NCAA’s O’Connor narrows choice to 4 NHL teams

Matt O'Connor took Boston to the NCAA Championship Game this season.

EDMONTON–Highly sought after college free agent goaltender Matt O’Connor is down to four teams, and will close out his interview process tomorrow in Manhattan.

The six-foot-five Boston University goaltender has whittled his choices down to (in no particular order) the Vancouver Canucks, the Edmonton Oilers, the Ottawa Senators and the New York Rangers.

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Sources confirm to Sportsnet that O’Connor met Monday in Boston with new Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli, and he’ll be in New York on Wednesday, where Glen Sather and the Rangers will court the services of the Toronto native.

O’Connor, 23, backstopped his Boston University Terriers to the NCAA Championship game, where they lost a 4-3 decision to Providence. O’Connor botched a long shoot-in, handing the Friars their third goal, and his Terriers were never quite able to get the momentum back.

In choosing an NHL team, O’Connor has been most inquisitive about how goalie-rich the different farms systems are. He had shown interest in the Calgary Flames, but the Flames have Joni Ortio in place and last week signed college draft pick Jon Gillies — the Providence goalie that won the NCAA title — effectively eliminating Calgary from contention.

The Rangers have starter Henrik Lundqvist signed through the year 2021, but backup Cam Talbot becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season. The goaltending road is wide open in Vancouver, with neither Eddie Lack nor Ryan Miller, who was injured, performing well enough in the Canucks first round exit at the hands of Calgary.

Ottawa will sign UFA Andrew Hammond unless he opts to test the free market, and have both Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson under contract. Chris Driedger and 6-foot-4 Swede Marcus Hogberg are in the pipeline.

Edmonton, not surprisingly, is the leanest organization when it comes to goaltending depth. They’ve got second-year pro Laurent Broissoit in the AHL, and nobody else of importance. They’ll be acquiring an NHL goalie to play ahead of Ben Scrivens next season, but unless Chiarelli can pry Talbot away from New York — or Martin Jones from L.A. — it will be a veteran on a shorter-term deal.

Expect O’Connor to announce his decision some time during the second or third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Teams will want to know of his intentions well before the draft, as the addition of a graduating pro will affect their draft needs.