Finding the Oilers a Goalie

It’s no secret, the Edmonton Oilers are going to need a starting goaltender sooner than later.

Chances are, by the start of next season, the Oilers will have a new face between the pipes, or at least in the pipeline as the potential goalie of the future. Ben Scrivens will probably still be in the fold in some capacity — be it as a backup, platoon partner or mentor — but Viktor Fasth won’t likely be in the picture and Laurent Brossoit isn’t quite ready to make the jump to the big league.

Edmonton can address its ongoing crisis in the crease through free agency or trade, either for an established veteran or a budding prospect further along than Brossoit. This isn’t a great year for free-agent goaltenders, so the latter might be the way to go, but in that case, you have to give in order to receive.

In scouring the depth charts and prospect pools for all 30 NHL teams, no fewer than 40 options presented themselves to help fill that void for the Oilers.

Pending UFAs

Does this guy look familiar? That would be Devan Dubnyk, the former first-round pick of the Oilers who is now a member of the Minnesota Wild and the league’s hottest goaltender. He’s an unrestricted free agent again come July 1, assuming the Wild don’t extend him in the meantime. Will the Oilers put in a call to Dubnyk’s agent, begging for him back? It seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. |

1) Devan Dubnyk — The Oilers could really use a goalie like this Dubnyk guy . . . has that joke been made before? In all seriousness, perhaps they could kiss and make up, but that seems doubtful. The Dubnyk ship has almost certainly sailed.

2) Antti Niemi — He’s won a Stanley Cup and will therefore be viewed as the most established goalie available on the open market. Edmonton would have to pay a premium, but it might be worth it. That approach worked for Vancouver and Calgary with Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller, respectively. Niemi even reminds some of a former Oilers netminder, Tommy Salo.

3) and 4) Jhonas Enroth/Michal Neuvirth — Killing two birds with one stone, these guys are very similar. Not only did they both used to play for the Buffalo Sabres, but they are fairly young, unproven and undersized by today’s standards. Neither of them have been a No. 1 for a full season, so going this route would be a gamble. The Oilers have been linked to both in the past and were once said to be high on Neuvirth’s potential when he was a Washington prospect. But these probably aren’t the guys you want to hitch your wagon too, especially not behind a shoddy defence. Would either of them be an upgrade on Scrivens, or even Fasth? Marginal, maybe.

5) Thomas Greiss — Ditto here, he’s cut from the same cloth as the above tandem. The potential is there, but so is the risk factor. The Oilers can’t afford another “wasted” season, so they might not want to roll the dice.

Veteran Starters

There has been no indication, at least not publicly, that the Dallas Stars plan to shop Kari Lehtonen in the off-season. But his inconsistent play throughout this season has raised suspicions that the former second overall pick in 2002 could be available. He wouldn’t come cheap, but he could be a steal in the long run for the Oilers.    |

6) Kari Lehtonen — Lindy Ruff has been critical of him and he’s been inconsistent for most of this season. When he’s on his game — like he was most of last season — Lehtonen is elite and arguably a top-10 goalie in the league. He’s taken a step back, but he’s only 31 years old and can handle a heavy workload. Very intriguing option if the Stars decide to shop him in the off-season.

7) Jonathan Bernier — The Leafs are wanting to “blow it up” and Bernier has been no better than anybody else this season. He just got lit up by the Oilers, but that’s neither here nor there. It shouldn’t be a deterrent to a former first-round pick who only turns 27 in August. If you can get him for a late first/early second, you seriously consider it.

8) Ondrej Pavelec — He’s hot right now in Winnipeg again, but the Jets appeared ready to ride rookie Michael Hutchinson. With Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie also waiting in the wings, Pavelec could be pushed out the door. He shouldn’t be the first choice, but he’s not a last resort either, especially when you consider he only turns 28 in August.

9) Cam Ward — Craig MacTavish has to be inquiring about this guy, and one would assume he already has at some point. Ward is from the Edmonton area and MacTavish presumably still has nightmares of him stealing the 2006 Stanley Cup from Fernando Pisani and the rest of the gang coached by the current Oilers’ GM. That was a long time ago — just ask an Oilers’ season-ticket holder — but Ward has shown signs of his old form this season and only has one year left on his contract, so it wouldn’t be a long-term commitment. This could be a low-risk, high-reward situation if the homecoming was successful. He might take a hometown discount for his next contract too.

10) Craig Anderson — The Hamburglar is making everybody expendable in Ottawa. Andrew Hammond’s ongoing heroics have thrown a real wrench into the Senators’ goaltending plans going forward. He’s forced his way into the picture for next season, which means Anderson could be on the outs. He’s not the sexiest name out there, but he seems to get the job done. Truth be told, Anderson could be the best fit of the bunch.

Potential Starters

Could the Oilers have an Andersen between the pipes next season? This Andersen, Frederik, of the Anaheim Ducks, would be a nice fit. As would Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators. Frederik Andersen’s fate will likely be sealed with this spring’s playoffs, depending on the pecking order between him and John Gibson. The Ducks went with Gibson in last year’s post-season and seem to be leaning in that direction again, which might allow the Oilers to swoop in and land Andersen.  |

11) Frederik Andersen — Speaking of Andersens, this one might be even better. The Ducks are enamoured with John Gibson and rightfully so. He’s one of the best up-and-comers in the league, so they could look to sell high on Andersen this summer. He’s already set some records in his brief career to date, so by no means is he a slouch. He’s also been a workhorse when needed, which is something the Oilers could definitely use going forward. He’ll be 26 in October, with a lot of good years left in him.

12) Cam Talbot — If it wasn’t for Dubnyk and Hammond, this guy would be the biggest goaltending story in hockey these days. He’s been lights-out good for the Rangers ever since Henrik Lundqvist went down with an injury. As a result, Talbot’s garnering interest from around the league and it’s expected at least a few teams will kick tires on him in off-season. He’s unrestricted next summer, so the Rangers might want to capitalize on his current value rather than lose him for nothing. The Oilers would be foolish not to inquire, but equally foolish to overpay for a soon-to-be 28-year-old who went undrafted and could just be catching lighting in a bottle.

13) Robin Lehner — He’s had a rough go of things in Ottawa, but not that long ago, Lehner was arguably the top goaltending prospect in the league. A change of scenery could be beneficial for him, especially if the Senators plan to put their faith in Hammond for next season. Lehner’s only 24 in July and still has some serious upside. He could be a great buy-low option, if the asking price is indeed low.

14) Darcy Kuemper — If Dubnyk re-signs in Minnesota, Kuemper could be available. He has had some impressive stretches and many believe he can develop into a No. 1. He played junior with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, so that might be added incentive to target him.

15) Eddie Lack — Dealing within the division is always tough, but the Canucks have three good goalies and will likely move one in the off-season. With the way Lack has been playing since Ryan Miller got hurt, he might have the most value if Vancouver wants to sell high. Mike Gillis was demanding a king’s ransom from the Oilers for Cory Schneider, and Jim Benning would undoubtedly want top dollar for Lack too.

16) Dustin Tokarski — He could be an interesting possibility. Tokarski is stuck behind the best goalie in the game, but showed in last year’s playoffs the ability to shine in the big games. He’s been a winner his entire career at every level, and the Oilers could use more winners in their dressing room. He’ll be 26 in September, but he’s undersized and some experts see holes in his game.

17) Niklas Svedberg — Also turning 26 in September, Svedberg sees limited action behind workhorse Tuukka Rask. With Malcolm Subban knocking at the door, something will have to give in Boston. Most believe the Bruins would be more inclined to shop Svedberg than Subban even if the return is significantly lower.

18) Antti Raanta — Similar situation here with Scott Darling, a Chicago kid, shining in his call-ups. The Oilers were very interested in Raanta and reportedly had an offer on the table, but he decided to sign with the Blackhawks. That was Edmonton’s previous management regime, but that interest could have carried over. Targeting Raanta, who turns 26 in May and could probably be acquired for a mid-round pick or B-level prospect, would seem like a MacT move. But Raanta is quite similar to Fasth and may not be seen as an upgrade by the fan base.

19) Martin Jones — The Oilers already traded for one of Jonathan Quick’s understudies in Scrivens and could dial up Dean Lombardi again. Would the Kings be willing to move Jones and promote Jean-Francois Berube? That seems like an internal downgrade for L.A., but the Kings are dealing from a position of strength. It would likely depend on the return, but Oilers might covet the 25-year-old former Calgary Hitmen standout.

On The Cusp

The latest chapter of Jacob Markstrom’s career, in the Vancouver Canucks’ organization, has been marked by ups and downs. He’s been playing spectacular at the AHL level, but got shelled in his only NHL start this season. He clearly has the skills to become one of the league’s elite, but he has yet to put it all together. Some team is going to give him another chance and it just might be the Oilers.  |

20) Jacob Markstrom — He’s been dominant in the AHL this season and was once considered an elite prospect. Goaltenders often take longer to develop, so Markstrom could be coming into his own at 25 years old. The Oilers could have claimed him off waivers prior to this season, but wanted to give the Scrivens-Fasth tandem a chance. Assuming they want to take a chance on somebody new for next season, Markstrom might be a worthy candidate. Again, it would mean dealing with the Canucks, which might be easier said than done. But Benning did send a second-rounder to Calgary for Sven Baertschi, so perhaps he’d part with Markstrom to recoup that pick, which seems like fair value.

21) Petr Mrazek — Detroit is high on him and he’s looked pretty special in some of his appearances this season. It would make more sense for the Red Wings to move Jonas Gustavsson, but if there isn’t a market for him, they could probably get a nice prospect back for Mrazek. Maybe somebody like Martin Marincin. Would you make that deal — Marincin for Mrazek?

22) Calvin Pickard — Same scenario here, with Colorado seemingly higher on Pickard than current backup Reto Berra. If Berra can’t be moved, then would the Avs consider that same deal (Marincin for Pickard)?

23) Scott Darling — This mystery man kind of came out of nowhere this season, much like Hammond, but he’s been stellar in his small sample size. The Blackhawks probably want to keep the local kid as Corey Crawford’s heir apparent, but they might be able to get more for him than Raanta. That said, the Oilers probably prefer Raanta, so Darling might not even be on MacT’s radar.

A Prospects

Zachary Fucale’s value shot up when he backstopped Canada to gold at the world juniors this winter, but the Oilers were already big fans of his at the 2013 NHL draft. The Montreal Canadiens snagged him in the second round with the pick right before the Oilers, but the Habs are already set in goal and could look to maximize that asset. If they decided to dangle Fucale, the Oilers would be quick to take the bait.  |

24) Zachary Fucale — You can bet his name came up in the Jeff Petry negotiations, but Montreal wasn’t going to let him go that easy. It is a topic that could be revisited at the draft in June, but Fucale could cost the Oilers that late first-rounder from Pittsburgh if the Canadiens are content with Price-Tokarski for the foreseeable future.

25) Malcolm Subban — Ditto here, he won’t come cheap and that Pittsburgh pick would have to be in play. Many suspect the Oilers will dangle that pick or their own early second-rounder to address goaltending, but Boston might want Marincin and/or a guy like Tyler Pitlick thrown in for good measure. Do the Oilers make that 2- or 3-for-1 deal?

26) Eric Comrie — The Oilers are very familiar with the Comries, having older half-brothers Mike and Paul come through the organization. Owner Daryl Katz would certainly know their father, Bill Comrie, former owner of The Brick furniture franchise, as well. Eric had a strong showing for Canada at the world juniors, but has been sidelined by an injury ever since. Providing he makes a full recovery, Comrie should be of interest to Edmonton and Winnipeg could afford to move him if the Jets’ brass is higher on Hutchinson and Hellebuyck. The Jets gave up some picks as buyers at the trade deadline, so if they could add a couple in the top 60 for a redundant asset, that might be to Kevin Cheveldayoff’s liking.

B Prospects

Kristers Gudlevskis has a striking resemblance to Nikolai Khabibulin in this photo, but his Tampa Bay Lightning career has been limited thus far. With Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy ahead of him, the Lightning may look to move Gudlevskis sooner than later. Edmonton isn’t as tropical, but could offer a better opportunity to secure NHL employment.  |

27) Kristers Gudlevskis — Everybody remembers this guy for his performance at the Olympics against Canada. The Latvian sensation is stuck behind Ben Bishop and top prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy, so it’s entirely possible he could be moved. His numbers haven’t been great in the AHL, but with Vasilevskiy called up, Gudlevskis has assumed the starting role and faired reasonably well. He would arguably be more prepared and better suited for backup duty than Brossoit.

28) Igor Bobkov — He’s had a pretty rough season, but Anaheim’s goaltending prospects always seem to pan out. His ceiling is pretty high, but for now, Bobkov would be organizational depth.

Pick Of The Litter

This guy is developing right under Edmonton’s nose, with the WHL’s Oil Kings. Tristan Jarry is one of the better goalies in Canadian junior hockey and the Oilers are well aware of that. Unfortunately for them, Jarry’s rights belong to the Pittsburgh Penguins, meaning Edmonton would need to strike a deal to keep him in the City of Champions.  |

29) and 30) Tristan Jarry/Matt Murray — Both these guys are studs in the making. Murray just set an AHL shutout streak record and Jarry has been backstopping the Edmonton Oil Kings for the last few seasons since taking the torch from Brossoit. The Oilers covet Jarry for those obvious reasons, but Murray is looking like the real deal too. Pittsburgh would gladly take its first-rounder back for either of them, but that would probably be an overpayment from Edmonton. Surely, they could work out some sort of compromise.

31) and 32) Jack Campbell/Jussi Rynnas — Campbell was the 11th overall pick in 2010 — Taylor Hall’s draft year — but he hasn’t lived up to the hype yet. A fresh start and a new opportunity might push him to reach that potential. Rynnas has been very good in the AHL this season and was great in Europe last year, but he hasn’t been able to stick in the NHL. Dallas gave him a brief audition this season, when Anders Lindback was struggling as the backup before the Stars brought in Enroth, but that was short-lived. With a longer leash, Rynnas could turn into something, but it would be similar to the risk Edmonton took on Fasth, which hasn’t really worked out.

33) and 34) Oscar Dansk/Anton Forsberg — Forsberg has been the better of the two in the AHL this season, with Dansk enduring growing pains in his first pro season. Dansk is probably the better prospect overall as the first pick of the second round back in 2012. Either of them would be a solid addition to the Oilers’ depth chart in goal and give Brossoit some serious competition going forward.

35), 36) and 37) Andrey Makarov/Nathan Lieuwen/Linus Ullmark — All three have potential to play in the NHL. Makarov is probably the most skilled, while Lieuwen has some serious size and Ullmark offers a nice overall package. The Oilers would have to trust their scouts here to get the right guy.

38), 39) and 40) Magnus Hellberg/Marek Mazanec/Juuse Saros — Same here, with Hellberg enjoying a very impressive AHL season, Mazanec already shining in a short NHL stint last season and Saros being a big hit overseas. At least one of them will be available at some point, so just hope you get the right one if you’re MacT.

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Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.