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Oilers Sign Devan Dubnyk

The Edmonton Oilers have signed goaltender Devan Dubnyk to a two year contract worth $800,000 per season.  It's a one-way deal which is a clear sign that the Oilers have likely chosen Dubnyk over Deslauriers for good and the latter will be out of the organization by this time next season.  If the Oilers wanted to keep one of them, I think they've picked the right one, and the two year deal makes good sense because it protects the Oilers from needing to start Dubnyk more than they'd like to this coming season.  Had Dubnyk started fewer than ten games next year, he would have been an unrestricted free agent at season's end, and while it's very likely the plan to have him play at least that much, a two-year deal protects the Oilers against an injury that could cause him to miss the minimum game requirement (which is exactly how Ryan Stone became unrestricted).  More on Dubnyk's signing and the Oilers' goaltending situation after the jump.

First, let's talk a bit about Dubnyk.  He had a pretty decent AHL season last year, posting a .915 save percentage for a team that could be charitably described as completely fucking terrible.  That save percentage number easily bested the other main goalie for the Falcons, Jean-Philippe Levasseur, but considering Levasseur's numbers have been awful everywhere he's been, you'd kind of hope your best goaltending prospect would outperform him.  At any rate, Dubnyk did and the .915 save percentage represented solid progress.  Then, when Nikolai Khabibulin went down to injury, Dubnyk got his chance at the NHL. 

And he was fantastic.  At least in his last six starts.  After nearly setting a record for minutes played without winning a game, Dubnyk went on a tear winning four of his last six starts pretty much single-handedly. Dubnyk's even strength save percentage over those six starts was .933.  The team's Corsi percentage was 38.6%.  Dubnyk was named as one of three stars in each of the four wins, and I'm guessing that was for a reason.  Just a fabulous end to the year.

The problem, of course, is those other starts, that time between Dubnyk's solid work in the AHL and his glorious run to close out the season.  Dubnyk made ten starts in this valley of darkness and he allowed fewer than three goals in exactly zero of them.  On the bright side, he only allowed more than five twice.  So yeah.  The bright side of the valley of darkness is still pretty dark. 

The final numbers show Dubnyk with an even strength save percentage of .902 which was good enough to best Cristobal Huet, Pascal Leclaire, Chris Osgood, and... well, and that's it for guys with 15 or more NHL starts.  But he's still young and there is the nice finish to consider and they did draft him 14th overall, so let's be kind and say he's a question mark as an NHL back-up but not a sure-thing terrible call.  The Oilers are rebuilding, so giving the guy a chance makes sense.  Except (of course there's a caveat) that the probable starter may or may not be healthy enough to play and/or in jail when training camp starts and one way to sap the energy out of a team is to have them play pretty well but lose game after game because "the cock-sucker goalie can't stop a fucking puck."  Or at least, that's how I recall the guys talking when I played.  And we were sixteen years old without our careers on the line. 

What I'm saying is, Patrick O'Sullivan probably isn't sending Dubnyk and Deslauriers Christmas cards after the "wonderful" .893 save percentage they put up for him in 2009-10 and you may as well minimize the risk of your young guys having every mistake they make end up in the back of the net.  In other words, the Oilers still need to go out and find themselves a reliable goalie who's has some decent results in this league, have him start for the Oklahoma City Barons until Khabibulin gets injured (it's inevitable) and then bring him up in case Dubnyk struggles.  My choice would be Yann Danis, even if he costs NHL money and takes up some of the NHL budget. But I fear the Oilers will choose Jeff Deslauriers.

Why oh why did the Oilers give Jeff Deslauriers a qualifying offer.  It seems clear at this point that he's not in the long-term plans of the organization and I find it hard to believe that decision couldn't have been made many months ago.  Now that Deslauriers is going to arbitration, it's very likely he's going to ask for a one-way deal and it seems nearly certain that he'll get it.  He might even use Dubnyk as a comparable player!  Unfortunately, the award Deslauries is asking for is likely small, something like $1M per year or maybe even slightly less.  And if he gets a $1M one-way deal, the Oilers aren't allowed to walk away from it.  According to the CBA (article 12.10) walk-away rights only apply on deals that are less than a certain figure which is likely somewhere around $1.3M today (it's $1,042,173 plus a percentage increase on that number equal to the percentage increase in the average salary from the 2006-07 league year until today).  And thus the Oilers will have Jeff Deslauriers signed, sealed and delivered to Oklahoma City, so long as Khabibulin is ready to start the year.  That is unless the Oilers go to the arbitrator suggesting a salary they can walk away from if it's awarded.  That would be a pretty funny arbitration hearing.  Deslauriers vigorously arguing he should be paid less and the Oilers that he should be "paid" more.  Yep, believe it or not, the Oilers' goaltending situation could actually get more ridiculous.