John Gibson (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Edmonton Oilers have a great core group of forwards with Connor McDavid on his way come draft day. But they’ve struggled defensively and only have one NHL goaltender under contract for next season. Where will the Oilers look for help between the pipes?
The Oilers organizational overhaul is well underway and things seem to be heading in the right direction in Edmonton. Connor McDavid is almost certainly coming to town, recently hired GM Peter Chiarelli has the experience and pedigree that should give fans a reason to be excited and new coach Todd McLellan has a great track record.
The issues with the Oilers were deeper than simply shifting around the front office, though. With all the talent up front – talented forwards such as Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov – it seemed to many like it could have been enough firepower to at least get Edmonton out of the NHL’s basement. The holes on the backend and in goal sank the Oilers, though.
On defense, things are looking better. Darnell Nurse should be ready to make the jump to the NHL soon, Oscar Klefbom is coming along nicely and Justin Schultz might be able to be had for cheap with hopes that he’ll improve. But in goal, there’s not much to be excited about right now if you’re an Oilers fan. That’s concerning, too, because Laurent Brossoit is at least a few years away and heading into 2015-16, Edmonton only has one goaltender, Ben Scrivens, ready for big league duty.
However, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that the Oilers have called the Anaheim Ducks about John Gibson, the Ottawa Senators about Robin Lehner and the New York Rangers about Cam Talbot. If Scrivens is added to that mix, that gives four potential options for the Edmonton Oilers next season. Here’s how they stack up:
Ben Scrivens, 28, Edmonton Oilers
Since arriving in Edmonton, Scrivens hasn’t posted a goals-against average lower than 3.01. In his first 21 games with the organization following his trade to the Oilers from the Los Angeles Kings, Scrivens registered a 3.01 GAA and .916 save percentage, but his totals slipped drastically this season under a heavier workload.
In 57 contests for Edmonton, Scrivens won just 15 games and posted one shutout to go along with a .890 SP and 3.16 GAA. At 5-on-5, when the bulk of his work came, Scrivens had a SP of .900. Of the 63 goaltenders who saw at least 500 minutes of action, his save percentage number was 59th.
That said, Scrivens has shown moments of brilliance and, with a good team in front of him at the World Championship in 2013-14, he went 3-1 with a 1.74 GAA and .937 SP. The same can be said for Los Angeles, where Scrivens had a 7-5-4 record in 2013-14 with a 1.97 GAA and .931 SP in 19 appearances. If the team improves around him, Scrivens can be a more than capable netminder, but the Oilers would likely have to take their lumps in the meantime.
Cam Talbot, 27, New York Rangers
Other than Devan Dubnyk, who went from AHL starter to a legitimately sought after free agent NHL netminder in the span of one season, it would be hard to name a single goaltender who saw their stock rise as much as Talbot did this season.
When Henrik Ludnqvist went down and Talbot took over as the Rangers starter, the second-year goaltender put together an incredible run and one that made him a legitimate trade chip for the Rangers should they seek to move him. In 36 games, Talbot went 21-9-4, posted five shutouts with a 2.21 GAA and .926 SP. On top of that, at 5-on-5, Talbot was the 10th best goaltender in the entire league. With five a side, Talbot’s SP was a fantastic .930 and put him in the same company as Lundqvist, Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider and Corey Crawford.
Talbot has starter written all over him and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next season. If the Rangers want to get value for him, now would be the time. And Talbot knows he’s not going to be the starter for the Rangers, especially considering Lundqvist is still under contract for another seven seasons at $8.5 million per year.
Robin Lehner, 23, Ottawa Senators
Has Lehner shown that he can absolutely be a starter in the NHL? Not quite yet. But does he have the size and skill to become a big league goaltender? Without a doubt.
There’s a good chance that Lehner or Craig Anderson is moved before the start of the 2015-16 campaign and, as young as he is, Lehner could give the Oilers a young, quality netminder to start building around.
His numbers aren’t going to blow anyone away – he had a 3.02 GAA, .905 SP and his 5-on-5 SP was barely better than Scrivens’ – but he has four years to grow before he reaches the age of Edmonton’s current starter. A good goaltending coach could do a lot with Lehner’s size and his numbers in the AHL haven’t been awful.
However, nabbing Lehner from the Senators might simply mean another goaltender who needs the defense first before he can start stealing a bunch of games. He’s also the only goaltender locked up for at least two years at a cheap price – each year of his service would cost Edmonton $2.225 million.
John Gibson, 22, Anaheim Ducks
There’s only going to be room in Anaheim for one starting goalie and, eventually, Ducks GM Bob Murray is going to have to decide whether he wants to run with Frederik Andersen or Gibson. Andersen, for the past two seasons at least, has been ahead of Gibson on the depth chart. In the post-season this year, it was Andersen, not Gibson, who, rightfully so, won the job in goal and help on to it.
But Gibson only has one year left on a deal that pays him $721,666 for this season and Andersen will also be a restricted free agent next year expecting a raise from the $1.15 million he’s making at the moment. It would be strange to see Murray part with Gibson quite yet, though, because it seems as though the 2015-16 campaign tees itself up perfectly for a battle between the two netminders to see who can take the reins for the Ducks for years to come.
At 5-on-5, Gibson was the superior goaltender in 2014-15. He posted a SP of .926 through nearly 1,110 minutes at even strength. Andersen, on the other hand, had a .920 SP across 2,400 minutes at 5-on-5.
The Oilers calling about Gibson might be nothing more than tire-kicking at this point, because it seems unwise for Anaheim to move either goaltender quite yet.
Other top contenders could include Antti Niemi (31, UFA, 2.59 GAA, .921 5-on-5 SP), Antti Raanta (26, Chicago, 1.89, .942) and Karri Ramo (28, UFA, 2.60, .917). Dubnyk, a former Oiler who is set to become UFA, likely won’t get far out of the grasps of the Minnesota Wild, but should he get free, it’s not beyond imaginable the Oilers would make a play.
What’s certain, however, is Edmonton does need to lock up another netminder. No matter who it is, they need someone who can provide some stability. Or, at least, more stability than the club got from Viktor Fasth last season, who posted a .896 SP at 5-on-5 last season, one of the worst marks in the entire league.