The list of needs for the Edmonton Oilers this summer is pretty much agreed upon by most who follow the team. They need one or two wingers, a right shot defenseman and maybe another depth forward. The other item that’s sometimes thrown on the list is a backup goalie that’s better than Al Montoya and can push Cam Talbot more than Laurent Brossoit did.
Some say that’s a need, while others will argue that since Al Montoya is already under contract for next season that the team shouldn’t use assets to fill other holes.
I’ll agree with the fact that it wouldn’t be smart for the team to spend assets on a backup goalie, but there is a chance that they bring in a free agent to add a little more competition to the position.
If they decide to go that route, there will be plenty of options this summer.
I’ll start this by saying that I actually don’t mind Montoya as a backup goalie. He’s an experienced NHLer who knows how to handle life in this role. His 0.893 SV% and 3.21 GAA are far from great, but both his high and low danger SV% were in the middle of the pack for regular NHL goalies.
He was brought in to relieve Cam Talbot in four games since being acquired in January and in those 163 minutes, he faced 58 shots and only allowed two goals. He’s a capable backup goalie and if the Oilers are going to bring in another goalie, he better be an upgrade.
When I look at the names available on the free agent market, I’m not sure there is a realistic target for the Oilers.
Carter Hutton and Jonathan Bernier are both coming off strong seasons and will probably get more than traditional backup goalie money. I’ll even throw Jaroslav Halak into that group. Even though he didn’t have a strong year, his reputation will probably get him more than $2.5 million.
The Oilers don’t have the cap flexibility to give a backup goalie very much money, but they could send down Al Montoya and free up close to $1 million.
Next up are names like Cam Ward, Chad Johnson, and Ondrej Pavelec. All three are capable NHL back-ups, but none are big enough upgrades on Al Montoya. They simply wouldn’t be worth the cap space or roster spot.
The two unrestricted free agents that I would look at if I’m the Oilers are Anton Khudobin and Kari Lehtonen.
I might get some heat for naming Kari Lehtonen, but he’s an experienced starter who’s now transitioned into being a backup and he had a decent year in Dallas. He also started 30 games this season and can handle a heavy workload. I also like his high and low danger SV%’s, which were both top-10 amongst goalies who played 1000 minutes. He shouldn’t cost too much money and is the type of goalie that I could see getting hot at times and pushing Cam Talbot.
Khudobin had a great year in Boston and might end up getting more money than the Oilers should be willing to pay, but if they can get him at a decent price, I think he’s the perfect match. There’s a chance he’s out of their dollar range though.
With all that said, the UFA options may come cheaper than some would think when you consider how many young RFAs might be on the move.
Philipp Grubauer and Jusse Saros are both restricted free agents and appear to be ready to push for an NHL starters job, so they might end up being dealt.
Robin Lehner doesn’t have a contract either and considering the reports about him being unhappy in Buffalo, he could have a new home come July as well.
Petr Mrazek, Louis Domingue, and Calvin Pickard are all RFA’s as well. Out of those names, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Oilers take a look at Calvin Pickard. He’s been buried in the AHL essentially all season and given the presence of both Curtis McElhinney and Garrett Sparks in the Toronto organization, it isn’t unreasonable to expect that Pickard might be on the move.
Outside of the NHL, there’s Jhonas Enroth who had 153 games of NHL experience before leaving to the KHL this past summer. During this past season with Minsk Dynamo, he posted a 2.06 GAA and a 0.923 SV%. He could be a low-risk/high reward option.
There are options and the backup goalie market could end up being a little flooded. If I’m the Oilers I would look into bringing in a little more competition, but wouldn’t pay more than $2 million given the current cap situation.