Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Crowded Creases

If you head to NHL Numbers and scroll down to the bottom of the Oilers list of contracts, you’ll notice that the team has a lot of goalies under contract.

Cam Talbot, Mikko Koskinen, and Al Montoya have NHL deals for next season while Laurent Brossoit is will become an unrestricted free agent. Below them, Nick Ellis, Stuart Skinner, Dylan Wells, and Shane Starrett will battle it out for minor league jobs.

If you lost count, that’s eight goalies who could potentially be in the Oilers organization next year. That’s about two too many, so how will things be resolved?

Well, the easiest answer is that Laurent Brossoit won’t be re-signed and will become a UFA. After five seasons in the Oilers organization, Brossoit never took the next step to become a bonafide NHLer, so it makes sense for the Oilers ties with the Port Alberni, BC native.

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If Brossoit is indeed gone, there’s still a bit of a logjam in the Oilers system with seven goalies competing for six jobs (a starter and backup at the NHL, AHL, and ECHL level).

There isn’t much of a goalie controversy at the NHL level. Cam Talbot is locked in as the starter, while Mikko Koskinen and his $2.5 million cap hit appears to be locked in as the team’s backup.

Al Montoya could be sent down to the minors and with a cap hit of just $1.125 million, it would cost the Oilers around 100k against the cap, that’s really nothing in the grand scheme of things. Sending him down is a very logical option.

If the Oilers do send down Montoya, he would have to clear waivers, but it might be nice to have him waiting as a good insurance policy in case one of Talbot of Koskinen gets hurt.

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At the same time, having a 33-year-old Montoya in the minors only takes away an opportunity from one of the youngsters, and they have enough youngsters to fill the jobs.

Sep 18, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Nick Ellis (34) guards his net against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Edmonton Oilers won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Ellis already has two years of pro experience, but took a big step back this past season. In his rookie season, he posted great numbers in the AHL. A 2.69 GAA and a 0.918 SV% had Oilers fans wondering if he was the goalie of the future. This year, those numbers dropped to 3.21 and 0.898 respectively.

Regardless of the poor numbers, I still think Ellis will begin next season as the starter in Bakersfield.

23-year-old Shane Starrett is coming off his first pro season which saw him play 38 games with Wichita in the ECHL. He posted a GAA just a hair over 3.00 and a SV % of 0.912.

A strong rookie campaign, but Starrett will have some tough competition joining the organization next year and with youngsters like Wells and Skinner both making the jump to pro, Starrett likely won’t be a very high priority.

I believe Skinner will be given the best opportunity. He’s currently on an incredible run with Swift Current where he posted six shutouts during the WHL Playoffs, including a clean sheet in the championship-clinching game.

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I’m not sure if he should be considered an elite goaltending prospect just yet, but he’s got the highest potential of any Oilers prospect between the pipes and the Oilers to prioritize his development.

Dylan Wells is coming up from the CHL as well but did not have a great final year with the Peterborough Petes. His 3.62 GAA and 0.896 SV% are not what you’d expect from a 20-year-old junior goalie, but the Petes were awful this year and gave up the third most goals in the OHL, so you should consider that when looking at Wells’ numbers.

It will be interesting to see how the Oilers handle things. Here’s my best guess:

Cam Talbot and Mikko Koskinen will be the duo up in the NHL and I believe Al Montoya will be dealt to free up more playing time for the young goalies in the minors.

In the AHL, I think it’s safe to assume Nick Ellis will begin the year as the starter in the AHL with Shane Starrett backing him up.

The reason I think Starrett will go up to the AHL is that I believe the organization will want to leave more playing time for Dylan Wells and Stuart Skinner and it’s probably best for each of those guys to start in the ECHL and battle it out for playing time.

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Things can always change before the season starts, obviously, and even as the year goes, I could see the Oilers move players between Bakersfield and their ECHL affiliate, the Wichita Thunder.

The Oilers have some intriguing options at all levels between the pipes, it will be interesting to see how they deploy their young stoppers.

  • ubermiguel

    Trade Montoya? God forbid we have an experienced back-up ready in case of injury or in case our KHL goalie doesn’t turn into an NHL goalie. Without Montoya you’ve got an AHL goalie (trending downwards) and a guy with 1-year ECHL experience one step from playing in the NHL. Idiocy.

    • Big Nuggets

      I was thinking the same thing. Montoya sent down to the AHL is a win-win situation. We get another back-up option for Edmonton and also of great importance the AHL team, newly stocked with young talent, gets a goalie to help make them competitive. We want to put these players in a situation to play meaningful hockey. The surest way to ruin that is with a goalie that can’t compete at that level. Maybe Ellis bounces back but a competitive environment in Bakersfield is too important to leave to chance. At least in my opinion.

      I would say resign Ellis and let him split duties with Montoya in Bakersfield. Play Skinner in the ECHL and the others can get in where they fit in.

      • NoBuBlackOPS

        I like the idea of skinner and wells both starting in the ECHL I think it’s a good place for both of them to start there pro careers. I also agree the Montoya should be kept as a insurance policy to to give us depth at both the NHL and AHL levels. Only down side I can see it’s not ideal having three goalies on a team. I’d rather have a three goalie setup in the AHL rather than needing a experienced goalie that we have to give up assets for like last year.

        • OilerForLife

          I think it’s safe to say that the Oilers have addressed an organizational weakness: goaltending depth. Throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick.
          I agree 100% with Skinner and Wells starting with the Wichita Thunder. Earned. Not given.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        Talbot is a backup based on his SV% (47th best) and GGA last season. I’m hoping Mikko Koskinen gives the Oilers the consistency in net that is required to be a playoff team.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    What’s incredible is that a few years ago, this was a joke of a pipeline for goalies. Now the future looks bright. I’m a big Talbot supporter (even have a Cam Talbot jersey), and so I feel like next season will be a good season for him. Koskinen I’m still not sold on due to the lack of NHL experience and cap hit, but he might turn out okay. Ellis is really at his last chance, Starret could pan out, same goes for Wells. Skinner is the one I’m really excited for, so I hope he continues this development streak he is on.

    • LAKID

      Don’t be suprised if Koskinen is the #1 and Talbot is the backup. If Talbot has a slow start I could see him bieng traded at the deadline since you will not want to resign a backup goalie to 4M+.

      • Chris Prongers Rake

        Really?!….A KHL netminder with something like 4 games NHL experience with NYI is going to be #1?…I would put my money on Talbot bouncing back from last year.

        • LAKID

          It’s your money. Fools and their money soon depart. Talbot has been garbage at the start of every season or at some point every year here and was Hot garbage last season all throughout the year. You know why We are calling for a Bounce back season from Talbot? Because everyone is hoping he can get back off his knees!

  • Ted

    Athletic goalies – Not Brossoit, Talbot is on the edge but looks slow most nights and has bad habits of coming off the post! No need for Montoya get rid of him! Let the kids come and play should an injury happen it’s time for some younger blood with energy, has anyone seen the athletism of Fluery. Now that’s a goalie that can steal a game for you! Not one steal for Talbot last year that I can remember! Let the kids dominate and throw them into the fire! BOOM

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I’m more interested in shoring up the Defense. All the teams that have great goaltending have 5 or 6 great defensemen.
      “Great D, does good G, make”…. or something like that. As great as the remaining playoff teams goaltending is, look no further than their D. When the goalies are “off” on any given night, look no further than their D.
      The Oilers have enough goaltending (and we have to trust the scouts with the new guy) to back up a solid D core, but we need that first and more urgently.

  • Chris Prongers Rake

    Montoya won’t clear waivers, some team will claim him, than when Koskinen is a sieve will be wishing we had a NHL quality back up. This team just does things ass backwards! #FireChiarelliTomorrow!

  • Spydyr

    I would try and move on from Talbot this summer and acquire a better starter. Last years numbers from Talbot speak for themselves.

    Seeing as the Oilers spent 2.5 million on a KHL goalie with very little NHL experience I cannot see this happening.

    If Talbot lays another stinker next season yet another year of prime Conner will be pi$$ed away.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    I don’t want to get too far ahead, but who else has watched Skinner play? Holy crap, with the right coaching and a few tweaks to his fundamentals he could be something really special.

  • HugePayne

    Watching the playoffs… can you say that Talbot could outplay Hellebuyck, Fleury, Vasilesky, Holby, Rinne (except for his last game)? You need size/athleticism. Talbot doesn’t have the size to make up to some extend for his lack of athleticism. Koskinen has both but NHL unproven. Bebye Montoya. Need to develop the youth. Excited to see how Skinner will do at Memorial.

  • Braindead

    Talbot wasn’t even that bad last year. Where was the Defence most nights? They couldn’t even pass the puck out of their own zone during a practice let alone a game.
    The Oilers need a decent back-up not to push Talbot for the #1 job but to give him a break. Oilers were bad last year over playing Talbot.