So I’ll admit off the top that this post has almost nothing to do with the Edmonton Oilers specifically, beyond the fact that it could count as beating the dead “Garon has no trade value at all” horse. It is hockey-related though, and features Ray Emery!
Since I mentioned Ray Emery, let’s start with him. He recently played in the incredibly cool looking KHL All-Star game, and his rather nice KHL numbers have sparked rumours of an NHL return next season. Still, for any GMs with an interest in Emery, I’d advise that they at least check out another goalie.
  • Emery: 19-6-0, 1.99 GAA, 0.929 SV%
  • Other Guy: 11-4-6, 1.69 GAA, 0.941 SV%
The other guy is Vitaly Kolesnik, a Kazakh goaltender who has spent the last two seasons in Russia after coming to North America in 2005-06. Kolesnik was fairly good; he went 3-3 for Colorado (3.24 GAA, .888 SV%) and outplayed the other six goaltenders on his AHL team, posting a .917 SV% and being the only goaltender with a better than .500 record (it may also be worth noting that Cam Ward went 0-2 with a .915 SV% on that team).
I don’t mean to take anything away from Emery, because Kolesnik is a good goaltender too, but I think it’s probably fair to say that the gaudy statistics Emery has put up have more to do with the quality of his team than a superhuman performance on his part.
Of course, NHL GMs make funny decisions all the time with goaltenders. Consider the New York Islanders, who decided to bring back Wade Dubielewicz, who had been recently bought out of his KHL contract. Here’s Dubielewicz, compared to his teammate Stanislav Galimov:
  • Dubielewicz: 11-8-3, 2.77 GAA, 0.892 SV%
  • Galimov: 17-3-1, 1.91 GAA, 0.924 SV%
Obviously, there’s a transition involved to playing in Russia. Perhaps Dubielewicz’s play was affected by off-ice issues. Still, it seems odd to me that the Islanders would chose to sign Dubielewicz over, say, claiming Curtis Sanford, when Dubielewicz was massively outplayed by Galimov, an undrafted player who only established himself as a KHL-level netminder this season (last season, he’d sunk as low as the third-tier Russian league at one point). Would it have been that hard to finagle Mathieu Garon or Jeff Deslauriers out of Edmonton?
Another North American player over in the KHL right now is Tyler Moss. Moss was once Oilers’ property (acquired for Peter Sarno) and he played for the Roadrunners during the NHL lockout. He’s had cups of coffee in the NHL (most notably with the 1998-99 Calgary Flames), but mostly he’s been an above-average AHL net-minder. Here’s Moss, compared to his teammate Sergei Borisov:
  • Moss: 8-13-3, 2.77 GAA, .903 SV%
  • Borisov: 8-10-1, 2.33 GAA, .916 SV%
I point this out because Borisov is an undrafted 23-year old, and right now he’s one of the better goaltenders in what is either the second-best or third-best league in the world. Galimov, who I pointed out above, is an undrafted 20-year old, and he’s right in Emery territory stats-wise.
I believe this is a big part of the reason why top-level AHL goalies and NHL backups have minimal trade value — there are a ton of capable goaltenders over in Europe right now. Often, they come over to North America and immediately post incredible numbers. If I were an NHL GM, I’d never draft a goaltender, with the exception of those franchise-level talents that typically go within the first five picks.
Most teams have a goaltenders in Europe who could step in immediately at the backup level — we’ve seen Jussi Markkanen do it here in Edmonton, and I’m fairly sure that Bjorn Bjurling would be decent as a backup/AHL-level goalie if the Oilers system wasn’t already jammed.
There’s no upside to drafting and developing average goaltenders. They’re available as free agents (Mathieu Garon), for low cost in the trade market (Jason Labarbera) or off the waiver wire (Curtis Sanford). That’s a big part of the reason why I don’t understand the Oilers’ reluctance to waive Garon, or trade away Jeff Deslauriers. Do either offer anything not cheaply available on the free agent market, or in Europe, this summer?