One area of the world that has been quite kind to Ken Holland is Scandinavia. Countless key players on his Detroit Red Wing teams came from hockey hotbeds like Sweden and Finland, where Holland and his scouts always seemed to be ahead of the game.
Holland already has a Finnish goaltender under contract in Mikko Koskinen, but we know he’s going to be searching the free agent market for a 1A/1B type netminder that can apply some pressure on Koskinen and push him. Holland values having two goalies that can handle a heavy workload, and I think it’s fair to say we won’t see another Jonas Gustavsson situation.
There is another former Oiler that could make sense, however. Anders Nilsson will hit the free agent market this summer and fits the bill for what Edmonton is looking for.
Why Is He Out There?:
Nilsson signed with the Vancouver Canucks in July of 2017, but Jacob Markstrom is the starter there and the Canucks wanted a better look at future starter Thatcher Demko this past season. As a result, Nilsson was sent to Ottawa to finish out his most recent contract.
He played in 24 games with the Senators and actually provided solid play all things considered. After all, the Senators were an absolute mess of an organization this past season and were one of the worst defensive teams in hockey. Nilsson provided them with solid play and that likely garners attention from teams around the league.
There’s a chance Ottawa retains him. After all, rumblings last summer had Craig Anderson looking to get out of the Canadian capital, and they don’t exactly have a backup option on hand. As usual with the Sens, this likely comes down to money.
What Does He Do Well?:
Nilsson has been mostly surrounded as a netminder at this point. He’s a guy that usually handles between 25 and 30 games a season, with his career-high being 36 appearances split between the Canucks and Sens this past season.
Nilsson is a very solid backup who has gone on runs before where he carries a team. He did just that for the Oilers in December of 2015, when he helped briefly lead them back into a playoff spot before falling off around Christmas.
Nilsson doesn’t have the ability to be a starter in this league, however, and I think it is fair to question whether or not he can even be a 1A/1B kind of guy. Holland is looking for someone that can handle around 30-35 games a season. Nilsson has only hit that mark once.
He is, however, coming off of one of the best stretches of his career. He went 11-11-0 with a .914 SV% and a 2.90 GAA in 24 games with a simply horrid Ottawa team to end the season. That likely left teams impressed as Nilsson hits the free agent market.
Here’s a look at his scouting report via The Sports Forecaster.
Massive, he fills up most of the net when in his butterfly. Changes shooters’ tendencies with his raw size and lets the puck hit him. Athletic and pretty mobile, he also shows good reflexes and recovery skills. Sometimes, he drops to the ice too quickly or over-commits, and is stuck scrambling to make the save or get back into position. Will yield the occasional soft goal. Is still adjusting to the North American game.
Long Range Potential:Talented, inconsistent goaltender with some upside.
Where Will He Play / Where Should He Play?:
Nilsson is surrounded at this point as a backup goaltender who can handle 25-30 games a season. He went over that mark in 2018-19, but history suggests he’s not a guy capable of handling 35-40 starts.
The Oilers would need him to handle that kind of workload, and I don’t think it is close to a guarantee that he can. He’d be in a role with the Oilers that, quite frankly, I don’t think he fits.
What Will He Cost?:
Nilsson is coming off of a two-year deal that he signed with the Canucks that carried an AAV of $2,500,000. Although this is a weak goaltending market, I’m not sure he’s going to get much of a raise, if he gets one at all.
Counting for a rising cap, would anyone be surprised if Nilsson got another two-year deal, this time with an AAV of, say, $2,750,000? I think that is likely around where he comes in this summer.
Andres Nilsson had a nice run with the Oilers in December of 2015, but he cooled down considerably after that and was moved along before the season ended. He’s carved out a nice career for himself and established himself as an NHL goaltender, but I don’t think there is a fit here.
Edmonton needs a goalie that can push Koskinen and that can handle nearly a half season worth of games. Nilsson has never proven himself to be that guy, and I don’t think that is suddenly going to change.
The Oilers could do worse than signing Nilsson, but I don’t think he should be close to their first option.