Why do the Oilers have to Trade Somebody?

There have been a few reports surrounding the Edmonton Oilers about their need to trade one of their young forwards in order to acquire a goaltender. Now granted, the goaltending in Edmonton is pretty bad, and it’s something they need to address if they want to compete in the Western Conference. But it seems as though every time the Oilers come up in conversation, there’s the obligatory paragraph about which player they need to trade. I understand that in order get something, you have to give something. I also understand that there are slim pickings in the free agent goaltending market.

Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle
(Dustin Bradford/Icon SMI)

At this point, the Oilers aren’t in a cap crunch. They don’t have to trade anyone off their roster just for the sake of it. If there is a great deal to be made, then obviously they have to do their due diligence to explore it. But the constant debates over who they need to move, should they trade Hall or Eberle, or Yakupov or Draisaitl? How about hanging onto all of them for now? “But we need a goalie!” Yes, that’s true, but in terms of trading a good young player for a goalie, I’d be cautious, because there aren’t a ton of sure-fire options available.

A Goalie from Ottawa?

Since NCAA goaltender Matt O’Connor chose to sign with the Senators, the crease in Ottawa became even more crowded than before. Let’s start with Craig Anderson, who is under contract for the next two seasons. He’s set to make $4.75 million next season and $3.1 million in the final year. Anderson, despite putting up fantastic numbers the past few seasons, is about to turn 34 years old. He would be great right now, but are the Oilers really ready to contend right now? Does Anderson make them a contender? He has a good track record, but I don’t see how it makes sense to trade a young player with upside for a goalie who is meant to help you win now. What kind of value would Ottawa want back in a return for Anderson? It would likely end up being an over-payment, but that’s the case with any of the Sens goalies right now.

Robin Lehner has been the next great Ottawa goalie for a while now, but he’s never really seemed to find his groove. In 86 regular season NHL games, Lehner has a 2.88 goals against average and .914 save percentage. He’s just 23 years old, but he’s failed to really take control of the starting role in Ottawa. And, his current health complicates the matter. He’s still suffering for post-concussion symptoms. No doubt the Senators learned their lesson with Ben Bishop, a trade in which they moved a goalie for far less than what he was worth. Would they demand a guy like Nail Yakupov in return? What about the 16th overall pick? Lehner could be a great NHL goalie but he’s dealt with a lot of injury problems, and he’s had his struggles with consistency. Is acquiring Lehner the right move for the Oilers?

Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators, NHL, Milestones
(Steve Alkok-USA TODAY Sports)

A lot of people have been asking about Andrew Hammond, but he’s a UFA on July 1st. There was a report that the Senators were going to offer him a new contract, but that may have changed with the presence of O’Connor. Hammond came out of nowhere to lead the Sens on a remarkable run to the playoffs and quickly became a cult hero in Ottawa. But the luck of the “Hamburgler” eventually ran out, and he found himself on the bench by the end of the series against Montreal. If Hammond does re-sign in Ottawa, however, then they would have to trade a goalie. But there’s so many question marks all around, and I wouldn’t assume the Oilers are the perfect trading partner.

How about Martin Jones or Cam Talbot?

When New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist went down with an injury this season, 27 year-old backup Cam Talbot stepped in and the team didn’t miss a beat. He only lost five games in regulation during the time Lundqvist was hurt (24 games). Now was that due in a part to the fact the Rangers are a really good team and have a strong defence? That’s going to be in the back of people’s minds while evaluating him. But he certainly held his own in the crease. He has a very cap-friendly hit of $1.45 million for next season, but you’re taking a gamble on a guy like Talbot. If the Rangers even choose to move him, what would they ask for in return? He’s coming off a great run, and his value is arguably higher than it’s ever been. Do you move a piece off your roster for a guy that isn’t really that proven? Is that what the Oilers need?

The other guy whose name has surfaced in reports is Martin Jones of the Los Angeles Kings. He won’t see any starting duty as long as Jonathan Quick is around. The 25 year-old has a career 1.99 goals against average in 34 regular season NHL games. That’s a very small sample size. Jones is an RFA this summer, which makes the prospect of dealing him a little more dicey. Can they Oilers get him for less because he isn’t signed? Possibly, but the Kings may be ready to offer him a new contract. He’s another guy who is very inexperienced and you really don’t know what you’re getting. It would make me nervous to give up something of value for an unknown commodity.

What about Jimmy Howard?

Perhaps the most intriguing name is Jimmy Howard, who lost his starting job to back-up Petr Mrazek and seemed to have also lost the confidence of his head coach. Howard comes with an expensive contract that he signed back in 2013 for six years at $5.3 million per season. He’s now 31 years old, and has seen some difficult times as of late. There’s no guarantee that he will be the Red Wings starter next season, though a new head coach might make the difference there. The Wings are a team with a lot of good young talent but their stars are getting older. Would they move a guy like Howard to bring in some new blood? Do they trust Mrazek enough to be their starting guy? He certainly performed well in the playoffs.

(Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)
(Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports)

If Detroit wants to move Howard, they will ask for a lot in return, and again, do the Oilers want to give up one of their young forwards for a starter who hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire? I mean why not try to get a guy like Antti Niemi in free agency. He’s just as much of a risk as Howard but you don’t have to give anything up for him. A good goalie isn’t just going to fall out of the sky. And it’s easy to come up with trade proposals because they make sense in your head. But the Oilers have to be very careful about giving up players for goalies that may not pan out. Maybe their answer is Finnish goalie Eetu Laurikainen who they have been rumored to be after. (No not really, but who knows, he could be good).

In any case, if Oilers management listened to some of the fans out there, Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, Draisaitl and the 16th overall pick would all be traded by now. So good thing they don’t. I understand the desire to improve this team. I understand the need for a real number one goalie. But if the Oilers do trade someone, it’s got to be for more of a sure thing, or they will most certainly get the raw end of the deal. And I think that’s happened enough in Edmonton.