Pad Stacking

One of the biggest holes on this team has been a lack of consistently great goaltending. This team has lacked it probably since Joseph save for maybe a season or two of Salo and Roloson's post trade 2006 season. As for Roloson, he has had some great games and is playing well of late, but he has had some horrendous games to go along with that. What I feel you should be looking for in this position is a goaltender who keeps you in almost every game and will steal you the odd one. This team needs to end the roller coaster ride that its been suffering through for almost a decade. If you look at our track record you will see, consistently good goaltending = playoffs.

So I've tried to compile a list of possibilities that this team could look at come July (I don't see goaltending address at the deadline, we have other issues). When looking at the goaltenders out there I tried to use common sense before putting them on the list. This is why you won't see a guy like Backstrom on this list, there is no way Minnesota lets him walk and if they did it would be for astronomical dollars, which this team has already spent. Some of them are free agents (RFA and UFA) and some would have to come via trade, which I also tried to use common sense on, which is why you won't see Luongo or Brodeur on here :).

I've broken them down into two categories: sure things that you can expect to know what you'll get from them and then projects, who have shown the ability to be good but have not flourished in their current role. Each has its pros and cons, with money being a big one, and as you'll see I've tended to lean towards knowing what you're going to get.


1. LEHTONEN, 25 (RFA) - Second overall draft pick back in 2002 has been mediocre on a bad team. The Thrashers have the 2nd worst GA/G in the league this season and were tied for last in 07/08. He has maintained a sv% over .900 since entering the league. In his four seasons as an NHL starter he's posted: .907, .916, .912, .906 from most recent to least. Lehtonen destroys AHL competition so the possibility of playing for a better defensive team may allow him to become a dominant goaltender in this league.

Money: He was a 3 mill cap hit on what I believe was a one year deal. As an RFA I wonder if it may be easier to trade for his rights then sign for Roloson money?

2. NIITTYMAKI, 28 (UFA) - A late round pick of the flyers, he has not had a great start to his career, but after some rough years he looks to have settled down. Posting career bests with a 2.59 GAA and .916 sv% he is outdoing his counterpart on the Flyers (Biron) and getting less playing time. I'm not sure what the Flyers plans are for who they intend to keep (both are UFAs) but I think NIITTYMAKI is worth a look.

Money: He was a 1.225 cap hit so his price tag should not be much, possibly as low as in the 2.0 million range.

3. KHABIBULIN, 36 (UFA) - The dominating, cup-winner that was great for Tampa has been far from since signing his big contract with Chicago. But this season with Chicago's resurgance as a dominat team Khabibulin has also recovered posting 2.37 GAA and .924 sv%, so we know he has the possibility to be a great goaltender. I do have reasons for putting him in this group. For one, who knows what his intentions are going forward and what the possibility of Edmonton being in his plans. Another is his age, he has been splitting games 50/50 with Heut and at 36 he likely only has a couple years left but at what level and for how many games?

Money: Coming off a 6.75 mill 5 year deal I doubt he is looking for a big pay cut. Your likely paying at the least 6.0 for his services.

4. LECLAIRE, 26 (2yrs/3.8mil) - The 8th overall pick in 2001 has had a hit and miss career. In 07-08 he was amazing, posting a 2.25 GAA/.919 sv% and league leading 9 shutouts only to be snubbed from Vezina voting and not even receive a single vote (11 goalies did). This season Leclaire has been out a large portion of the year with an ankle injury. He's young and not exactly proven, but if you could get similar seasons like last year out of him you'd be in the gravy. If Mason is CBJ's goalie going forward they may look to deal Leclaire to get depth and make a playoff push.

Money: he has 2 years left at a 3.8mil cap hit then UFA. Takes Roloson's money and is signed for another two years.


5. GIGUERE, 31 (2yrs/6.0) - Since joining Anaheim he has elevated his career to be a great starting goalie, even winning the Conn Smythe in '03 on the losing team. Amazing numbers since the lockout, Giguere has faltered this year. He is being outplayed by his counterpart Hiller, and being out played badly. Giguere is posting a 3.09 GAA and .903 sv% in 35gp compared to Hiller's 2.20 GAA and .924 sv% in 30 gp. Hiller is a 24 year old sophmore but Anaheim may want to throw the reins to him come next season. Its a positive asset just to remove Giguere's cap hit off the books. As for Edmonton, even though Giguere is having a bad year he too good of a goalie to be bad for long and a new motivation may be what he needs.

Money: Edmonton would need to clear cap space for him, as Roloson will only be 3.667 coming off of our books.

6. FERNANDEZ, 34 (UFA) - Was a very good goalie in Minnesota (why they trade Roloson to us) and when he plays he has continued that in Boston. The problem with Fernandez has been a nagging knee injury that wiped out his entire year last year and caused him to miss ample time the year before, including the playoffs. But if you can get a healthy Fernandez you have a great starter that will provide you with consistent goaltending. He's taking about 40% of the games in Boston and isn't being outdone by their hero Thomas (GAA 2.12 / 2.15 SV% .931 / .925) so both are putting up equal stats. Age and injuries may be risky with him, but he is likely available as Boston will choose to keep the higher profile Thomas.

Money: coming off of a deal that had a 4.33 cap hit Fernandez will be looking for money in the 5.0+ range and his boxcars are likely slightly inflated playing on a dominating team like the Bruins.

There are some interesting choices this offseason and there is definately options available to the Oilers to shore up their goaltending situation. There are questions as to whether this team should spend money on goaltending or go with a journyman and use the money elsewhere in the roster. I think with a very good defence and excellent goaltending this team can go far, especially in the second season where these things stand out more than any other.

Just some food for thought regarding the available tenders this summer.


Jon G said...

What about Backstrom? Would you want the Oilers to go out and try to poach from a division rival if possible. It would likely take 5 million plus, and if they trade Gaborik probably even more.

Backhand said...

I kind of contradicted myself by mentioning Giguere and Khabby but they are in there for discussion. It would be great to have Backstrom, but there is no way I pay him the 7 mill he'll likely command. In fact i'm not big on paying any UFA that much with our salary.

Losing Roloson's cap hit of 3.6 isn't enough to counter that much money unless we dump salary on defence or forward. It would put us over the limit if we replace Cole.

Dreger on TSN mentioned Lehtonen may be available, but he also mentioned the Flyers could be interested. I like Lehtonen best as a good risk/reward bet for about Roloson's money. Maybe 3yr/12mil in a sign/trade sort of deal.

It would be interesting to see what the compensation is for that but you have to think ATL matches if nothing else but to trade him.

If the Flyers pick him up that puts the Biron/Niittymaki tandem ready to be scooped so I think thats worth looking at for the right price.