It isn’t hard to figure that the Edmonton Oilers have some motivation to trade away goaltender Ben Scrivens. According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, however, the NHL team most obviously in need of goaltending help isn’t interested.
LeBrun writes that Buffalo’s preference is to start by giving an opportunity to some players in the system. Obviously, that could change; the trio of Chad Johsnon, Nathan Lieuwen and Linus Ullmark doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. LeBrun comes to the same conclusion, and suggests that if things change the Sabres have some options available to them:
The Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche are among the teams looking to move a goalie, the Flames still carrying three on their NHL roster while the Avs would gladly move one of their backups. And everyone knows the Edmonton Oilers wants to move Ben Scrivens, but there’s no interest from Buffalo. Scrivens was placed on waivers by the Oilers before the season, so it should come as no surprise GM Peter Chiarelli also sent a memo to the 29 other teams reminding them he’s available for trade. But so far, there have been no takers.
Are the Oilers right to want to move Scrivens? Is Buffalo right to be indifferent?
There is a case for Edmonton to keep Scrivens. Despite results through three games (as I recall, Scrivens’ success after coming over from L.A. in trade was pretty impressive, too) both Cam Talbot and Anders Nilsson are untested in their current roles. Just one season ago Scrivens was highly-regarded enough to be entrusted with the starting job in Edmonton, and one lousy year does not and should not wipe away the fine work he did prior to it. It’s not crazy to think that having him around as an insurance policy is a good idea.
However, there are other considerations. First, Scrivens has no long-term future with the team; he’s a pending free agent and even if he plays well it is unlikely that he would be re-signed. Second, the Oilers already have a good No. 3 goalie in Laurent Brossoit, a prospect who needs to keep getting minutes in the AHL; Scrivens’ presence complicates that. Third, he makes $2.3 million in the minors and that’s a big wad of money to spend on an insurance policy. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay a pile of money to a temporary stopgap who is stealing minutes away from a top prospect, particularly if the alternative is getting some small asset back from trading him.
As for the Sabres, it’s a little surprising to see general manager Tim Murray being so cavalier with his team’s future after an extremely aggressive offseason that saw many young players traded for help in the here-and-now. Johnson had one good year as a backup in Boston but for the most part his career doesn’t scream NHL-quality. His 0.889 save percentage with the Islanders was even slightly worse than Scrivens’ 0.890 performance in Edmonton, and unlike Scrivens there’s not much reason to think it an extreme aberration. Lieuwen was also a sub-0.890 save percentage goalie last year, except he managed that distinction in the AHL. Ullmark has played all of one pro game in North America and is coming off a 0.904 save percentage performance in Sweden’s best league (though he’d been much, much better the previous year).
It’s not far beyond the bounds of probability that Murray could land Scrivens for something marginal, perhaps even with the Oilers retaining salary or taking back Johnson’s $1.3 million contract. It’s a little weird that the league’s most aggressive G.M. this summer is suddenly hesitating.