Desperate to remedy the NHL’s second worst record, the Edmonton Oilers were very busy on Wednesday, acquiring goalie Ben Scrivens and center Matt Hendricks in separate trades. Twenty points out of the last playoff spot in the West, the Oilers surely can’t expect the two transactions to get them back in the thick of things. However, Scrivens brings with him some hope for the future.
Edmonton GM Craig MacTavish got things started by shipping goalie Devan Dubnyk to Nashville in exchange for Hendricks. Dubnyk regressed in net this season after flashing potential in 2013. Oilers brass finally exhausted their hopes that he might turn a corner and cut ties with the 27-year-old in the wake of his 11-17-2 start to the season.
Dubnyk ought to be applied as yet another band-aid in the Nashville crease, while franchise goaltender Pekka Rinne continues his long recovery from a post-surgery infection. Since Rinne last suited up on October 22, the Preds have relied upon the duo of Marek Mazanec and Carter Hutton with little success. Dubnyk provides Nashville coach Barry Trotz with a low-cost third option to share the load.
The arrival of Hendricks at Rexall Place won’t lead to much fanfare. The 32-year-old center was averaging a team-low 11:33 of ice time per night before the trade, posting just four points in 44 games. The gritty center might provide some sand-paper if he can carve out a little ice time, which isn’t guaranteed.
Despite the poor return, the Dubnyk deal did excite fans as it seemingly opened the door for a long-rumored Ryan Miller move. The Sabres goalie has been in vintage form of late, earning a spot on the US Olympic squad. With a cupboard full of gifted young forwards, Craig MacTavish likely could have tempted newly appointed Buffalo GM Tim Murray. However, Miller’s looming free-agent status would have required an extension to get any serious talent moving.
Instead, the Oilers settled for a low-risk option in Scrivens. In their second move of the afternoon, the Oilers sent a third round pick to the L.A. Kings for the 27-year-old. Traded for the second time in less than six months, the Cornell alum was made expendable by upstart rookie Martin Jones. Jonathan Quick‘s absence from mid-November to early January gave Scrivens an opportunity to shine after a strong beginning to the season in relief appearances. However, Jones stole the show and the backup job by winning the first eight starts of his career.
Scrivens stopped 93.1 percent of the shots he faced while with the Kings, and his 1.97 goals-against average stands as the best of his three-year NHL career. Though he allowed three goals in each of his last four appearances, all losses, he ought to demand a majority of the crease work in his new home.
Cast off by the Maple Leafs and now the Kings, Scrivens has earned a chance to start regularly, and Edmonton’s Ilya Bryzgalov will have a hard time over-shadowing him in Edmonton. Bryzgalov’s return to the NHL has hardly put his tumultuous career back on track. The Russian is just 3-7-2 since joining the Oilers in November, sporting a mediocre .902 save-percentage.
With the Oilers are effectively out of the playoff race in the Pacific Division, Scrivens will be auditioning for a permanent gig as Edmonton’s franchise goalie. Like Ryan Miller, he will be a free agent in the summer meaning that a strong second-half of the season could translate directly into cash.
Without Drew Doughty and the sturdy Kings defense in front of him, Scrivens is set to fight an uphill battle. Going from the league’s best defensive team to the worst might be enough to shake any puck-stopper’s confidence, but Scrivens, while unproven, still looks like an upgrade between the pipes in Edmonton.