Offseason Targets: Brian Elliott

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Calgary Flames
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Veteran goaltender Brian Elliott has 13 years of NHL experience and has settled in as a strong tandem goaltender over the course of his career. It should be no surprise, then, that Elliott is a potential target for Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland.

The Oilers are in need of a veteran goalie to tandem with Mikko Koskinen. Elliott isn’t the same goalie he was five years ago in St. Louis, but he’s still a valuable NHL’er who has a history of success in the league.

Does he make sense for the Oilers? On the face of it, the answer is yes. A deeper dive, however, shows that the fit might not be as good as it looks.

Why Is He Out There?:

Carter Hart is the man for the Philadelphia Flyers. Hart, just 22, has posted save percentages of .917 (2018-19) and .914 (2019-20) with the Flyers. He’s their guy today, and will be for a long, long time.

The Flyers don’t need a tandem goalie, they just need a competent backup who can help Hart continue his adjustment to the NHL and to play ~20 games a season. Elliott was that guy this past season.

He could be brought back, but there have been no conversations between the sides to this point.The Flyers are more likely to find a new backup, likely a cheap one, on the free agent market in October.

What Does He Do Well?:

Elliott, for a long stretch, was one of the best tandem goalies in the NHL. From 2011-2016, Elliott never posted a save percentage below .907 for the St. Louis Blues. In fact, he posted save percentages of .940 (2011-12), .907 (2012-13), .922 (2013-14), .917 (2014-15) and .930 (2015-16). Elliott then went to the Calgary Flames and managed a .910 save percentage in 49 appearances, leading the Flames back to the playoffs.

Since then, Elliott has struggled to find his game. In 43 games with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2017-18, Elliott posted a .909 save percentage. He posted a .907 mark in 2018-19, then finished with the second-worst mark of his career this past season.

In 2019-20, Elliott went 16-7-4 with an .899 save percentage and a 2.87 GAA. Elliott did have one shutout, but the numbers weren’t pretty.

His -8.02 Goals Saved Above Replacement was his worst mark since 2010-11, and represented his fourth consecutive season as a negative in this area.

At five-on-five, Elliott fell off a cliff in 2019-20. His .883 save percentage was, by far, the worst mark of his career. In fact, it was the first time he ever posted a five-on-five save percentage below .900. In was a sharp decrease from the last two seasons as well.

For example, Elliott had a .918 save percentage at five-on-five in 2018-19, and a .926 mark in 2017-18.

(All stats via hockey-reference)

Here’s a look at Elliott’s scouting report via The Sports Forecaster:

A long-limbed butterfly goalie who covers a lot of area, he is quick on his skates and takes good angles. He’s calm, efficient and mature in the crease. Can go on prolonged hot streaks. Lacks consistency and tends to run cold at critical times. Not very pro-active with his stick, he also isn’t very proficient at handling the puck. Does not challenge shooters enough.

Where Should He Play / Where Will He Play?:

Elliott is no longer a starting caliber goalie at the NHL level. In the last few seasons, there has been some real decay in his numbers as well. Elliott is probably, at this stage of his career, a mid-to-low level backup. It’s also hard to imagine he’s going to buck the trend of decline at 35.

In Edmonton, he’d be a clear backup option to Koskinen, and it is debatable if he would even be an upgrade on Smith.

What Will He Cost?:

After three straight seasons of decline, Elliott is probably looking at just a one-year deal on the open market. In terms of salary, he made $2,000,000 on his most recent one-year deal with the Flyers. I’d expect to see him make between $1,000,000 and $1,500,000 on his next deal.

Closing Argument:

Four or five years ago, Brian Elliott would be an easy choice for the Edmonton Oilers to go and get in free agency. Now? The story is different. The numbers continue to fall, and Elliott is getting older and making less starts each year.

Elliott played only 31 games this past season, and played just 26 in 2018-19. He’s a good veteran, but the Oilers are better off going in a different direction in their quest to find a veteran goalie.

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