The Edmonton Oilers have come upon an unfamiliar issue, and one which they have not had the pleasure of entertaining in over a decades time: a raging goaltending battle.
After failing to retain quality goaltending over, quite honestly, the past 15 years, the Oilers could quite possibly put their futility between the pipes to rest in the coming 2015-16 NHL season.
This is due strictly to the influx of incredible goaltending talent following the arrival of new General Manager Peter Chiarelli, who quickly traded for Cam Talbot and signed former New York Islander Anders Nilsson.
As a result, the Edmonton Oilers have been treated to sensational goaltending throughout the pre-season, play which could be an indication of much desired change in the coming regular season.
To date, the best Oilers goaltender has been Nilsson, who has been stellar in his return to professional hockey in North America.
In 120 minutes played with the Oilers over three games, Nilsson has yet to surrender a goal, and has looked increasingly confident and capable in the crease.
Despite playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) this past season, where he recorded a 1.71 Goals Against and a .936 Save Percentage, Nilsson does have prior NHL experience, having played three seasons in the New York Islanders’ organization.
As a result, Nilsson undoubtedly has a firm knowledge of the North American game, and, as already seen, will use his massive 6 foot 5, 220 pound frame to make the most of his second chance in the NHL.
Talbot has also enjoyed a highly positive pre-season, posting a sub 2.00 GAA and a .935 Save Percentage.
Acquired by the Oilers at the NHL Draft in exchange for three draft picks, expectations run extremely high with Talbot, who, for the time being at least, is expected to draw the majority of starts for the Oilers in 2015-16.
Although he has only appeared in 57 games in his NHL career, Talbot has been exceptional, securing a .931 Save Percentage and 2.00 GAA alongside a 33-15-5 record.
However, things will undoubtedly be much different in Edmonton, as he will be playing behind a much younger, and frankly, less talented defensive core. As a result, Talbot will asked to be not only consistent, but simply stellar in his first season in Alberta.
An incredible competitor, Ben Scrivens enters his third season with the Oilers following two seasons of struggle behind one the NHL’s worst defensive cores.
Like both Nilsson and Talbot, Scrivens has been strong this pre-season, and will be anything but a push-over when it comes to securing the Oilers crease once again this season.
Although his individual statistics have been poor over the past two years, Scrivens has become well known not only to Oilers fans, but to the entire NHL as one of the most competitive players in the League, who ceases in his mission to improve not only his game, but that of his team as well.
Assessing the Battle
What becomes increasingly clear is that there is a legitimate, heated battle raging in Edmonton for the position as the Oilers starting goaltender.
All three of these goaltenders are, as we have seen, not only highly experienced and skilled, but also highly driven and capable, with each individual competing to obtain the desired role.
Yet one facet which will certainly complicate this scenario is the current contract status’ of these three goaltenders.
At the moment, Ben Scrivens currently has one-year remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $2.3 Million. Talbot has one-year remaining on his deal at $1.45 Million, while Nilsson also agreed to a one-year contract, his worth $1 Million.
Since the contracts of all three Oilers goaltenders are set to expire following the end of the coming season, paired with the fact that each contract is a one-way agreement, there will be no lack of drive in these three men, as the one on the outside looking in come the beginning of the regular season could quite certainly be on his way out of Edmonton.
Further, with young starter Laurent Brossoit earning high praise for his work in the American Hockey League (AHL), the Oilers will not consider moving a goaltender to the Bakersfield Condors on a one-way contract, and subsequently risk the development of their potential number one goaltender of the future.
With that being said, Oilers fans and the team itself will enjoy retaining much improved goaltenders this coming season, who paired with the numerous other additions to the existing roster, could push the Oilers into the postseason for the first time since 2005 -06.
All that remains to be seen is exactly who will out perform one another in order to secure the title as the Oilers starting goaltender in 2015-16
Brett Slawson is a four-year veteran of The Hockey Writers who covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL prospects, and the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads.
Contact Brett on Twitter @brettslawson92, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.