Laurent Brossoit’s late-season audition for the Edmonton Oilers’ backup job hasn’t gone especially well. He’s started five games and lost five times, with a 0.873 save percentage, and outside of a strong performance in a shootout loss to Winnipeg back in February hasn’t performed particularly well in any of those games.
Fortunately for the Oilers, they aren’t necessarily locked in to playing Brossoit next season.
Brossoit starts a new, one-way contract next season, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be playing in the NHL.
Firstly, he has another year of waiver exemption. Waiver eligibility is determined by experience rather than contract status, and under the 2013 CBA goalies who start their entry-level deals at age 20 (as Brossoit did) have four years of exemption. That means he can play all of 2016-17 in the minors without Edmonton running the risk of another team claiming him.
Second, there are no particular cap repercussions to playing Brossoit in the AHL. His actual salary is just $650,000, and his cap hit of $750,000 comes in under the amount which would force the Oilers to pay a cap penalty to bury his deal in the minors.
In other words, Edmonton can make this decision based entirely on whether or not they feel that Brossoit has earned the backup job. His 0.919 save percentage in Bakersfield suggested he was worth a shot, but his performance in the majors makes it advisable to find an insurance option.
There is no shortage of backup goalie candidates in free agency this summer, and during his time with both the Oilers and previously with the Boston Bruins Peter Chiarelli has made it obvious that he isn’t afraid of turning to Europe or the minor leagues to find a goalie. There are four possibilities this summer who he has previously employed in the role.
Anders Nilsson. Edmonton ran the 6’5” Swede as its No. 2 goalie for most of the year after trading a fringe prospect to Chicago for his rights; they ultimately flipped him to St. Louis as insurance at the trade deadline in exchange for a fifth-round pick. His 0.901 save percentage with the Oilers was in line with previous NHL efforts and is consistent with the idea that he’s better-suited to a third-string role or a job overseas. He’s a restricted free agent this summer and it’s easy to imagine the Blues not qualifying him.
Niklas Svedberg. Boston brought the European free agent over in the summer of 2012 and developed him for two seasons before turning the backup role over to him in 2014-15. He posted a 0.918 save percentage over 18 games with the Bruins before returning to Europe on a one-year deal last summer.
Chad Johnson. Signed as a free agent out of the AHL in the summer of 2013, Johnson was given Boston’s backup job in 2013-14 and performed brilliantly, posting a 0.925 save percentage. He imploded the next year in the No. 2 role with the Islanders, but was Buffalo’s de facto starter for much of this season and was excellent (0.919 save percentage). If the Oilers are at all worried about Cam Talbot, he’d be a good 1B option.
Anton Khudobin. Khudobin developed into an NHL goalie in Boston after being plucked out of Minnesota in a low-cost trade and was a fine backup in 2012-13 for the Bruins. He’s an NHL-calibre goalie but has been reduced to the No. 3 role in Anaheim. He had a 0.908 save percentage over eight NHL games this year and a 0.920 total in the minors. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent.
Lo and Behold
All four of the names above are plausible candidates, with the latter two in particular well-qualified for an NHL backup role. However, it’s probably just as likely that the Oilers opt for a different name, as Chiarelli has a fairly well-established pattern when it comes to backup goalies.
All four of the players listed above were virtually unknown when Chiarelli brought them in. He’s been unafraid of bringing in AHL or European goalies with little-or-no NHL experience, and cost has been a primary consideration. In all four cases above, both the acquisition cost and cap hit was modest.
He may well stick with the same pattern once again. Someone like Jeremy Smith, a 26-year-old pending UFA who has spent the last two seasons with Boston’s farm team, would fit the bill. So would AHL’er Edward Pasquale, a big 25-year-old who was once a prospect of note but has since fallen off the radar. The list of possible European options is long and varied.
What seems virtually certain is that Edmonton will make some sort of move to give itself insurance in the backup position in the event that Brossoit isn’t ready, just as it did with Ben Scrivens this past fall.
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