When the Edmonton Oilers began this season it was believed the additions of Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth finally addressed their goaltending issues. Unfortunately, they're struggling through the early going. The Oilers enter this week with a combined goals-against per game of 3.28. Scriven's goals-against average is 2.94 with a save percentage of .899, while Fasth possesses a 3.63 GAA and .885 SP.
In the recent past the Oilers' poor goaltending numbers could be explained away by their weak defensive game, but this season they've improved in that department, entering the week 18th in shots-against per game compared to last season's 26th overall placement.
That's generating speculation Oilers management could be in the market for help between the pipes. TSN's Darren Dreger suggests they could seek a netminder if their current tandem fails to improve. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman also questions how much longer they can remain patient with their goaltending. He wondered about a return of Ilya Bryzgalov, who's currently an unrestricted free agent, but feels that's now unlikely.
Currently there's not much of a trade market for goaltenders. While there was speculation this summer suggesting Toronto's James Reimer or Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec might be available, neither is available now. The Leafs prefer to retain Reimer to back up starter Jonathan Bernier, while Pavelec appears to be finally blossoming into a reliable starter for the Jets.
Other free-agent options include Martin Brodeur and Tomas Vokoun, who are now past their prime. The Oilers could shop around for a younger unproven goaltender, like Vancouver's Jacob Markstrom or Pittsburgh's Jeff Zatkoff, but what they need is someone with NHL starting experience.
The Minnesota Wild could be a trade partner for the Oilers. Josh Harding has returned to practice as he recovers from a foot injury suffered during training camp. The Wild currently have young Darcy Kuemper and backup Niklas Backstrom as their tandem, so someone will have to move when Harding returns to action. It's unlikely the Wild will part with Kuemper, who's been solid thus far this season. That leaves Harding or Backstrom as trade candidates.
CAP LINKED TO CANADIAN DOLLAR
The status of the salary cap for 2015-16 became a media focal point following a New York Post report suggesting the current cap ceiling of $69 million could remain stagnant after this season.
It's believed the current decline in the value of the Canadian dollar will affect league revenue, and in turn the cap ceiling. TSN's Pierre LeBrun last week reported some NHL governors were nervous about the situation, but also cited “someone in the know” suggesting the cap could still increase “at least a couple of million.” Though it's still early, he said we should learn more at the next NHL Board of Governors meeting.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports of speculation the cap might only rise to $70.5 million. He points out that could force teams with hefty payrolls for 2015-16 (Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins) to shed salary, as well as taking them out of the July free-agent sweepstakes.
Garrioch also wonders teams could begin dumping salary by the March 2 trade deadline or wait until the off-season. Odds are if any of those teams are out of playoff contention by the deadline they'll start moving out some players by that point, while the rest will wait until the summer.
Bear in mind the Canadian dollar could rally in value between now and season's end, which in turn could boost the cap increase by more than $2 million. However, if it remains at the same value or continues to decline, it could spark a busy off-season of trade activity and contract buyouts.