Oilers crease a bit crowded

Now that Jeff Deslauriers has signed, the Edmonton Oilers have three goaltenders under contract....

Now that Jeff Deslauriers has signed, the Edmonton Oilers have three goaltenders under contract. (DAVID BLOOM/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:15 PM ET

EDMONTON - Jeff Deslauriers can count.

The product of St-Jean-Richelieu, Que., is aware now that he signed, the Edmonton Oilers have three goaltenders under contract.

It’s a scenario he’s already been through once before.

“I’m aware of the situation,” Deslauriers said. “But that’s out of my control. I can’t worry too much about that or it could affect my game. My job is to just focus on the things that I can do and let everything else take care of itself.”

With Devan Dubnyk waiting in the wings and Nikolai Khabibulin waiting on a trial date, the Oilers goaltending situation is uncertain heading into the season.

The club would rather not go into the year with three goaltenders and be forced to go through the carousel they endured back in 2008-09.

Yet, with the outcome of Khabibulin’s impaired driving trial still in doubt, the Oilers are forced to wait and see if their big free-agent signing of a year ago will have to spend time in jail before they can make a move.

Deslauriers, 26, showed last year he was capable of taking on a heavy workload, playing in 48 games and amassing a 16-28-4 record.

“Getting lots of playing time last year gave me the experience to see what the NHL was all about,” Deslauriers said. “It was a lot better than the previous year.

“But as the year goes on, you never know what’s going to happen. There are some things you can control and other things out of your control. You can only worry about the things you can control.”

Selected in the second round — 31st overall — of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, it’s been a long road to the NHL for the former major junior standout.

Deslauriers spent six years lost in the minors trying to find playing time between farm teams shared by the Oilers.

By the time he did get to the NHL, he found himself in a three-goaltender rotation with Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon.

When Garon was eventually moved, Deslauriers sat on the bench watching Roloson do all the work.

“With the two years I’ve had, the experience has helped a lot,” Deslauriers said. “Being in different positions and in different situations, I’m more aware of what I can do going into next season. I’m looking forward to the year and am confident that I can carry the load again if needed to.”

If Khabibulin returns and is healthy, the Oilers will most likely have to make a goaltender move. Both Deslauriers and Dubnyk would have to clear waivers in order to go down to the minors this year.

Both re-signed this year, with Deslauriers filing for salary arbitration after the Oilers had made him a qualifying offer. Deslauriers had a hearing set for Wednesday in Toronto.

“That was just part of the whole process,” Deslauriers said. “I’m very happy that we were able to sign an agreement. We didn’t want to go to arbitration, we were really happy we were able to get to an agreement before that.”

Deslauriers represents the goaltender with the fewest number of questions going into the season. Dubnyk has yet to prove he can be an effective everyday goaltender, while Khabibulin has yet to prove his surgically repaired back will hold up for the entire year.

“I’m excited about this season,” Deslauriers said. “We have a lot of young, talented prospects coming in this year. There is going to be a lot of changes from last year, but that’s hockey. New guys come in and other guys leave, but I think the young guys coming in are going to be good additions for us.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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