Former Colorado College goalie Richard Bachman playing with Oklahoma City Barons

by MIKE BALDWIN The Oklahoman - Published: October 14, 2013 | 9:55 pm 0

Most players who have spent the past two seasons in the NHL would be bummed to return to the American Hockey League.

Richard Bachman, the Oklahoma City Barons' No. 1 goaltender and former Colorado College standout, views it as an opportunity.

A huge opportunity.

After being the Dallas Stars' backup goalie for the past two years, Bachman was in net when the Barons opened the season against the Charlotte Checkers on Friday .

For the past two years, OKC hockey fans were spoiled by Yann Danis, who led the Barons to back-to-back trips to the Western Conference finals. Danis was the 2012 AHL Goaltender of the Year.

"We replaced one great goaltender with another great goaltender," Barons general manager Bill Scott said. "We're in good shape in net. Richard has won at the AHL and NHL levels. You have to have good goaltending and he'll be very good for us."

One could argue the Barons upgraded with Bachman, who was 14-10-1 with a 2.94 goals against average backing up Kari Lehtonen the past two seasons in Dallas. Three years ago, Bachman was 28-19-5 with a 2.20 GAA and .927 saves percentage for the Texas Stars.

"We saw him firsthand that year he played in Texas," Barons coach Todd Nelson said. "He played very well against us. He's a lot like Yann except he's a lot younger."

Bachman, 26, is one of three NHL-tested goalies in the Edmonton Oilers system. Devan Dubnyk, 27, enters his third season as Edmonton's No. 1 goaltender. The Oilers signed Phoenix Coyotes backup Jason Laberbera, a 33-year-old career backup, to a one-year $1 million deal.

Some believe Bachman is a better fit for Edmonton. But contracts often take precedence. Laberbera signed a one-way deal. Bachman signed a two-way contract - $650,000 if he's in the NHL, $225,000 if stays with the Barons.

So why is Bachman excited?

All three goalies are free agents after the season. Dubnyk must prove he's an upper-tier goalie, or the Oilers might go in a different direction next season. Bachman feels he's competing for Edmonton's backup job even if he has to wait until the 2014-15 season.

Bachman had limited NHL options. A key variable in his decision was Edmonton is a team on the rise.

"They're poised to be really good real soon," Bachman said. "I know they're preaching they're done rebuilding, they want to win now."

One advantage to playing in Triple-A is getting more ice time. Bachman started 13 games last season for Dallas during the strike-shortened season and made 18 starts the previous season.

A fourth-round pick by Dallas in 2006, Bachman has spent the past four seasons in the Stars' organization but he hasn't made more than 35 starts since his 55 games in the AHL three years ago.

"Everyone's goal is to be in the NHL but I feel I'm still developing. The best way to do that is go play," Bachman said. "In the NHL I might get a game every three weeks. Here I can get into a rhythm."

The Barons essentially are replacing Danis with a younger version of Danis. Both are around 5-foot-10, undersized in an era in which some goaltenders are 6-6.

"Bigger goalies can compensate by just getting their bodies across (the crease)," Nelson said. "Smaller goalies have to be much more efficient."

Bachman is a Salt Lake City native who grew up in Denver. Bachman is happy to be with Oklahoma City, viewed as one of the top places to play in the 30-team AHL.

"This is a top-notch organization," Bachman said. "No question Oklahoma City being Edmonton's Triple-A affiliate factored into my decision."

The safe play for the Oilers was to stash Bachman in Triple-A and go with Laberbera. When Bachman fell into their lap it allowed Danis, 32, to sign with Philadelphia.

One factor in Bachman's favor long term is Edmonton has committed $18 million a year to Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins through 2017-18.

"When you're a free agent you really never know what might happen," Bachman said. "Your goal is to be ready if they need you.

"I wanted to put myself in a spot I could succeed. That's why this is a great opportunity."

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