Oilers Interested In Free Agent Goaltender Jussi Rynnas

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We know two things about the Edmonton Oilers goaltending situation next season, thanks to Steve Tambellini's end of season press conference.  First, we know that Nikolai Khabibulin will be returning to the fold, and that Tambellini sees him as a key part of the rebuilding effort.  Secondly, we know that Tambellini isn't interested in trying to juggle three goaltenders, meaning that the Oilers will break camp with two goalies only.

The obvious question that springs from those two points of knowledge is simple: which one of Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk will be backing up Khabibulin next season?  What if the answer was neither?

According to multiple published reports - in this case Jim Matheson in the Edmonton Journal and Damien Cox in the Toronto Star - the Oilers are very interested in free agent goaltender Jussi Rynnas.  Rynnas is coming off a breakout campaign in Finland, where his 0.929 SV% was the best number in the entire league.

Aside from that performance, there are a few other things in Rynnas' favour.  First off, he's just 22 years old; this was his first season in Finland's top league and the combination of his performance this season and the fact that he could get better yet is compelling.  He also stands 6'5", giving him the size that NHL clubs covet in their goaltenders.

Of course, the Oilers aren't alone in their interest.  Cox's column was written from a Leafs' perspective, and both he and Matheson mentioned a half-dozen other NHL teams as possible destinations.  Over in Finland, there's a suggestion that their could be as many as 20 clubs interested in Rynnas' services.

Rynnas would be obligated to sign an entry-level deal with whichever club he elects to sign with.

If the Oilers are lucky enough to be the team that attracts his interest, it will put the team in an interesting situation.  Deslauriers has been highly regarded by the organization for a long time, and has established himself as a guy who can handle the backup role for the time being; he's also young enough that the Oilers (or another club) might see higher potential there.  Meanwhile, Dubnyk's play improved late in the season, and he's younger than Deslauriers - and his minor league performance at the same age has been superior to his older teammate.  Both would need to clear waivers if sent to the minors.

I see it as yet another warning against spending a high draft pick on a goaltender; many of the league's best netminders are European free agents who entered the league the same way Rynnas is attempting to, or castoffs from other teams, or players selected late in the entry draft.  It's difficult to break goaltending prospects into the NHL, and it's often years before they're ready.

Cox also made a suggestion for the Leafs, should they fail to acquire Rynnas: Spruce Grove native Ben Scrivens, who somehow remains a free agent after three brilliant seasons at Cornell.  He's another guy who might be of interest to the Oilers. 

Of course, the odds are that one of Dubnyk or Deslauriers will be retained by the team; possibly even both with one of them in the minors.  But the Oilers are investigating other options.

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