The search continues as the Edmonton Oilers look to get some stability in net going into the 2015-16 NHL season.
Before fans start jumping up and down, screaming and hollering about the performance of Laurent Brossoit (49 saves last night) remember that rushing another young 22-year-old into the mix in a high-pressure position is the last thing GM Craig MacTavish should do. Brossoit is a steal of a prospect the Oilers acquired for the low low price of a third-pairing Ladislav Smid and forgotten prospect Olivier Roy. Brossoit will be the Oilers future in goal when he matures but one performance doesn’t translate into a full-time job in the NHL. Give the kid some time and the Oilers will be okay in the future.
Until then the Oilers have a problem in their immediate. The platoon of Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth has underperformed all season and as much as you can blame the underwhelming defense corp infront of them, the ultimate goat lies in net. These guys needed to be on point for 82-games, or 41-games each and they struggled out the gate and before December the Oilers were essentially eliminated from the playoff race.
Fasth is a UFA this summer and after having a frustrating season on and off the ice in Edmonton is already one foot out the door. Brossoit is the future and will eventually become a starter but until he’s ready the Oilers need to hit the market for some options. Whether that means going for a goaltender than bumps Scrivens into a backup spot with 30-game spot duty will still need to be determined but there are options out there.
Ironically the Oilers and their fans drove Devan Dubnyk out of town and now he’s having a Vezina and Hart trophy worthy season. In reality who actually saw that coming? No one.
Here are 10 options the Oilers should consider this summer either acquiring by trade or looking at the UFA market.
10. Michal Neuvirth (UFA – NY Islanders)
Age: 27 Cap Hit: $2.6M
32GP 7W 2.98GAA 0.914SV%
Michal Neuvirth with the 30th-place Sabres: .918 sv % in 27 GP. Neuvirth with #Isles: .881 sv % in 5 GP.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) March 28, 2015
It’s been a rough season for Neuvirth who started out with the draft lottery Sabres yet had solid numbers for playing behind a subpar defensive group. Since coming over to the Islanders at the trade deadline his numbers haven’t lived up to his first half numbers.
With the season winding down and the Oilers looking for a backup to replace Viktor Fasth, Neuvirth could be an option to split duties with Ben Scrivens if the Oilers elect to keep a goalie platoon which is completely likely. Neuvirth was buried in the Capitals organization and then ended up in Buffalo where he was splitting starts with Jhonas Enroth. Both were shipped out and find themselves looking for backup work next season.
Neuvirth won’t exactly be an upgrade over Fasth but more of a lateral movement. An offer south of $2M could be suffice.
9. Robin Lehner (Ottawa)
Age: 22 Cap Hit: $2.2M
25GP 9W 3.02GAA 0.905SV%
The hard sell in this acquisition is the fact the Oilers would be acquiring, yet again, an unproven young talent where the sky is the limit. Quite possibly the last thing they need is another goalie in the same spot. It hasn’t worked out with Ben Scrivens or Devan Dubnyk before so the track record suggests it possibly won’t work out with the 6’4 223lbs Lehner who hasn’t put together back-to-back solid seasons in the NHL up to this point.
To make matters worse Lehner has had trouble establishing himself at the NHL level despite having a glorious career everywhere else. Once considered one of the top goaltending prospects in the world, Lehner’s season was cut short (as seen in the video above) and opened the flood gates for Andrew Hammond to come in and make Lehner expendable.
In the end the Senators will have to make a decision between Andrew Hammond and Lehner and who will split the duties with Craig Anderson for the foreseeable future. It’s entirely possible Lehner is moved at the draft and if so, the Oilers should at least sniff around.
8. Karri Ramo (UFA – Calgary Flames)
Age: 28 Cap Hit: $2.9M 34GP 15W 2.60GAA 0.912SV%
Is this goodbye to Karri Ramo? http://t.co/15K1jJGI1m
— FlamesNation (@FlamesNation) April 5, 2015
Ramo has been a stellar goaltender all things considering. The Flames struggled last season yet Ramo platooned in net and still came out with a 0.911SV% with over 27.3 shots against per game.
The Flames have been noticeably better this season as they enter the final stretch of the season in the playoff race. While Jonas Hiller has struggled, Ramo has stepped up to help the Flames out. Even before that Ramo spent four seasons in the KHL where he averaged 2.01 GAA and 0.923SV%, the guy can clearly play.
He’s a proven backup in recent years that would really push Scrivens to stay consistent.
Would the Oilers be willing to offer north of $2.5M? Time will tell.
7. Andrew Hammond (UFA)
Age: 27 Cap Hit: $0.7M
22GP 18W 1.91GAA 0.937SV%
The goalie that has magically appeared from obscurity to help will the Senators to within reach of a playoff berth. At the end of the season the Senators have a decision to make between Robin Lehner and Hammond.
The Hamburglar has become a cult hero in the nation’s capital after his unworldly performance down the stretch drive. The big question is how much of this is magic beans and how much of this is true starting goalie capabilities?
It’s difficult to say in his small sample size but the Oilers wouldn’t require him to play 60+ games next season as whoever is coming in will likely platoon the starts with Ben Scrivens, another goalie who like Hammond caught lightning in a bottle.
If Hammond can get the Senators into the playoffs in the final games of the season, watch for him to get a lot of interest this off-season on the UFA market.
6. Cam Talbot (NY Rangers)
Age: 27 Cap Hit: $1.4M
36GP 21W 2.21GAA 0.926SV%
— Blue Line Station (@BlueLineStation) March 26, 2015
It would be a bit of a stretch to see the Rangers move Talbot after recently re-signing him to an extension. The only real hope is that GM Glen Sather tries to cash in this summer on consecutive high quality seasons by the 27-year-old proving he’s more than a flash in the pan. Talbot has future NHL starter written all over him. Sound technical game and an ability to turn it up in the games that matter, a reason why the Rangers have been able to give starter Henrik Lundqvist so much rest (even with the injuries). Talbot is just entering his prime earning years and the asking price would be a high draft pick likely a combination of a second and later round picks or prospect. The Oilers have plenty of prospects as the Rangers continue to climb the standings in the midst of a youth movement. Could the Oilers make a move and sign Talbot to an extension next season, something the Rangers will inevitably be unable to do?
5. Eddie Lack
Age: 27 Cap Hit: $1.1M
40GP 17W 2.52GAA 0.919SV%
It takes a lot to win over the imagination of the fans these days, Lack has done just that (just see the video above). After the fiasco in Vancouver with the Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider saga, Lack emerged as the de facto starter down the stretch as the Canucks missed the playoffs last season. Fast forward a year later and the Canucks prized UFA signing in Ryan Miller ($18M/3Y) has been placed on IR and once again down the stretch the Canucks de facto starter is the incomparable Lack.
At 6’4 187lbs the lanky goalie from Sweden combines size with incredible athletic ability and a personality to boot. The fans love him, the players love him. Unfortunately for the Canucks he’s performed well-above his pay grade and looks ready to fast track himself to a starting gig somewhere in the NHL.
The Canucks wouldn’t be able to afford to pay Lack $2M+ to backup Miller ($8M+ total committed to their goaltending). The team is already up against the cap and the team is aging with Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis coming up as UFAs next season as well. The Oilers need a goalie who is calm, cool, collected and can perform under pressure something Lack has done in the face of adversity all season long for the Canucks.
Ultimately the decision to go with Miller or Lack long-term will be the decider, but if the 27-year-old Swede becomes available the Oilers should be calling.
4. Cam Ward (Carolina)
Age: 31 Cap Hit: $6.3M 49GP 21W 2.46GAA 0.908SV%
— The Hockey Writers (@TheHockeyWriter) January 11, 2015
If there was ever a goalie that needed a change of scenery it’s the 31-year-old Ward in Carolina. After a few injury-riddled seasons and seeing minutes lost to Anton Khudobin, Ward currently is seeing his time as a starter for the Hurricanes evaporate.
Acquiring the hometown boy who brought the Oilers cinderella cup run in 2006 to a halt might be one of the better options on the market. Ward is still young enough to be in his prime years as an effective number one in a new setting.
The Oilers are struggling for some consistency in the pipes and with a new team Ward might be able to regain some of that magic that brought the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2009.
A prospect and a pick could do the trick considering his current contract with one-year remaining has been a sore spot for the Hurricanes organization as it rebuilds.
3. Jonathan Bernier (RFA – Toronto)
Age: 26 Cap Hit: $2.9M
56GP 21W 2.89GAA 0.912SV%
Since playing in Toronto for the last two seasons the former 11th overall pick in 2006 is finding himself in a starting role but struggling behind a weak Maple Leafs defense. Bernier similiarly to Niemi has been wildly inconsistent this season.
The Leafs have allowed an average of 31.3 shots against over Bernier’s 111 games compared to his controlled 25.1 with the Kings. The Oilers defense core is in development with Oscar Klefbom, Justin Schultz, Martin Marincin and Darnell Nurse all on the rise. If the Oilers were to acquire Bernier and combine that with the improved defensive play under new coach Todd Nelson, the Oilers might solve their problem.
Bernier is the youngest goalie on the market with the highest potential. The Oilers could hit a potential gold mine with Bernier, hence why the asking price with the Leafs might be sky high. Any offer for Bernier would have to include one of the four names listed above plus a draft pick.
2. Antti Niemi (UFA – San Jose)
Age: 31 Cap Hit: $3.8M
60GP 30W 2.62GAA 0.914SV%
— Brett Slawson (@bigbadBUCK83) March 25, 2015
The sale tag on a goalie like Niemi is the fact that options for a former Stanley Cup winning goaltender are limited on the market this summer. Niemi’s 2010 Stanley Cup win is an exceptional buying point on a resume, but picking up another inconsistent goaltender might not be the best option for the Oilers this summer.
The smoke screen is that the Sharks haven’t exactly had a great season and have left Niemi out to dry a number of times. On the counter argument to that Niemi hasn’t been the goalie who was near Vezina consideration a few seasons ago either.
At the end of the day the Oilers are in desperate need of a capable starting goalie. Niemi is a former cup winner still in his prime years. There will be considerable interest for 31-year-old this summer and an offer north of $16M/4Y might be what the Oilers have to offer up.
1. Devan Dubnyk (UFA – Minnesota)
Age: 28 Cap Hit: $0.8M
57GP 36W 2.04GAA 0.930SV%
Last season it seemed as if the Oilers and the rest of the NHL had given up on the 28-year-old, except the Coyotes. From former 2004 14th overall pick to AHL backup the road for Dubnyk has seen some humility. Dubnyk’s game had fallen so low under former Oilers goalie coach Frederic Chabot that not even goalie guru Mitch Korn could put up with his complacency. Dubnyk also famously had a slip in the media stating he wasn’t used to the pace of practice the Predators were doing.
After finding himself in the AHL with the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens farm) and on the UFA market hunting for redemption in the form of a backup job, the Coyotes and Sean Burke took a flyer on him. Dubnyk committed himself to change under Burke and has rocketed to the top of the NHL with an out of this world performance second to only Carey Price.
A few months ago (as seen in the video) people wrote him off as just being on a short-term hot streak yet Dubnyk single-handedly willed the Wild into a playoff spot by doing what he didn’t in his first go-around in Edmonton, by just keeping his team in the game and giving them a chance. The Wild are pretty sound defensively and that has helped Dubnyk’s resurgence.
Will the Oilers be able to coax Dubnyk back? Doubtful as the Wild would be foolish to let him hit the market.