Oilers Search For Backup Continues This Summer

The Edmonton Oilers are coming into Peter Chiarelli’s second off-season with the club and he has his work cut out for him. Another finish in the NHL basement and another Top 5 pick, fans must feel like they’re in the movie Groundhog Day. A little Bill Murray might lift some spirits but the fact remains the team has some gapping holes they need to address before climbing out of the basement; a top-pairing defender, a top six forward, a top nine forward and even a backup goalie.

The backup job in 2016-17 is going to be important because of the compact schedule due to the World Cup of Hockey. Yes there will be a bye week for each team this season but there will also be more back-to-back games and it should be expected we see fewer goalies playing into the 70-game mark. Cam Talbot will be coming into his second season as a No. 1 in the NHL and the Oilers will need some insurance behind him to spell him off for 20-25 games. They weren’t able to find that in Ben Scrivens, Anders Nilsson, Viktor Fasth or even a young Laurent Brossoit the past few years and it’s cost them dearly in the standings.

Related: Busy Off-Season For Canadian Teams

Related: Brossoit Need NOT Be Oilers Backup Next Season

Edmonton finished in the lower rankings of the league in goals against and the team’s overall corsi effort isn’t much better either. The Oilers desperately need someone to play minutes behind Talbot and despite Brossoit’s pedigree he hasn’t shown it at the NHL level aside from that one game everyone remembers against San Jose where he made 49 saves, two years ago. The Oilers best bet is to send Brossoit back to the AHL to split starts with newcomer Nick Ellis. The second part of that is to find a reliable backup in free agency.

There are several options available and the market is quite saturated with goaltenders. With teams distracted looking for the likes of big-ticket trade targets like Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury, there is a glut of backups to pick from.

Below are some targets for the Oilers this summer with the big finds being the likes of Chad Johnson, Jhonas Enroth, James Reimer and so forth.

We will not be including two former Oiler goaltenders who were moved last season in Anders Nilsson (to St. Louis) and Ben Scrivens (to Montreal). Neither will be returning to Edmonton next season after Nilsson struggled with consistency and Scrivens was demoted to the AHL at the start of next season only making his way back to the NHL with the Canadiens once Carey Price was injured.

Nilsson is an RFA this summer and the Blues have several prospects like Ville Husso, Jordan Binnington and Phoenix Copley that will likely see minor league minutes behind the NHL pairing of Jake Allen and Brian Elliott. Scrivens as well will likely have to look for a third-string position elsewhere in the league mentoring a young up and comer  that provides injury relief at the NHL level.

Laurent Brossoit

Player Age 16-17 Cap Hit GP W L SO GAA SV%
 Laurent Brossoit 23 $750K 5 0 5 0 3.60 0.873

Analysis: Brossoit was re-signed to a two-year extension this spring and is waiver exempt right now. After a stellar year in the AHL playing 31 games with a 0.920 SV% and all-star game appearance, he was primed for the backup job once Nilsson was traded. However he struggled down the stretch and the team went back with Talbot on many a night because of it. He had a good junior career and his AHL numbers have been good as well but he hasn’t translated that to the NHL level.

It’s safe to say the young goaltender needs one more year in the AHL as a starter before coming up to the team full-time in 2017-18.

Jhonas Enroth

Player Age 15-16 Cap Hit GP W L SO GAA SV%
Los Angeles Kings Jhonas Enroth (UFA) 27 $1.2M 16 7 5 2 2.17 0.922

Analysis: Enroth might be one of the best backups in the NHL right now and voiced his displeasure of playing just 16 games behind a workhorse in Jonathan Quick. He enters the market with some of the best numbers for a backup and will get himself any backup job he wants with his age and consistently strong numbers over the past few seasons. Has a smaller frame for an NHL goalie at 5’11”, 175lbs but is competitive, agile, has a good glove and brings a workman’s attitude.

If the Oilers were able to sign him he’d be more than capable of playing 25 + games behind Talbot.

Chad Johnson

Player Age 15-16 Cap Hit GP W L SO GAA SV%
Buffalo Sabres Chad Johnson (UFA) 30 $1.6M 45 22 16 1 2.36 0.920

Analysis: Johnson might be the first backup off the market this summer considering he was forced into the No. 1 job in Buffalo when Robin Lehner was injured for the first half of the year. Playing with his fifth NHL club in seven seasons, Johnson has become a journeyman finally netting his first two-year deal with a club in 2014-15 with the NY Islanders.

Still at 6’3″, 193lbs he has put together a few decent seasons as a backup and showed he’s capable of playing the 20-25 games the Oilers will need next season.

Darcy Kuemper

Player Age 15-16 Cap Hit GP W L SO GAA SV%
Minnesota Wild Darcy Kuemper (RFA) 26 $1.5M 21 6 7 2 2.43 0.915

Analysis: At one point Kuemper was thought to be Minnesota’s heir apparent in-goal but the acquisition of Devan Dubnyk has limited Kuemper’s role with the franchise. An RFA this summer with one year away from UFA eligibility the Wild may not want to lose him for nothing. Sources have stated Kuemper is still wanting to prove his abilities to become a No. 1 goalie and may have to leave the Wild to get that opportunity. At 6’5″, 212lbs he has tremendous size that fills the net, strong puckhandling skills and is athletic for his  frame.

He’s further ahead in age and experience than a Brossoit at the NHL level and has looked decent in 84 NHL games posting a career 2.47 GAA and 0.912 SV%. He does however have a knack for some shaky starts so building consistency is going to be a challenge. The Oilers would have to trade for his rights as an RFA remember.

Al Montoya

Player Age 15-16 Cap Hit GP W L SO GAA SV%
Florida Panthers Al Montoya (UFA) 31 $1.1M 25 12 7 0 2.18 0.919

Analysis: Montoya took the long road and at one point looked like an absolute bust for being a former Top 10 pick in the NHL Draft. He won’t be a starter but he’s proved to be a capable backup when healthy. Struggled with injuries the past few seasons but when healthy can be relied on to carry a decent workload for a No. 2 goalie. Montoya and the Panthers were unable to come to terms so he’ll be heading to free agency this summer.

The 31-year-old has great puckhandling skills and plays like a third defender in his zone but has a tendency to let in bad goals. He’s competitive, battles hard and when he’s on his game can will his team to a win. This summer he will be moving onto his sixth franchise since being drafted in 2004.

James Reimer

Player Age 15-16 Cap Hit GP W L SO GAA SV%
San Jose Sharks James Reimer (UFA) 28 $2.0M 40 17 14 3 2.31 0.922

Analysis: Lots of rumors suggest Reimer will end up in Calgary due to some known ties for former-Leafs GM Brian Burke and being from western Canada. Reimer will be highly sought after this summer since he’s a top-tier backup that can play a 1B (25-35 games) role. He struggled for periods in Toronto but the Leafs were one of the worst defensive teams in the league when Reimer played there.

A trade and resurgence with the Sharks this spring showed he’s still a capable goaltender in this league. At 28 years old he’s got good size at 6’2 217lbs, technical abilities and competes well in the crease. A guy looking for a showcase opportunity that might net him another 1A/1B situation Edmonton might be a good fit where Talbot is entering just his second full season as a starter.

Others

Arizona Coyotes Louis Domingue (RFA) – 24-year-old is an RFA that played 39 games last season when Mike Smith went down with injury and bumped Anders Lindback to the No. 3 job in the process of stringing together a decent year. Looked shaky at times but had just 7 games of NHL experience prior to playing 39 games and posting 15 wins in 39 games plus a 2.75 GAA and 0.912 SV%. Unlikely to be available, Coyotes will re-sign him to a short-term deal to return as the No. 2 behind a healthy Smith.

Boston Bruins Jonas Gustavsson (UFA) – In 24 games Gustavsson posted a 2.72 GAA and 0.908 SV% backing up Tuukka Rask. He’s played on three teams in seven seasons and the Bruins are leaning towards Malcolm Subban for the backup job behind Rask. Gustavsson will get plenty of attention due to his size and athleticism but his numbers have been middling for a backup.

Nashville Predators Carter Hutton (UFA) – Playing behind Pekka Rinne he got into 17 games with the Predators filling in admirably when Rinne had his early season struggles. Didn’t play as much down the stretch but finished the year with a 2.33 GAA and 0.918 SV%. Nashville has Marek Mazanec and Juuse Saros coming down the pipe and may turn to one of them for the backup role next season. The 6’1 200lb goaltender has played all but one of his 76 NHL games with the Predators posting a career 2.56 GAA and 0.910 SV%, will easily land another job this summer.

Arizona Coyotes Anders Lindback (UFA) – Once pegged to be a future starter the 6’6″ 216lbs goaltender has bounced around five teams in the last six years. He struggled with just 5 wins in 19 games and a 3.11 GAA and 0.894 SV%. The 28-year-old will be a cheaper option this summer but Edmonton has a better in-house option in Brossoit.

Calgary Flames Joni Ortio (RFA) – The Flames 25-year-old “Goalie of the Future” had a tough season with a 2.76 GAA and 0.902 SV% in 22 games. With Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo hitting the UFA market, it makes Ortio likely to return as the No. 2. Jon Gillies now has that “Goalie of the Future” tag but is a few years away from making an impact. Calgary will need the Finnish youngster to have a stronger showing in 2016-17. Stranger things have happened and Ortio could be shuffled out which would make him an enticing target but has just 37 NHL games on his resume.

Colorado Avalanche Calvin Pickard (RFA) – An RFA playing behind Semyon Varlamov in Colorado, Pickard is still waiting for his time as a starter. He’s become a valuable trade chip for the Avalanche who are looking to improve their backend and add another top six forward this summer. Posted a 2.56 GAA and 0.922 SV% in 20 games but has posted strong numbers in consecutive years and put in a star performance at the 2016 World Championships for Canada.

Calgary Flames Karri Ramo (UFA) – Soon to be 30-year-old had a tough season after hoping to battle for a starting job with Jonas Hiller where neither really won over management. Ramo has struggled with consistency throughout his return to the NHL. Posted 2.63 GAA and .909 SV% in 37 games with Flames, could end up back in KHL if he doesn’t land an NHL job. Something suggests there is at least one more team that will give him a one year deal to show his NHL value.