In the mystifying world of the Edmonton Oilers, perhaps it makes sense to some: That they would trade their de facto No. 1 goaltender, Devan Dubnyk, to the Nashville Predators Wednesday in exchange for Matt Hendricks and then turn around and acquire Ben Scrivens as Dubnyk’s replacement from the Los Angeles Kings.
Scrivens is the former Leafs’ goaltender, who was sent to the Kings this past summer in the Jonathan Bernier trade and probably intrigued the Oilers because he had a nice run for about a month there starting in mid-November when he replaced the injured Jonathan Quick as the starter in Los Angeles. The Kings didn’t miss a beat with Scrivens in goal. He was at the top of the league’s save percentage list for a long time and picked up three shutouts among his seven wins.
Alas, it didn’t last. Scrivens eventually gave way to the Kings’ goalie of the future, Martin Jones, who put even better numbers (8-3 record, 1.41 goals-against average). When Quick came back, Jones was sent down but the writing was on the wall for Scrivens. He was going to be the odd-man out eventually – and so when the other shoe dropped Wednesday, it wasn’t that much of a surprise.
The Oilers acquired Scrivens, a Spruce Grove, Alta., native, for a third-round pick and will get a chance to evaluate him, up-close-and-personal for the next half season, and then decide if they think he can be their No. 1. If so, they’ll likely sign him to an extension. If not, Scrivens can walk as an unrestricted free agent.
It’s an intriguing merry-go-round because for months now, there have been rumblings that the Maple Leafs’ James Reimer might be the Oilers goalie of choice down the road. Reimer has fallen out of favour in Toronto, with Bernier emerging as the clear No. 1 there. Reimer is a Westerner - born in Morweena, Man., and played his junior hockey in Red Deer, Alta., – but most importantly, he has a connection with Oilers’ coach Dallas Eakins, having played parts of three seasons for Eakins with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies (Scrivens also played for Eakins in the AHL). Reimer had a pretty good run for the Leafs in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season (19-8-5, a 2.46 GAA).
At 25, perhaps the Oilers believe he could eventually be a good fit on a team that’s gradually gaining experience. goaltending is all about trust. The position players and especially the coach and management have to trust that their starting goalie has their back – and while Dubnyk was an extremely popular player in the Oilers’ dressing room, you had the sense that management anyway had lost trust in him.
Beyond Reimer, who is a restricted free agent this summer, there will be other goaltending options available next year, especially with the Anaheim Ducks, who currently have Jonas Hiller established as their No. 1 goaltender and who is on an amazing run at the moment, having won 14 games in a row.
Hiller is also an unrestricted free agent in the summer, but the Ducks – who lead the NHL’s overall standings – are not interested in trading Hiller, not in a year where they see themselves as bona fide Stanley Cup contenders and all the other goalies in their organization (John Gibson, Frederik Andersen, Viktor Fasth) are promising but largely unproven.
Hendricks was originally drafted by Nashville in 2000, but never played for them. The 6-foot, 200-pound centre is a bottom-six forward who’s never scored more than 25 points in an NHL season and never averaged more than about 12 minutes of ice time per night. He signed a $7.4-million, four-year deal with Nashville in the off-season.
Dubnyk’s departure is not quite as puzzling as the Oilers’ salary dump earlier this season when they traded away arguably their best defensive defenceman, Ladislav Smid, to the Calgary Flames to clear up the salary-cap space to sign Ilya Bryzgalov.
From the Predators’ perspective, Dubnyk fills what has been a need for months now, or ever since their starting goaltender Pekka Rinne was lost because of a staph infection in his surgically repaired hip. Rinne has recently been given permission to up the tempo of his workouts, but he didn’t make the Finnish Olympic team and the timetable for his return is up in the air. The Predators need a dramatic surge in the second half to play themselves into playoff contention in the Western Conference and likely the belief is that they needed a little more experience between the pipes for such a thing to happen (after relying on youngsters Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec for most of the past two-and-a-half months). Nashville is a budget-conscious team, and Edmonton helped by retaining half of what’s left on Dubnyk’s contract ($3.75-million salary, with a $3.5-million cap hit).
Goalies are notoriously hard to trade in season, so the fact that two moved within minutes of each is something of a surprise. Realistically, it could just be the start of a major reshuffling down the road – and wouldn’t it be something if Edmonton’s goalie tandem next year consists of two ex-Leafs, instead of just the one they have right now?
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