Rumors of the Edmonton Oilers shopping for a goaltender reached a fever pitch last week, linking them to the Anaheim Ducks (Jonas Hiller), Buffalo Sabres (Ryan Miller), Ottawa Senators (Robin Lehner), St. Louis Blues (Brian Elliott), Toronto Maple Leafs (James Reimer) and Washington Capitals (Michal Neuvirth).
Entering this week, however, it appears Oilers GM Craig MacTavish will stick with his current tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Jason Labarbera.
The Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones last Friday reported MacTavish acknowledged his club lacks goaltending depth and intends to do something about it, but he’s not giving up on Dubnyk as his starter.
After struggling in his earlier outings, Dubnyk made 35 saves Saturday in backstopping the Oilers to their first road win of the season, a 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
CBC’s Elliotte Friedman believed the Oilers had discussions with the Ducks, Blues and Capitals, but the talks didn’t go far. Sophomore winger Nail Yakupov was rumored as trade bait, but Friedman reported the Oilers aren’t shopping him.
The bottom line is none of the clubs the Oilers contacted are interested in moving a goaltender right now. That could change later in the season, but for now the Oilers have little choice but to stick with their current tandem and hope for the best.
HOLMGREN KNOWN FOR BIG SPLASHES, BUT CAN HE MAKE ONE THIS EARLY?
The struggling Philadelphia Flyers are badly in need of an offensive upgrade, potting only 11 goals in their first eight games.
Sportsnet’s Mark Spector wondered if GM Paul Holmgren might give the Oilers or the equally floundering Buffalo Sabres a call.
Spector believes the Oilers have the scoring wingers Holmgren seeks in Yakupov or Ales Hemsky, while the Sabres could shop pending UFA Thomas Vanek. His suggested Flyers trade bait includes winger Wayne Simmonds (“size and grit”), defenseman Braydon Coburn or center Sean Couturier (“a young centerman with some size”).
The Flyers nearly shipped Coburn to Edmonton in late-June, but the deal fell through. With their blueline in a state of flux, Coburn is probably too valuable to move now.
Holmgren won’t have interest in an expensive ($5 million) and injury-prone Hemsky. The Flyers also like Simmonds’ gritty play so it’s doubtful they’ll shop him.
Couturier was once believed untouchable, but he’s struggled to regain the two-way form which wowed Flyers fans during the 2012 playoffs. One Philadelphia pundit even suggested Couturier, Brayden Schenn and Matt Read might be better off playing elsewhere.
Holmgren has never been afraid to make bold moves, but it’s very difficult in today’s salary cap era to stage a major shakeup early in the season, especially when the lowered salary cap has 24 teams (including the Flyers) possessing $5 million or less in cap space.
STASTNY COULD BE USED TO PROP UP COLORADO DEFENSE
Another week, another round of speculation over Paul Stastny’s future with the Colorado Avalanche.
Statsny, 27, is eligible for UFA status next summer and the Avalanche aren’t expected to re-sign him. His expensive salary ($6.6 million) makes him virtually impossible to move this early in the season, leading to suggestions he could be shopped near the trade deadline, perhaps for a defenseman.
The Denver Post’s Adrian Dater, responding to a reader’s question over potential destinations for Stastny, suggested teams with depth in young defensemen, such as Toronto, Boston or Nashville.
Heading into this season, defense was considered the Avalanche’s Achilles heel. While still giving up a significant number of shots-against per game (25th at 33.8) early in this season, they also have the second-best goals-against per game (1.50).
If they continue to get strong goaltending throughout the season and reduce their shots-against, they won’t have a pressing need to move Stastny for a defenseman. That’s not to suggest they won’t listen to offers as the March trade deadline approaches, but they could consider Stastny’s offense worth retaining down the stretch.