According to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, the Edmonton Oilers should re-sign goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. While Matheson does make a compelling argument to sign the soon to be 41-year old to a one-year deal worth $1 million, it’s hard to fathom the notion for this Oilers fan.
Devan Dubnyk appears to be the number one guy in Edmonton and whether or not he’s good enough to carry that load is another argument for another day. If Khabibulin is brought back to the fold in Edmonton he would serve primarily as the backup, the same role as this past season. He’s a veteran netminder who put up mediocre numbers last year, going 4-6-1 in 12 starts with a 2.45 GAA and a .923 save percentage. Oddly enough the last two were better than his career averages but a small sample pool in just a dozen games.
Regardless, the biggest and perhaps most important sticking point I have with the idea is the one word that we’ve heard for the past few weeks from GM Craig MacTavish – change.
Mac-T has promised changes with the roster and said as many as eight new faces could be in the Oilers lineup next season. His biggest priority is said to be in goal, begging the question if he has complete and utter faith in Dubnyk. My thoughts, he doesn’t and will explore every angle in obtaining an upgrade in goal.
Matheson lists the potential free-agents that could be available this summer for any team looking to upgrade in net. There are some notable names like Niklas Backstrom of the Wild, Ray Emery of the Blackhawks and Mike Smith of the Coyotes.
Backstrom is likely to re-sign in Minnesota, Emery is a backet case on a good day and Smith will cost a pretty penny. At 31-years of age, Smith is the top choice in the free-agent pool given his fine performance the last few seasons. Another name is Anton Khudobin, a 26-year old of the Boston Bruins who is blocked by Tuukka Rask for the starting position. He’s inexperienced but has a high ceiling for potential.
Of course there are the options to trade for a number one netminder and Matheson points to the St. Louis Blues who have a trio of quality starters and they can’t possibly keep all three.
Ryan Miller of Buffalo is said to be available, but at 36-years old with a hefty paycheck of $6 million annually, his best year’s appear to be behind him.
This is where Matheson makes the case to bring back Khabibulin for one-year while the Oilers try and find a younger star goalie. Here is also where the problem lies.
Taking that approach is exactly what has been done in the year’s past; bring back an aging backup and let’s see if Dubnyk can meet our expectations. Too many “what if’s” and not enough taking a risk in my opinion.
If the Oilers were to sign Smith or Khudobin or trade for Jaroslav Halak or even Miller that would signal that the faith that the organization once had in Dubnyk is gone. Is that so bad when this is a club that hasn’t made the playoffs in seven years? Putting all the Oilers’ eggs in Dubnyk’s basket is risky, maybe a little too risky. If the club wants to take a risk, why not sign Smith, pay him $5-6 million per year and sleep easy at night knowing you have yourself a legitimate number one netminder.
To reiterate, Dubnyk may not be the guy to lead this team to the playoffs and carry them to the final like Dwayne Roloson. Neither is Khabibulin. Matheson preaches to sign the cup champion and bring him back for one more year but it’s that mindset and those actions that have left this Oilers organization spinning their wheels in the mud. What’s the definition of insanity? Trying the same thing over and over again while hoping for a different result.
A different train of thought is needed and so far we’ve heard that MacTavish will deliver. What he does in goal could be his first significant move and dictate whether he’ll follow through on his promises.