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Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Backup Goalie Market

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.



  • camdog

    I’m pretty sure there are goalies in Europe that we haven’t heard of that could get the job done. When PC isn’t in denial about a problem on the team, he’s pretty good at finding players to fill a hole.

  • Whiners

    If cost was right, Mrazek. But since they traded for him and have some picks tied to him can’t see it being a cost effective option. Keep Montoya, Hope Talbot is better. Stop making bad trades.

    • crabman

      capfriendly has Pickard as an RFA but Toronto only gave up a 6th round pick and an AHLer to get him from Vagas.
      If they would take a deal like that from us I would do that in a heartbeat.

      • Oilers Rule

        That’s because it was a desperation move to free up contract spot for Malcolm Subham and the Leafs as only taker needing an extra goalie played hardball. Somebody will pick up Pickard but it wont be cheap

      • crabman

        No way Pickard costs a 1st or a couple 2nds. He is currently the Leafs 4th goalie and an RFA needing a new contract. Over the last 6 years only 7 goalies have been traded in deals involving 1st or 2nd round picks.

        Bobrovsky from philly to CBJ for a 2nd and 2 4ths.

        Schneider from Van to NJ for a 1st

        Bernier from LA to Tor for 2nd, backup goalie and tweener

        Talbot from NYR to Edm for 2nd & 3rd

        Jones from Bos to SJ for 1st & prospect

        Anderson from Ana to Tor for 1st & 2nd

        Elliot from St.L to Cal 2nd & 3rd

        Everyone of those were acquired to be starters and either had a history of doing well in that role or were the league’s best backups getting a shot at a starter role. Pickard is none of those things and will be traded to a team to be a backup. Toronto might get a 3rd or 3rd and a prospect at best.

  • McPoilers

    Would love if someone could write a piece on the Oilers general goalie situation next year. Montoya is signed for one more year while both Brossoit and Ellis are on expiring contracts. Should either of them be signed? In junior the team has already signed Dylan Wells, whereas Stuart Skinner is coming off a great season and would be eligible to play in the AHL. Finally, Shane Starret had a disappointing end to his season in the ECHL, but is signed for one more year. What does the nation think the Oilers should do here? Which two should play in Bakersfield next year? The way I see it there is not enough room for everyone next season, the question is if we bring back Ellis or Brossoit.

    • crabman

      I’d try and upgrade the backup NHL spot. Montoya has been a good backup throughout his career but at 33 turning 34 I don’t see him improving or rebounding to past performance levels. Pickard out of Toronto would be a good fit. I also still like Hutchinson from Winnipeg’s farm, he is more of a risk with limited NHL experience but price and age would be right and after a very good year in the AHL I think he will get a backup gig somewhere this year.

      On the farm I let Ellis walk and sign Brossiot to a 1 year deal and play as the starter. Backup I would play Skinner. Ease him into pro hockey as a backup.

      ECHL Starrett is still my starter with Wells as the backup.

  • OnDaWagon

    They should be more concerned with their “front-up goalie”, not their “back-up” one. It shouldn’t take long to find out if Talbot is on his game, or if 16-17 season was just a lucky year.

    GET RID OF KATZ and good times will return.

      • OilerForLife

        Talbot was in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy the year before this last season and its way too early to write him off.There is no doubt he wasn’t as good, but when the team holds their training camp this fall I’m 100% sure he will prevail as the starter, and return to form.

        IMO injuries on the back end reduced effectiveness of our best D men and broke up some solid pairings That was one of the main reasons that the Oilers missed the playoffs. Three solid pairings balanced a consistency that spread throughout the whole lineup. It also affected our PP without Sekera acting as the quarterback, and Kelbom as the point bomb.

        The sky is not falling and going into panic mode, will hurt the Oilers further.

  • Oil9744

    Definetly there’s an upgrade needed in goaltending Chiarelli even said that’s near the top of of list to do in the press conference he had, I think they will get a solid back up that can maybe push for starter as well in Free Agency, I don’t see them trading for a back up they are not that much in need of it with Montoya still under contract, Carter Hutton is who they should be after in Free Agency, Khudobin would be great as well, Cam Ward is a way better option then Montoya, not even close there so I don’t know where you came up with that, one goalie has a tone of experience as a starter, a Stanley cup ring, and even took the top spot for Carolina again this season when Scott Darling struggled as the starter, And he’s from Edmonton and still relatively young, I’ll take him any day over Montoya

    • crabman

      I think the Oilers are going to have a hard time finding a better backup for next year because Chiarelli over the course of his career has been very cheap with backup goalie position.
      Hutton would be the most ideal out of the FA but will be paid more by someone else. Probably the same with Khudobin.
      Cam Ward on a cheap deal $1.5M or less would be an upgrade on Montoya but just slightly. The good thing about Ward is he has been a starter forever and if Talbot had a cold streak or went down to injury I would feel better with Ward than Montoya. But by the numbers besides games played they are almost identical over their career. Even last years numbers after Montoya came to Edmonton his stats are close to the same as Ward’s this year. On top of that Ward isn’t still relatively young. He is 34. A year older than Montoya. The last season Ward got up to a .910 save% was 4 years ago and the last time he was above a .910 was 2011-12. Ward is well past his best before date but will still probably get paid enough next year to price himself out of the Oilers budget.

      • Oil9744

        Ward is way more of a slight upgrade then Monty, 34 isn’t old for goalies, Talbot is gonna be 31 before next season starts so there’s not that big of difference there, is Talbot old? I don’t think so, that’s what I mean by relatively young, Roloson was 35 when we got him and we all know how good that turned out for us.

        • crabman

          Besides the games played Ward’s numbers don’t say he is significantly better than Montoya at this point in his career. But with his track record of being a starter and his cup win, no matter how long ago it was, will make him one of the most expensive backups if he doesn’t get 1 more chance to start at a place like Buffalo.
          I brought up the fact that he isn’t young because it sounded like you were using his age and being “relatively young” as a plus for him compared to Montoya dispite Montoya being younger.

  • The Chad

    Sure there are probably lots of goalies they’d like to have but the reality is in the big picture they can’t really afford to spend money on the backup goalie when they have more important needs. If you could somehow move Montoya maybe you could afford to try someone else. But I bet they will have the same 2 goalies next year

  • percy

    Thought Montoya had Strong outings. Knowing this organization they will dump Montoya bring in another goalie and he will crap the bed and the brain trust will stand there with that stupid look on their face. Here we go again, setting themselves up for more problems. DEF and FOR NOW.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    I was also going to suggest trying to acquire Curtis MacElhinney from Toronto, but there are a couple of problems.

    1. He’s under contract and could be resigned by Toronto
    2. Even with him on the team, Toronto still overplays Freddy Andersen

  • Big Nuggets

    Im thinking Winnipeg will want to move Mason for cap reasons. They need to resigh Hellebuyk, Trouba and Morrissey, not to mention Ehlers new contract kicks in. Now I have no idea if Mason is any good, but if they need to make a cap dump perhaps they could be persuaded to throw in a young winger like Armia or Lemieux. I’m not if this is likely, but Winnipeg has a cap crunch on the way and a surplus of young forwards. I could see Armia working well with Draisaitl, and Lemieux is going to be a superpest that can get a few points to boot. just spit-balling here..

  • 0W-20

    Kari Lehtonen is a total trainwreck, which mean Chiarelli will probably sign him for 2 years @ $2.5M AAV, which is insane. My preference would be for Chad Johnson, who got hung out to dry by a terrible Buffalo squad and will be hungry to prove he’s more than a capable backup.