Western contenders and basement dwellers alike have goalie issues

Cam Talbot and Anders Nilsson have traded places plenty this season, but neither is getting the job done. Andy Devlin/NHLI/Getty Images

On Wednesday, we looked at a half dozen Eastern Conference teams with unsettled goaltending situations. Some were old-fashioned controversies, whereas others were short-term situations caused by slumps or injuries.

We move on to the West, where we'll start with a team that seems to have a permanent spot on this list over the years.

Edmonton Oilers: Cam Talbot vs. Anders Nilsson

In this corner: Coming off a surprisingly good season with the New York Rangers, Talbot was the Oilers' offseason trade target. They got him, at the cost of three draft picks. Would he finally stabilize years of shaky goaltending? Spoiler alert: These are the Oilers we're talking about.

And in this corner: Nilsson was another trade piece, although one that received far less attention. He came over from the Chicago Blackhawks to provide the organization with some depth, and perhaps push Ben Scrivens for the backup job.

The results so far: Nilsson pushed Scrivens all the way to the AHL, and he didn't stop there. He's earned a share of the starter's job with Talbot, who hasn't played well at all.

Prediction: The Oilers have a decision to make on Talbot, and soon; he'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and with Edmonton looking like it will be well out of the playoff race, you'd expect the team to either sign him long term or try to flip him at the deadline to recover some of the assets it gave up to get him. That still gives Talbot a few months to find his game and reclaim the starter's job, and there's good reason to think that he can.

Winnipeg Jets: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Michael Hutchinson (vs. Connor Hellebuyck)

In this corner: Pavelec has been the Jets' starter since before they were the Jets, and is coming off a career season. He's also hurt, expected to miss at least a month with a lower-body injury. It's also possible that he's not very good, although Jets fans tend to be pretty evenly split on that minor detail.

And in this corner: Hutchinson was a nice story last season, playing well above expectations as a 24-year-old rookie. But he hasn't been as good this season, posting a .901 save percentage and failing to win a start since October.

The results so far: It was Pavelec by a nose up until he got hurt, at which point Hutchinson was handed the job by default. But there's a third contender in the mix in rookie Connor Hellebuyck. He's considered one of the best goaltending prospects in the game and had a breakthrough performance for Team USA at least year's World Championships. He made his NHL debut on Friday and looked great, and he's been projected as a possible starter for The Young Guns (aka Team North America) at next year's World Cup. The question is whether he'll also be starting full time for the Jets by then, too.

Prediction: While the Jets will want to be patient with their prized prospect, you'd have to think they would love to see Hellebuyck step in and win the job, playing the role of Steve Penney in their push back to the playoffs. There's a good chance that he does, and if so he could push Pavelec out the door in the offseason (although good luck finding a taker for the $3.9 million left on his contract).

Anaheim Ducks: Frederik Andersen vs. Anton Khudobin (vs. John Gibson)

In this corner: Andersen has been the starter, and he's played fine, especially early on when the Ducks weren't giving him any support. But he's been out since Nov. 21 with the flu, opening the door a crack.

And in this corner: Khudobin was acquired in the offseason, even though the Ducks didn't seem to need another goalie. That move bumped John Gibson off the roster, despite Gibson showing flashes as a rookie last season.

The results so far: Andersen's illness brought Gibson back to the big leagues, and he's looked great in five games since, posting a .932 save percentage. This one looks a lot like the situation in Winnipeg, only with compressed timelines because the starter should be back any day now.

Prediction: Andersen will get his job back once he's healthy and will continue to be one of the league's best values. But Gibson has made an impression, and you wonder how long the Ducks can keep him in the minors. Does Khudobin go back on the trade market? And if so, who wants him?

Dallas Stars: Antti Niemi vs. Kari Lehtonen

In this corner: Lehtonen has been the Stars' starter since coming over in a 2010 trade. But he stumbled through a rough season last year, and with a Cup-caliber offense in front of him, the franchise couldn't afford to sit back and hope he would figure it out.

And in this corner: Niemi won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010. He then spent the next five seasons trying to explain what those words mean to the San Jose Sharks.

The results so far: Niemi is getting more starts, but Lehtonen is putting up better numbers. The battle was put on hold with a Lehtonen injury last week, but he's expected back soon.

Prediction: It's hard to imagine that your new favorite team can go with both guys for the long term; at over $10 million, they carry the league's highest combined cap hit for the position. With Jack Campbell almost ready for NHL duty, there's a backup option available if one guy grabs the job and runs with it. But the two-headed monster approach is working fine so far, with Dallas sitting on top of the West, so no need to mess with it quite yet.

Calgary Flames: Their current goalies vs. anyone who can stop the puck

In this corner: Between Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo, the Flames have the third-most expensive goaltending in the league. Joni Ortio has seen some action, too. Depth is good, right? Um, about that ...

And in this corner: Who you got? (Seriously, if you have anyone, please call GM Brad Treliving immediately.)

The results so far: All three goaltenders are below the .900 mark in save percentage and have goals-against averages over 3.00, and the Flames are dead-last in the league by a wide margin in goals allowed. In related news, they're seven points out of a playoff spot, and their hopes are fading fast.

Prediction: The Flames can't keep going like this. It's not as if the goalies are the only reason the team is struggling -- there's a long list of contributors to that -- but at some point you need to get a save. With the season slipping away, a trade wouldn't be a surprise, and there are plenty of guys around the league who could be available.

The tricky part would be getting a team to take a goalie back in return. Ramo and Ortio have already cleared waivers this season, and Hiller's numbers are the worst of the three.

One thought: The Flames have tried to take bad contracts in exchange for future assets in the past. Would they be willing to do the reverse here? Either way, something has to give. Brian Burke might not hold the GM's title in Calgary, but it's hard not to think back to his "Never again will I be short on goaltending" quote.

Colorado Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov vs. Reto Berra

In this corner: Varlamov led the league in wins just two years ago and nearly won the Vezina for his efforts. He also led the league in losses the year before, but stats can be misleading. Right, Avs fans?

And in this corner: Berra doesn't have much of a track record, but he was decent as a backup last season, and that seemed like his ceiling heading into this season.

The results so far: Berra's been decent for a backup, maybe even a little better. Varlamov has been hurt, and when he has suited up, he's been awful. Patrick Roy knows a thing or two about goaltending and might be coaching for his job, so guess who he's going with?

Prediction: Varlamov's resume suggests that this season has been a slump; he's been too good over the last few years to be written off based on 12 bad starts. But the Avs will probably keep riding the hot hand until they're out of the playoff race. So, mid-Decemberish.