I will be assuming the Oilers are trying to make the playoffs next season in projecting their roster. This may be an erroneous assumption, but it's what I would be doing if I were in charge, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I think it's attainable. With a few solid moves I think the Oilers are at least in the hunt for a playoff spot. Secondly, I'm not convinced the Oilers are likely to be as bad next year as they have been this year. "Tanking" makes more sense when you are a projecting to be an awful team, worse than I would guess the Oilers are projecting to be next season anyways. Admittedly, that prediction for the team might change, depending on the deadline and early offseason moves. If the team can't get any UFA's to sign, except on longer term and higher priced contracts, maybe it makes sense to use what you have and let things play out. But, at this point, I don't think the Oilers should be planning to be awful again next season.
To improve Edmonton's goaltending for the upcoming season, I think the Oilers would be wise to find a “1B” goalie at a cost of $2.0 mil or less on a short term deal. That type of goalie could be reasonably expected to be available come July 1st, given the NHL's current goaltending market. There’s too much risk going with Deslauriers or Dubnyk as a backup, given the situation with Khabibulin. Of course, that’s assuming the team is serious about competing for a playoff spot next season. I would be, but if the plan is to tank, I suppose I can see the argument for re-signing Deslauriers or Dubnyk to be Khabibulin’s backup. In that case, I think it might make more sense to trade for a different, younger goalie with more potential. It would depend on the perceived upside of Deslauriers and Dubnyk going forward. Of the two, I think there’s a better argument for developing Dubnyk than Deslauriers, given age and proximity to UFA status. But acquiring a 1B goalie, one that can play up to 50 games, would be a priority for me this offseason, were I the general manager.
The Oilers are in a bit of an awkward position, contractually, with Deslauriers. He’s old enough that any future development won’t help the Oilers going forward unless they re-sign him to a longer term; he’s scheduled to be a UFA in the summer 2011. This makes Deslauriers an effective UFA, in a way, since there is no developmental benefit to re-signing Deslauriers. Therefore, his value to the Oilers, as an RFA, is reduced to the theoretical RFA discount for him relative to the available UFA class. I don’t think that there is a discount in price for Deslauriers vs. the UFA market, given the number of similar UFA goalies the Oilers could sign as replacements or superior goalies they could sign for somewhat more money. Given that information, I think the right course of action for the Oilers is to not qualify him, and allow him to become an UFA.
Dubnyk seems unlikely to be claimed if waived. His numbers this season don’t sparkle enough that a team would replace their own backup with him. Many teams have their own goalies to develop, and that goalie is probably about as good as Dubnyk anyways, so why not just stick with the guy you have? And if they have a veteran, Dubnyk probably isn't any better at the moment. Dubnyk is a good AHL goalie, a decent #3 goalie, would help Oklahoma City, and isn’t blocking any goalie in the system. I would send Dubnyk his QO, and risk waiving him to the AHL in the fall.
Following that plan would leave Oilers carrying 2 goaltenders, Khabibulin at $3.75 mil and a UFA 1B Goalie at $1.2-$2.0 mil, with a combined cap hit of $4.95 – $5.75 mil. That seems like a pretty reasonable total for the (projected) improvement in goaltending vs. the status quo.