TORONTO — It wasn’t too long ago that Devan Dubnyk looked like the Edmonton Oilers’ goaltender of the present and future.
After a couple of trades Wednesday, Dubnyk is now part of the past. The Oilers sent the 27-year-old to the Nashville Predators for forward Matt Hendricks, then acquired goalie Ben Scrivens from the Los Angeles Kings for a third-round pick in June’s draft.
General manager Craig MacTavish told the Oilers’ website that this was a culmination of a few phone calls and should provide a fresh start for both Dubnyk and Edmonton.
“We really felt for everybody it was a time for change with Devan,” MacTavish said. “It gives us an opportunity to bring in another goalie in Ben Scrivens who’s had, statistically, a very good season so far, and gives us an opportunity to have a pretty good look at him going forward here from now to the end of the year to see where he possibly could fit in to our longer-term goaltending plan.”
Dubnyk went into the season as Edmonton’s starter, but his struggles led to the signing of veteran free agent Ilya Bryzgalov to a one-year contract. In 32 games this season, Dubnyk is 11-17-2 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .894 save percentage.
MacTavish praised Dubnyk, who’s set to be an unrestricted free agent July 1, for being a consummate professional this season. That continued when he addressed the trade before leaving the team.
“I think when a season goes this way, I think no one really feels safe and everybody accepts that there’s a possibility of something happening,” Dubnyk told the team’s site from the team hotel in Minnesota. “But when it does, it just catches you off-guard.”
Given the way rookie Martin Jones played when Jonathan Quick suffered a groin injury, moving Scrivens made sense for the Kings. But the 27-year-old impending unrestricted free agent didn’t expect it.
“I thought I’d be in L.A. for the rest of the season,” Scrivens told Edmonton radio station AM 630. “But that’s the nature of this business and you’ve got to roll with the punches.”
While Scrivens has some good numbers, including a 1.97 goals-against average and .931 save percentage, Jones was a stellar 8-3-0 with a 1.41 GAA and .950 save percentage.
When Quick returned, Jones was sent to the Kings’ AHL affiliate in Manchester. Los Angeles recalled him upon trading Scrivens.
“Part of that deal was to bring Jones back,” Kings assistant GM Rob Blake told reporters, praising Jones for not hanging his head in the minors. “I think it’s a good opportunity for (Scrivens) to keep his career going in Edmonton and go from there.”
Scrivens should get an opportunity to play more with Edmonton than he did in Los Angeles. But the Oilers based their faith in Scrivens on what he did in limited action in Quick’s absence.
“Ben came in and played outstanding in relief of Jonathan and really was making a case for himself as a No. 1 NHL goaltender in the starts that he had,” MacTavish said. “That caught everybody’s attention, and that’s what’s given him this great opportunity.”
This is the second trade in the past year for the Spruce Grove native. He was sent to Los Angeles in the deal that netted the Toronto Maple Leafs Jonathan Bernier.
Scrivens made a good impression on now-Oilers coach Dallas Eakins while playing for the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, and MacTavish said Eakins gave the acquisition the “thumbs up.” He was also popular in the Leafs’ locker-room.
“Scrivy, he’s a good guy and it doesn’t matter if it’s minus-30, he’ll still be smiling,” said Toronto winger Joffrey Lupul, who also went from Southern California to Edmonton when he was traded from Anaheim for Chris Pronger in July 2006. “It’s certainly a tough move to make. When I first got moved there, I found that I just kind of made my home in Southern California and then I was back off to Edmonton. It’s certainly quite a change of scenery.”
The same can be said for Hendricks going from Nashville to Edmonton only a few months after signing a US$7.4-million, four-year deal with the Predators as an unrestricted free agent. Hendricks had two goals and two assists in 44 games and figured a trade was coming based on the way coach Barry Trotz used — or didn’t use — him.
“It wasn’t a real great fit from Day One,” Hendricks told Edmonton radio station AM 630. “Looking back at it, there’s a lot of players in the Nashville organization that kind of bring the same traits that I bring.”
MacTavish explained the move as a way to improve the struggling Oilers’ competitiveness and leadership. He likened it to the addition of defenceman Andrew Ference, who signed in the summer and was named captain.
“I think he’s going to be a really good fit and really raise the competitive level of our group,” MacTavish said of Hendricks.
Acquiring Dubnyk, a first-round pick in the 2004 draft, raises the Predators’ goaltending talent as Pekka Rinne remains out with a hip injury. There’s no timetable for Rinne to return, though GM David Poile said at a Nashville press conference that this was about winning games, not Rinne’s recovery.
Going to the defensive-minded Predators should be something of an upgrade for Dubnyk, who will be the one counted on to win those games.
“They’re a real solid defensive team,” Dubnyk said. “It’s an unfortunate situation there with Pekka Rinne. It’s obviously just a strange injury and you never want to see that. For right now, though, it’s an opportunity for me to play some games there from now to the end of the year.”
Scrivens will get a similar opportunity. He hopes to build off strong stretches for the Kings and Leafs that came about as a result of injuries.
“I felt I was able to build some more confidence,” Scrivens said. “I had a similar type of run when (James) Reimer went down in Toronto last year. I think those are a couple of times that I was able to kind of grab the ball and run with it.”