Oilers Take A Flyer On Anders Nilsson

Over the past eight weeks, the Edmonton Oilers have added three goaltenders from outside the organization, in hopes of addressing an obvious weakness. While Peter Chiarelli is banking on Cam Talbot being able to carry the mail as an NHL starting netminder in the here and now, he is also hoping one of Laurent Brossoit or Eetu Laurikainen will eventually develop into a so-called goalie of the future.

[Related Article: Oilers Take Calculated Risk In Acquiring Cam Talbot]

With that said, yesterday’s somewhat surprising acquisition of  Anders Nilsson from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for prospect Liam Coughlin could very well mean Ben Scrivens has played his last game in Oilers silks. Despite the former Cornell graduate’s dreadful performance in 2014-15, it does seem odd the organization would be willing to roll the dice on an unproven commodity to be their backup goaltender for the upcoming 2015-16 season. And yet that appears to be a risk they seem more than comfortable taking.

Nilsson Impressed During KHL Stint

After failing to make his mark during his three-year stint in the AHL and brief audition with the New York Islanders, Nilsson decided to sign with Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL following the 2013-14 season. While Garth Snow included his rights in a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks that enabled him to acquire defenceman Nick Leddy, the move had little to no impact on towering Swede’s immediate future. Either way, he was headed to Russia for the 2014-15 campaign.

To his credit, the former 2009 third round pick made the most of his opportunity. He finished second among goaltenders with a .936 SV% in 38 regular season games and maintained the same number throughout his 20 post-season appearances. After struggling to consistently register anything more than .900 SV% in North America, the 25-year old managed to post a .935 SV% and 1.65 GAA while going 33-16-8 during his first kick at the can in the KHL.

Not surprisingly, his work did not go unnoticed and the Oilers saw enough to make a move to bring him on board. At 6’5″ and 225 pounds, Nilsson is your prototypical modern-day goaltender. By the sounds of it, he is a big athletic netminder who has shown flashes of having a high-end game but has yet to show the ability to put it together on a consistent basis. With that being the case, the fact Edmonton inked him to a one-way deal left many scratching their head.

Ben Scrivens
(Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Has Scrivens Worn Out His Welcome?

Regardless of the contract situation, the numbers he put together in the KHL don’t necessarily translate to guaranteed success at the NHL level. With Talbot’s track  record being as limited as it is, one can easily make the argument that Edmonton would be wise to have an experienced option in case he falters in his new role as a No. 1 goalie. Scrivens did struggle badly during his first full season with the Oilers, but his body of work does suggest he has the ability to a be solid No. 2.

In other words, if used correctly, the Spruce Grove native should be more than capable of delivering the sort of performance one would expect from their backup goalie. Unfortunately for him, the vast majority of this fan base and some within the organization are no longer sold on the 28-year old being part of the solution. Funny how that works, considering they were both more than ready to hand Scrivens the keys to the car heading into last season.

With Brossoit expected to be the go-to-guy with the Bakersfield Condors and Laurikainen likely headed to the ECHL and the No. 1 role with the Norfolk Admirals, it looks as though Nilsson has been brought in for one reason. While he was never given much of a chance at being part of the solution with the Islanders, that won’t be the case in Edmonton. Now it will be up to him to make the most of that opportunity.