Calvin Pickard playing himself into a new contract with the Oilers

Calvin Pickard has proven himself to be a worthy backup for the Edmonton Oilers in goal, and is well on course to deservedly be awarded a new deal.

Edmonton Oilers v Pittsburgh Penguins
Edmonton Oilers v Pittsburgh Penguins / Justin Berl/GettyImages
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There was plenty of praise to go around on Sunday afternoon, when the Oilers went into Pittsburgh and beat the Penguins 4-0. Chief among those worthy of acknowledgement was Calvin Pickard, who took home the game's Third Star after stopping all 41 shots he faced.

In an interesting twist Stuart Skinner also earned the shutout, after coming into the game for 1:16 of action at the end of the second period. This came about as a result of Pickard having to be taken out after a big collision, due to concussion protocol.

As per Caleb Kerney of The Hockey News, this was the second time in Oilers franchise history that two goalies shared a shutout in a game. The previous occasion was back in 1985, when Andy Moog and Grant Fuhr combined for a shutout versus the Quebec Nordiques (now the Colorado Avalanche).

However, make no mistake about it that this was Pickard's triumph. (Skinner did not actually have to make any saves while he was on the ice.) He made crucial stops all game, and went five-for-five when the Oilers were on the penalty kill.

Pickard a success in general

Although there have been times when criticis have been unsure about Pickard being the main backup in Edmonton, the reality is he's come through with flying colours. He is 9-4-0 in 13 starts, having played 14 games overall this season for the Oilers.

Further, the 31-year-old's .919 save percentage and 2,27 Goals Against Average (GAA) are best on the team, albeit Skinner has had to carry the majority of the load with 47 appearances. Regardless, he's done what was hoped for, and arguably exceeded expectations.

Certainly Pickard deserved the opportunity, after signing a two-year, two-way deal with the Oilers ahead of the 2022-23 campaign. He was excellent as the Condors' main goalie last season, and got his opportunity in the NHL after an even better start in Bakersfield at the beginning of this season.

Plays well even in defeat

The 2010 second round draft pick had a baptism of sorts in his first start for the Oilers. However, the 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers was not a fair reflection of how he performed on the night.

Yes Pickard allowed four goals in the game versus the Panthers, but he was only at fault for the second one. The reality is the result would have been even worse if not for how he played, as he saved 27 of the 31 shots he faced.

More recently, the former Detroit Red Wing had a similarly poor result in the 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced and was the Oilers' best player on the night, albeit ultimately to no avail.

Fortunately for everyone concerned though, the Oilers have won most of the time when Pickard has started, and in the process proved himself worthy as the main backup. As a result, he has made himself a valuable commodity.

In one respect, the Moncton, New Brunswick native will never be considered a main option between the pipes in the NHL. Yes he performed decently enough as the main starter for the Avalanche during the 2016-17 season, but he's never been consistent enough to fulfil his potential at the top level.

At the same time though, Pickard has still proven he has value and is worthy of a new contract. He's making $762,500 this season, and is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer.

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One thing which should help Pickard's case is how popular he is, within the Oilers organisation and around the league in general. Speaking to the media after the Penguins game, he said: "I take pride in being a team-first guy. Obviously playing on a lot of teams helps, but this game has been good to me and there's a lot of good people I've met along the way."

The 2018 Calder Cup winner will more than likely receive a pay rise when it comes to negotiating his next deal. Whether one of those improved offers comes from the Oilers remains to be seen, but as things stand they would be foolish not to try and bring him back next season.

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