Scrivens (solid long-term track record, fell off a cliff last season) can be read multiple ways. I lean towards giving Scrivens the job to start the year, but by no means do I think that’s a given.
What say you, comments section? How should the Oilers proceed?