Oilers Goaltending In Need Of Help, But From Where?

The Edmonton Oilers have a myriad of issues with their current roster and an abundance of holes to fix.

Their most pressing need is in their most important position – goaltending.

While there are certain upgrades needed at both centre and defense, nothing will get better unless the goaltending is better.

One has to look no further than a few teams that have made significant advances in the standings from last year until now.

Ben Scrivens (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)
Ben Scrivens (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

Florida is a perfect example of a team that is pushing for a playoff spot after drafting first overall last year. Sure they have added a few pieces and rookie Aaron Ekblad is playing like a 10 year veteran, but there is one main reason for the improvement.

Roberto Luongo.

A full season from Luongo has given the team confidence and consistency that they never had before.

That kind of consistency is what the Oilers are searching for, and haven’t gotten yet.

The Current Tandem

The Oilers current duo of Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth have been underwhelming this season. Added last season, both were seen as up and comers and the Oilers were hoping one would seize the starter’s reins and run with it given the opportunity.

That hasn’t happened and both netminders have found themselves near the bottom of the league in the majority of goaltending statistics.

  • Scrivens: 10-17-7  2.99GAA  .895S%
  • Fasth: 6-15-3  3.41GAA  .888S%

To be fair the blame cannot be put squarely on their shoulders as the holes in the Oilers roster are plentiful, however the numbers don’t lie either.

Scrivens is likely to stick with the team and be afforded more opportunity given he has another year on his contract however, barring stellar play the rest of the way, Fasth is a likely candidate to be moved at the deadline or leave as a UFA in the offseason.

In The System

The Oilers top goaltending prospect is Laurent Brossoit, who was acquired last year from Calgary. He is the only impact goaltending prospect in the system but is likely at least a year or two away from having an NHL impact. He has had a successful year, but still growing as a pro.

  • Laurent Brossoit (AHL): 15-9-2  2.55GAA  .919S%
  • Richard Bachman (AHL): 14-4-3  2.30GAA  .921S%

He currently splits time for the Oklahoma City Barons with Richard Bachman. Bachman has been stellar in the minors and was an AHL all-star, however at 27, has yet to be able to translate it to NHL success.

Richard Bachman (Steven Christy/OKC Barons)
Richard Bachman (Steven Christy/OKC Barons)

Tyler Bunz is next on the depth chart and currently in the ECHL with the Wichita Thunder.

  • Tyler Bunz (ECHL): 6-10-1  2.97GAA  .890S%

While he had a very successful junior career, he has struggled greatly turning pro and is doubtful to be a factor at the next level.

What Do They Want vs What Can They Get

In a perfect world, the Oilers are able to trade or sign a goaltender that is a legitimate NHL No.1 and has some experience to back it up. Similarly to what the Panthers did with Luongo, the Flames with Jonas Hiller or the Islanders with Jaroslav Halak.

The problem is I just don’t know where that netminder is going to come from.

The only name in free agency at this point that will remotely resemble that is the Sharks Antti Niemi, and it’s doubtful he’ll want to sign in Edmonton, being the only big fish goalie on the open market.

The trade market is also quite scarce. One name that has been out there is Carolina’s Cam Ward, although he has been less than spectacular in his last few seasons and his best days appear to be behind him. However he has shown the ability to be a frontline starter at one point, and a change of scenery may be what he needs. The other issue with Ward would be the fact he has a no trade clause and would have to waive it.

Things can change quickly and more names could become available if teams want to go a different direction when the playoffs wrap up, but so far there isn’t much chatter.

Their next option is to acquire someone with NHL experience and upside, but little track record. Most Oilers fans will cringe at this notion as it’s the same path they tried last year with Scrivens and Fasth.

Names like James Reimer, Kari Ramo or Jonas Enroth have been rumoured to be available, but are they guaranteed to be a significant upgrade over Ben Scrivens? Neither of them have been a No.1 in their careers either.

(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
Could the Oilers pry Subban out of Boston? (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Then there is the option of trying to acquire a blue chip goaltending prospect deemed to be NHL ready and let them grow into the No.1 role.

Not likely a popular idea given the Oilers wanting to start winning now, but long term sustainability is the ultimate goal.

That’s also assuming any of those top prospects can be pried away from teams.

Potential targets like Boston’s Malcolm Subban, Calgary’s Joni Ortio or Detroit’s Petr Mrazek are blocked at the NHL level, however would likely take a lot going the other way in a trade.

Again, that’s if team’s would even part with them and there is also no guarantee any of them are ready to immediately assume a No.1 role.

Limited Options

As mentioned, in an ideal situation the Oilers will look to acquire a goaltender with a track record, as they have had enough of a revolving door of “potential” No.1’s.

Since Dwayne Roloson left in 2009, the Oilers have used these goaltenders in the five and a half years following:

  • Nikolai Khabibulin
  • Jeff Deslauriers
  • Devan Dubnyk
  • Martin Gerber
  • Yann Danis
  • Jason LaBarbera
  • Ilya Bryzgalov
  • Ben Scrivens
  • Viktor Fasth
  • Richard Bachman

Two things stand out with that list. One is the sheer number used over the course of five seasons and the other is the lack of a legitimate starting goaltender. Khabibulin is the one name on the list who fits the bill, however he was well past his prime when he came to Edmonton.

The problem arising is that MacTavish is going to have to be some sort of magician to bring the kind of netminder in that the Oilers need. Or more likely he will have to vastly overpay either in dollars or assets to do so.

It is unlikely anything will happen before the offseason, as there is no hope for this season currently and hence any need to move too quickly. Often there will be a change in philosophy from some teams after a disappointing playoff exit. The Oilers should also have a better idea where they are with their own roster.

The fact is that not even MacTavish knows who his goaltenders will be next season, and the rest of this year will go a long way in determining the fate of both Scrivens and Fasth.

Scrivens will be there next season with another year on his contract, it’s just a case of whether it is as the starter or the backup.

With goaltending the most important position in hockey, true No.1’s are in high demand.

The Oilers will be scouring the league looking for someone to bring in and change their fortunes. However unless the landscape changes, Oilers fans should not expect to see the next Carey Price or Roberto Luongo between the pipes any time soon.


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11 thoughts on “Oilers Goaltending In Need Of Help, But From Where?”

  1. I agree with your assessment that the number 1 need for the Oilers is a legit goalie. Also,nailed it on the head with Florida having a legit goalie behind them and that being for the most part the success they’re having now. A guy behind the pipes that can stop the puck gives everyone else confidence in themselves. Do you not think, that trading for a goalie ie Vasilevskiy,Mrazek,Subban,Gibson, is a better option then a free agent goalie you’re going to have to overpay for. I think offering Eberle and a future number 1 in say 17 or 18 for one of the guys I mentioned should be more then enough, if not throw in a young D man like Marincin,Gernat, should be more then enough, considering how all those goalies are blocked by guys with long term deals, and are legit 1 goalies already. Of course, everything would have to happen at the draft or afterwards, depending on if they get McDavid or Jake, then Eberle becomes expendable.

    • Yes I think in many ways it would be and probably beneficial long term. There is something to be said for a proven starter in the league though given that any of those prospects are completely unproven. I agree with you that it is probably the Oilers best route to try though as I can’t forsee any big time No. 1 landing in Edmonton anytime soon

  2. I think the oilers should use Taylor hall as trade bait to bring in a number 1 goalie/prospect. I would offer up hall who is always injured and I’m sure will continue that way throughout his career for a blue chip prospect. Sure hall is good but he dosnt stop pucks. The oilers seem to be playing fine lately without him. The oilers have to do something in order to get goaltending. I would like to see MacT go after either malcolm suban or john Gibson and maybe a prospect or pick for hall!

  3. Carl, I don’t necessarily agree with your assessment. Many of our goaltenders from Edmonton, including the most recent of which Devon Dubnyk have done substantially well with a team that scores more goals and plays much better organized defense. Dubnyk has helped the defense minded Minnesota wild put together an impressive string of victories.

    As a Edmonton oiler fan originally from Edmonton, and now living in Southern California. I saw firsthand how amazing a goaltender Victor Fasth was with the Anaheim Duck and watching several highlights of his play with the Edmonton Oilers his play in totality has not necessarily changed. The only thing that has changed is that he’s exchanged a top-notch defense of core with the Anaheim back ducks versus a subpar defensive core with the Edmonton Oilers. Any goaltender in NHL would be made to look under average if they join the Edmonton Oilers.

    • Hi Roland thanks for reading. You make a good point in terms of the calibre of defence in front of the goaltending and there would naturally be an adjustment for both Scrivens and Fasth especially from the teams they came from. However part of the reason was also that they were backups and played limited games and often against lesser teams. They have also been inconsistent within their own games and have allowed far too many weak goals. I agree they are better goaltenders than their numbers reflect but they are not frontline starters either.

      • Not really. Fasth and Scrivens both played regularly against highest level competition because they were subbing in for injured starters for extended periods. At one point Fasth was even the #1 goalie with the Ducks. Scrivens even played well back in Toronto. What both face in Edmonton is a bad defensive group, and forwards who are indifferent to defensive play. While I wouldn’t say either are elite, I would maintain that neither are the biggest problem with this team.

        • Yes you’re right that they did fill in as #1 but briefly. Fasth was fantastic in his 25 games that year but a small sample size. Scrivens also had great numbers subbing for Quick but again small sample size and even he was supplanted by Martin Jones then. The argument can be made that they may not be the biggest problem however it is the most important problem to fix

  4. Nice article Carl! Edmonton’s recent draft picks have followed the old pattern of picking the best (?) player available instead of the best player available at the position they really need (goalie). No substantial deals followed these high draft picks to upgrade their need for goaltending. In the 2005 Entry Draft Montreal picked Cary Price 5th overall to fill a big hole which was never filled when Patrick Roy’s departed; some would argue that Price was not the best player available. Maybe Edmonton needs to “pull out the draft pick wallet” and make a win-win trade when a goalie is available! How about Jordan Eberle to Montreal for Dustin Tokarski and Christian Thomas? Worth thinking about!

  5. Good thing we didn’t take bobby Lou for the bag of pucks that was offered or Schneider for our 7th (nurse) and arcobello.

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