Ever since the fall from grace and departure of current Minnesota Wild starter Cam Talbot in 2018-19, the Oilers haven’t found themselves a reliable starting option. After posting impressive numbers with the New York Rangers, backing up Henrik Lundqvist in his first two seasons in the NHL, Talbot was traded to the Oilers in a swap of picks, with the hope he would become Edmonton’s goaltender of the future. While early returns were fantastic, with Talbot posting a franchise record 42 wins in 2016-17, playing in 72 of Edmonton’s 82 games, things shortly gave way, as a rough start to the 2018-19 season saw Talbot shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Anthony Stolarz.
Since then, long-time KHL starter and former New York Islanders prospect Mikko Koskinen has taken the majority of starts, though his performance has been similarly shaky, having struggled with increased minutes after Talbot’s departure, finishing the 2018-19 season with a 2.93 GAA. This past season, former Arizona Coyotes starter Mike Smith was brought in to ease the load on a one-year deal worth $2 million, with him and Koskinen splitting duties as the Oilers returned to the playoffs with a 37-25-9 record.
Heading into the 2020-21 season, a similar scenario was expected, with Smith being re-signed to another one-year deal and one-time Chicago Blackhawks starter Anton Forsberg being brought in as a third option. However, after being put on waivers for assignment to the Oilers taxi squad, Forsberg was claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes and subsequently the Winnipeg Jets, and on Saturday, Smith was placed on LTIR. The Oilers now find themselves with a rather dire situation on their hands, with the teams only options being rookies Stuart Skinner and Olivier Rodrigue, both of whom have no NHL experience.
Cue, Troy Grosenick.
Have the Edmonton Oilers found a suitable backup in Troy Grosenick?
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With most AHL starters and or third goalies having passed through waivers unclaimed, the Oilers now find themselves turning to one of the few AHL veterans available in Grosenick.
To most passing hockey fans, Grosenick’s name is of an unfamiliar sort, having only two NHL appearances to his name. A product of the small town of Brookfield, Wisconsin, Grosenick spent three seasons at Union College before signing a one-year, entry-level deal with the San Jose Sharks, getting into his only NHL action in the 2014-15 season, recording a 45-save shutout in his NHL debut. Since then, Grosenick has established a reputation as a solid, no thrills AHL starter, having spent the 2019-20 season with the Milwaukee Admirals, splitting duties with Connor Ingram. Now, the Oilers hope they’ve found a solution of some sort to their goaltending conundrum, in a situation neither person could’ve expected.
Grosenick has had his moments in the AHL, earning the ‘Baz’ Bastien Memorial Award as the league’s top goaltender in 2016-17 while posting a 30-10-2 record with 10 shutouts, but he is a complete shot in the dark in terms of his abilities in the NHL. While one could just see Grosenick as solely an AHL goaltender, the 31-year-old has also fallen victim to many notable minute-crunchers, in this case, longtime stars Martin Jones and Pekka Rinne. Because of this, I see the situation with Grosenick in Edmonton as more intriguing than most people will give it credit for. There have been numerous examples in recent years of minor league goalies who were called up to the NHL on an emergency basis and performed well.
While current St. Louis Blues starter Jordan Binnington is the most well known recent example, others, like former Ottawa Senators prospect Jeff Glass making his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks at age 32, leave me hesitating to completely label Grosenick as a desperate addition, at least in terms of his abilities. He’s shown the ability to be an elite goaltender at the AHL level, albeit one who had to play behind two of the league’s once top starters in Jones and Rinne. While the Oilers’ move to acquire Grosenick is one done out of desperation, I think there could be more to this AHL veteran than meets the eye.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs placing goaltender Aaron Dell on waivers on Sunday, the Oilers now find themselves with another backup option, with a much more impressive NHL resume. A starter in the CHL and ECHL before making the transition to the NHL, Dell emerged as a solid backup option for the Sharks behind Jones and had split AHL duties with Grosenick in 2015-16. While he had struggled with increased minutes last season, he’s shown the ability to be a solid NHL goaltender, and one I think is a must claim for the Oilers. If they do, Edmonton’s situation in net becomes a bit clearer, with Grosenick fitting in nicely as a third option. While this current situation is far from ideal, it is a solution, at least until Oilers GM Ken Holland finds a more permanent replacement.
While Aaron Dell has the ability to post solid numbers, should his struggles from last season continue, look for Troy Grosenick to potentially see NHL action once more. The Edmonton Oilers’ goaltending situation is a mess, to say the least, but one that is becoming slightly more clear, as they hope for a temporary solution in Grosenick, and, in my opinion, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gave them just that.