Edmonton Oilers to Procure an Upgrade at Backup via the KHL?

Will the Edmonton Oilers visit a non-traditional market to find themselves a goaltender to back up Cam Talbot in 2018/19?

On Monday’s edition of Oilers Now, Bob Stauffer (host of the show) made mention of possibly looking towards the KHL with regards to the Edmonton Oilers search for an upgrade at the backup goalie position.

I’m hearing there are a lot of guys wanting to get out of that league, there’s some good goalies in that league. – Bob Stauffer

He also asked Todd McLellan a very similar framed question at the coach’s last media avail.

“Could you envision exploring non-traditional markets to get goaltenders?”

“There might be some other markets that become available. We’ve seen goalies com in from other countries, etc.”

The KHL level of hockey is a shade below the NHL but a tad better than the AHL. That said some outstanding players come out of that league every year such as Evgeny Dadonov or Nikita Zaitsev. It seems like the league is having their issues and players are looking to leave, that due to not being paid or merely looking for a new challenge.

There are some goalies in that league that could play NHL hockey, and I’d like to point some out.

First Prospect

Pavel Francouz (Traktor Chelyabinsk) – 35GP 1.80 GAA .946 SV% 15W 11L 5SO

I’ll be honest; I don’t know a lot about this Czech netminder. He played on the same team as former Edmonton Oilers Nikita Nikitin and Gilbert Brule in the KHL this season, and he catches right (just like a former Oilers hall of fame goalie used to). He was the goaltender that was in net for the Czechs during this past winter Olympics in South Korea where he backed them to huge shootout wins versus Canada and Team USA.

This goalie should be paid particular attention to because Bob Stauffer made specific mention to goalies at the Olympics and I’m confident he wasn’t talking about the ones playing for the Canadian team. I could be wrong though, but I don’t envision seeing Ben Scrivens making a return to the Oilers…

“I thought there were guys at the Olympics that were better that some of the NHL backups…”

This guy could be an excellent option for the backup role next season. His KHL numbers are fantastic!

Second Prospect

Ryan Zapolski (Jokerit) – 39 GP 1.76 GAA .931 SV% 24W 11L 9SO

Zapolski was never drafted into the NHL. At 25 years old he started his pro career in the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings. Then moved to three other ECHL clubs (Toledo, Gwinnett, and South Carolina) before trying his hand in the SM-Liiga in Finland. Three years at Lukko Rauma and some excellent numbers (163gp 2.06 GAA .925 SV5 72W 49L) afforded him the option to move on to the KHL and earn a contract with Jokerit.

The 31-year-old American goalie has spent the last two seasons with Jokerit (those nine shutouts this year are a league-best), but that’s not where this story ends.

There was another 30-year-old American goalie who once played for Jokerit that Peter Chiarelli took notice of back in 2004/05. That goalie went on to be a Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy award winner. That man was named Tim Thomas.

Thomas came over and played AHL for one year and then took over the Bruins’ crease at age 32. Held on for about four years before giving it back to Tuukka Rask.

Third Prospect

Jhonas Enroth (Dynamo Minsk) – 52 GP 2.06 GAA .923 SV% 19W 27L 4SO

Enroth isn’t a big guy. In fact, he’s probably the Darren Pang of goalies these days standing at 5’10” but playing 52 games on a losing team and keeping a GAA under 2.5 and a save percentage over .915 is pretty good.

For whatever reason, the 29-year-old couldn’t gain reasonable employment in North America this past season and jumped over to Russia. Before that, he began his career with the Buffalo Sabres. Spent six years on the NHL roster, then one year with Los Angeles and Dallas, and finally two more with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization.

Personally, my preference would be on either Pavel Francouz or Ryan Zapolski. I think the expectations wouldn’t be sky high, they’re both aged right (27 years old for Francouz and 31 years old for Zapolski), and both netminders are putting up the right sort of numbers.

I’d suggest the coach be consulted on this decision too because, and this is my belief only, I don’t think Todd McLellan uses players he’s not comfortable playing.

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The Oilers don’t have a lot of money to make a lousy gamble here, and they need to get this signing right, or we could be in for another season of overplaying Cam Talbot.

 

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