Things went from bad to worse for the Edmonton Oilers’ 2017-18 season when dependable starting goaltender Cam Talbot went down with and upper body injury and landed on IR and could remain out through December. His replacement, Laurent Brossoit, is struggling and that’s putting it gently. In 8 appearances, Brossoit has one win, an .872 save percentage, and a 3.80 GAA. Neither of the backup options, Nick Ellis or Eddie Pasquale, has any NHL experience, nor has either been given a chance to gain any just yet, nor has either played remarkably well in the AHL as well. It’s a dire situation for a team that is desperate for wins, or else the face a familiar possibility of finishing as one of the league’s worst teams this season.
So what are the options? TSN’s Frank Servalli believes that Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is scouring the trade market for help in net. Servalli lists Buffalo’s Chad Johnson, Winnipeg’s Michael Hutchinson, Philadelphia’s Michal Neuvirth, Toronto’s Calvin Pickard, and Detroit’s Petr Mrazek as the top targets for Edmonton.
Johnson, of course, is known to be on the trade block courtesy of the Sabres’ own struggles and seems to be the best fit of these options as a reliable veteran on a one-year deal. Servalli even states that Johnson, along with Neuvirth, were among the Chiarelli’s free agency targets to be Talbot’s backup. However, as Servalli points out, there could be other suitors for Johnson, which could drive the price up.
More affordable assets to acquire could be Hutchinson or Pickard, due to their teams’ depth in goal. The Maple Leafs acquired Pickard from the Vegas Golden Knights earlier this year, but with Frederik Andersen playing well, a veteran backup in Curtis McElhinney, and other promising young goalies in Garret Sparks and Kasimir Kaskisuo in line, Pickard is expendable. So too could be McElhinney or Sparks as well, if Chiarelli favors those Toronto alternatives. In Winnipeg, the thriving Jets are doing just fine with Connor Hellebuyck, rookie Eric Comrie, and expensive free agent acquistion Steve Mason as their net rotation. A solid goaltender with ties to Chiarelli from the Boston Bruins, fourth-string Hutchinson seems like a likely target.
Mrazek and Neuvirth less so. Mrazek is still young, is making $4MM, and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. It is likely that he would be costly to acquire and costly to re-sign, when the Oilers really just need a stopgap. Neuvirth, who has a year remaining at $2.5MM, could replace Brossoit as the long-term backup to Talbot if Chiarelli so chooses, but also seems like an unlikely acquisition. AHL goaltenders from both the Red Wings and Flyers – Jared Coreau and Alex Lyon – might actually make more sense.
Other options: Eddie Lack or David Rittich from the rival Calgary Flames, Colorado’s Andrew Hammond, Anaheim’s Reto Berra, L.A.’s Jack Campbell or Jeff Zatkoff, and several more. The options are there, so the pressure is on Chiarelli to find a fair deal and to do it soon. Edmonton may simply lose upcoming games regardless of who is in net, but if the team continues forward with only Brossoit, the blame will fall on the front office for not doing something to at least increase their chances.