Bare with me on this blog. It was written quickly as it has been a long time since HB's actual Oilers Blogger has said anything. A week before the Oilers make 5 picks early in the draft and the best rumors are found on TSN and their website sucks. Like it or not, someone had to say something at all about the club as this is truly a momentous time for the Oilers club that will be without Lowe for the first time since the late 90s.
The Oilers have proven they are committed to change. During the off season they have replaced their entire coaching staff, GM and reorganized the head of their operations that saw long standing Oilers brass, Kevin Lowe, given what appears to be a position with no actual influence on the club itself. The have brought in a veteran coaching staff and a proven GM. This was overdue and is definitely a step in the right direction. However the Oilers themselves are incredibly unique and the new GM will have to adjust as much as the players.
The first real test for Peter Chiarelli appears to be the draft as the Oilers have five picks in the top 63 including the first overall. Long term it might be the hiring of Todd McLellan as head coach that proves to be the biggest influence on the club. However the biggest task ahead of him is filling holes in the Oilers lineup. The most important of which is finding a new starting goaltender.
With Fasth’s contract expired the Oilers only have one NHL Caliber net minder left, Ben Scrivens. Scriven’s has been given the chance to start for the Oilers in the past and despite any improvement made to the team it is unlikely he will ever be a starting NHL goalie again. Scriven’s will likely play a strictly backup role for the Oilers until his contract expires next summer.
The Oilers have many choices for a starting goalie but with their young blue line it will be a challenge for any player looking to perform between the pipes for the Oilers next season. That said, with the new arena nearing completion, the need for the Oilers to improve appears greater than it has since the 1990’s. Certainly the addition of CHL playoff MVP Leon Draisatl, Darnel Nurse who is coming off an amazing CHL year and the CHL’s best player Connor McDavid, the team has to improve. However with the youth of this team there will be a lot of need for consistent net minding for the Oilers.
The Oilers are in a very interesting position. They have a large number of first round picks on their current roster and this should include four first overall picks. The team doesn’t have a large number of promising prospects but that is mainly because the club has their young players in the NHL. The team doesn’t currently have a huge need to add more players to develop next draft. Especially if they use their top 5 picks this year. There has arguably never been a team that could utilize the offer sheet clause created in the original CBA. Paying up to 7 million for an RFA would cost the Oilers their first 3 picks next draft and arguably it would be worth it for the right player.
Out of the people that think the Oilers should consider trying to sign a player to an offer sheet, it appears the consensus player would be Boston Defenseman Dougie Hamillton. The Oilers have a pressing need to add a defender that can play a 1-2 role on their blue line. The problem with signing Hamilton to an offer sheet is that all indications suggest that he will get a contract around 7 million a year from Boston. Any reasonable offer the Oilers sign Dougie to will almost certainly be matched by the Bruins.
There is some fans that believe the offer sheet should be used to secure RFA Holtby. The Capitals net minder is arguable the best free agent goalie available this season. Holtby has played in 5 NHL seasons so far and posted strong numbers even after you consider Washington’s strong defensive playing. Last year the 25 year old put up 9 shut outs and is considered by many to be one of the top 10 best goalies in the NHL. With goalie salaries currently not as high as defensemen, there is a chance that the Oilers could sign Holtby to an offer sheet that the Capitals won’t match. However the likely hood of this is quite slim.
Despite rumors that the Oilers are interested in signing UFA Niemi to a contract, I think this is a last resort. There is some chance that they sign Niemi with the plans of playing him as a 1B goalie and still try to acquire their starter later. This would allow an Oilers team a chance to add a goalie sometime before the 2016-2017 season. The club does have a chance of making the playoffs for the first time since 2007 but the odds of them getting past the first round if they did is slim at best. Niemi does have the ability to play an NHL starting role for the club but with his past performance with the Sharks, I wouldn’t hold out hope of many shut outs.
This means that the Oilers will most likely have to trade for a goalie. Rumors are that Talbot and Gibson are both available. Both teams are shopping them but they maintain the position that they don't need to trade them as they both have a year left on their contract with a great price tag. The reality of this is that both Goalies are backups to strong starters and after this summer, their value goes down significantly. There is a chance that a team trades for one due to injuries or so they don't go into the playoffs with just one goalie at the trade deadline but there is little chance that any team in a playoff run doesn't already have a starter that has got them there. After that they are looking at trading their rights for next to nothing.
The Oilers very well might grab one of these goalies or even both to see if they are a good fit. Their main competition seems to be the Sharks and rumor is that they are in talks with Niemi right now. Either Talbot or Gibson might be great starters but the Oilers do have the means to do a 1A and 1B tandem with them as their appears to be no love loss if Scrivens doesn't start another game. Despite rumors I don't think either goalie is worth more than a second round pick as draft picks seem to be worth more and more to GMs each passing year and this is a deep draft.
There are rumors of other goalies on the market. Elliot and Lack are two names that are thrown about. Elliot has a long standing record of putting up big numbers in the SO category but I don't think the Oilers Defense is strong enough to let him continue that. Anyone thinking Lack is an NHL starting goalie in caliber is either related to him or a Canucks fan hoping they get a huge return for him. Without some sort of bias though, Lack is obviously a below average goalie with four strong defenders in front of him.
The last and one I am sure the Oilers are at least going to pick up the phone about is Craig Anderson. There is talk that either Ottawa goalie is up for grabs as they are happy with the three they have but it seems that Anderson is the name that Ottawa is shopping (according to quotes on TSN's website). Anderson is a solid goalie that could turn out to be another Bishop when traded.
He also might be the biggest gamble for a new GM to do. It is likely that he will get a higher return than Talbot or Gibson based mainly on having more experience as a starting goalie. No matter how good he is, it will be tough to battle through next season with the young Oilers team. The Oilers have a huge need for two solid, experienced defenders but they are not yet desperate for them.
The Oilers have Schultz, Fayne, Nikitin, Ference, Marincin, Klefbom and most likely Nurse that can take up the minutes needed. I don't think anyone expects the Oilers to be cup contenders and honestly, as long as the Oilers aren't bottom five, I think everyone will see the drastic improvement. They won't be able to part with Fayne, Nikitin or Ference and they have no need to trade their four prospects. Value for any of the Oilers blue line is most likely at an all time low.
Nikitin is a UFA next year and Fayne will most likely have to be bought out as he has three years left on his contract. Nothing against Mark as a player but the Oilers will need to add players better than him to contend and he will most likely be a 3.6 million 5-6 guy for the Oilers in two years. The Oilers would be smart to package him this off season and give more ice time to their young talent. Regardless of whether they add a player or not, they should do their best to develop their young core and all of them could out perform him before the season even starts making him the 6-7 man. Worst case scenario they have Hunt as a seventh if there are injuries.
Whatever goalie the Oilers pick up, he might very well be on his own in terms of rebounds or clearing guys in front of his net. A tough role for any tender. Depending on the price, I am sure the Oilers aren't opposed to adding two goalies just in case. There has never been a lot of expectations on this young Oiler's club from the fans but I think Draisaitl, Nurse and McDavid have rekindled hope. Tough to tell what another losing season would do to the organization who have hung the blame on MacTavish and Lowe. Whether that is justified or not, the Oiler's brass has made a significant step. Problem is that it now falls on Chiarelli to prove that the step is in the right direction. A solid goalie would definitely go a long way for the new GM, the organization and at this point, most importantly, unbelievably patient fans.