61
Photo Credit: Tomi Hanninen

Mikko Koskinen: Good signing or Overpayment?

A report came out today stating the Oilers will sign Mikko Koskinen to a two-year contract at $2.5 million. From my sources, those numbers aren’t 100%, so if a deal is signed I won’t be surprised if it is a bit different than the report, but I won’t be surprised if the Oilers sign him.

You need quality goaltending to win in the NHL, but goalies are also highly unpredictable. We saw some of the best goalies in the NHL struggle this past season. Carey Price, Braden Holtby and Cory Schneider had long stretches where they were below average. Cam Talbot also had a rough start to the season. Will Mikko Koskinen help the Oilers? At this point, I honestly don’t know. I can look at the numbers and the online highlights of Koskinen, but there is no guarantee his KHL success will translate to the NHL. There is also no guarantee it won’t.

Let’s look at what this signing means to the Oilers and compare it to other NHL teams.

For this table, let’s assume the reported two-year deal worth $2.5 million is accurate. Then the Oilers goaltending cap hit for next season will be a combined $6.66 million with Koskinen and Cam Talbot’s $4.16 million. Talbot is entering the final year of his deal. Talbot currently carries the 22nd highest cap hit among NHL goalies heading into next season, and he’ll likely drop to 23rd when Connor Hellebuyck signs a new deal this summer. Koskinen’s deal would have him tied for 31st with Michael Neuvirth and Anders Nilsson.

Here is a quick look at each team’s allocated salary to their goaltending.

Canadiens $11.25 million
Rangers $9.25m
Florida $8.733m
Blue Jackets $8.325m
Senators $8.15m
Devils $7.25m
Predators $7m (Saros needs a contract).
Bruins $7m (Khudobin needs a contract).
Chicago $6.75m
Oilers $6.66m
Kings $6.475m
Flames $6.4m
Golden Knights $6.4m
Sharks $6.4m
Canucks $6.16m
Capitals $6.1m (Grubauer needs a contract).
Coyotes $6.1m
Avalanche $5.9m (Bernier and Hammond need a contract).
Red Wings $5.9m
Maple Leafs $5.85m
Stars $5.56m
Flyers $5.25m
Wild $4.98m
Hurricanes $4.96m
Lightning $4.6m
Penguins $4.38m
Blues $4.35m (Hutton needs a contract).
Ducks $4.3m
Jets $4.1m (Hellebuyck needs a contract).
Islanders $3.33m (Gibson and Halak need a contract).
Sabres $750,000 (Lehner and Johnson need contracts).

The Oilers are currently 10th, and will likely still be in the top-15 once teams sign a backup, or in the case of the Jets, their starter.

The Oilers goaltending wasn’t good enough last season, and Chiarelli said he would improve it. I have only watched some highlights, but I received this scouting report this morning via text.

“He was a lot more controlled and stable this season. He doesn’t sprawl around like he did in the past,” it said.

The one interesting part for me is his size. This year, and maybe it was an anomaly, but teams have started to attack bigger goalies differently. Koskinen is 6’6″ — he’s huge — and this past year we saw some taller goalies get opened up and stretched out more, and when that happens there are holes for shooters to hit.

So will teams attack Koskinen like this? The game is always evolving and changing. A few years ago, most goalies under six feet tall struggled, and I think that will continue. The 6’6″ or bigger goalies, who aren’t overly mobile, had a lot of success. But this past year we started to see a change in that.

It is fair to wonder how Koskinen will adapt, not only to NHL shooters, but to how they attack the net and move the puck in the NHL compared to the KHL.

CAP HIT

I understand the Oilers will have to pay him more to convince him to leave the KHL, but is it the right move?

Would they be better off trying to sign Jonathon Bernier, Philip Grubauer or another established NHL goalie to the same contract? It definitely would be the safer bet, assuming they could sign one. I suspect Chiarelli doesn’t want to wait until July 1st and see if he could land a proven NHL player. I don’t think Grubauer and Hutton will make it to free agency, so waiting until free agency begins has negatives as well. But what about Petr Mrazek. The Flyers won’t qualify him and he’ll be a UFA?

It is also very fair to wonder if this is not another high-risk bet made by Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers.

Last season, they hoped many young players would take a big step, and it didn’t happen, which isn’t a surprise considering only a few players are capable of handling a massive increase in responsibility early in their careers.

Koskinen turns 30 in July. He should be experienced enough to handle the pressure of the NHL, but is he good enough to be a competent backup, or possibly push Talbot for a 50-30 split in games? I honestly don’t know. I won’t pretend to, but I understand why some have concerns with the signing. Regardless of what the money is, ultimately Koskinen needs to play well for any deal to make sense.

If he signs for $1.25 million/season and struggles, it would still be a bad deal. The money matters in regards to the salary cap, but the reality is his play on the ice will determine if the signing is good.

If he plays well and gives the Oilers quality minutes, then it will be a good signing.

The problem is the Oilers haven’t had a competent back up for years. Since 2013/2014 here is a list of the goalies who have tended twine.

Name                              GP               SV%         GAA
Cam Talbot                  196             .914          2.65
Richard Bachman        10               .912          2.90
Ilya Bryzgalov              20               .908          3.01
Al Montoya                   9                 .906          2.94
Anders Nilsson            26               .901          3.14
Ben Scrivens                78               .898          3.12
Laurent Brossoit          28               .897          2.98
Viktor Fasth                 33               .894          3.26
Devan Dubnyk             32                .894          3.36
Jonas Gustavsson        7                 .878          3.10
Jason Labarbera          7                  870           3.27

Dubnyk had lost his confidence and was struggling. He was moved and bounced around Nashville, Montreal and Arizona, before finding his stride in Minnesota, but the others haven’t had great numbers elsewhere since.

The Oilers haven’t had a competent backup for years. Will Koskinen be one? We will see, but he has only played 51 pro games in North America. Six in the ECHL, 41 in the AHL and four in the NHL. He has played on the large ice surface his entire career. Can he adapt to NHL and the smaller rink now?

I don’t know, but regardless of what his contract is (to a point), Peter Chiarelli needs him to play well. The Oilers simply can’t afford to sign another goalie who can’t stop pucks regularly.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • toprightcorner

    Don’t like this at all.

    1) The back up was not the reason for the terrible season, so should not be the first place to fix or to waste precious cap space.

    2) An extra $1.5 mill towards back up means you have to sign a $2.5 mill RW instead of $4, which means bottom 6 instead of top 6. The biggest whole in the lineup gets less money to improve.

    3) If PC felt he needed a backup of $2.5 mill quality, go with a proven commodity in the NHL. Bernier, Kubodin or Grubaur are much better with a lot less risk.

    4) over spending on an unknown is too risky when cap space is tight.

  • toprightcorner

    I would rather sign/trade for a top 6 RW for $4-$5 mill mill range and keep Montoya or a different $1 mill goalie than spend $2.5 on a back up and only have $2.5 – $3.5 to sign a RW that is 3rd line quality for the top 6.

  • toprightcorner

    Paying a backup $2.5 mill to play 20 games is like playing a starter $7.5 to play 60 games. That is just stupid.

    They won’t play Talbot less than 60 games, especially on a contract year, unless he struggles badly.

    Even if Talbot only plays 50 games, at $2.5, a back up still makes more per game than the starter.

    Teams need to pay backups based on the games they are expected to play, not just the annual salary.

  • toprightcorner

    Paying a backup $2.5 mill to play 20 games is like paying him $7.5 mill to be a starter. Even if he played 30 games, that is more per game than Talbot. That is just stupid.

    I don’t see Talbot playing less than 60 games, if healthy.

  • toprightcorner

    Spending $2.5 for a back up on a cap strapped team sounds more like whats best for Chiarelli and not the team. If Talbot struggles to start and they keep Montoya or sign equivalent, PC gets the boot early. I potentially better backup could prevent that. That is like putting $1000 on red and then putting $500 on black. You win either way but its not the smartest thing to do.

    Chiarelli is would be making this move to reduce his chance of failure and not improve the teams chance to win

  • Waltlaw

    Koskinen’s KHL regular season save%, ranking, & gp:

    17/18: 93.7%, 5th (29 gp)
    16/17: 91.6%, 43rd (23 gp)
    15/16: 91.5%, 40th (41 gp)
    14/15: 92.7%, 16 (21 gp)

    His avg save% 2014-18 is 92.3% (114 gp), which ranks 30-35th. There are 27 teams in the KHL. That puts him just below average. However, if you look at the KHL average save%, it’s 92.3%. Based on save% over 114 games then, at best we can conclude that Koskinen is an ~average~ KHL goaltender. How will that translate to the NHL? I’m not getting my hopes up.

    For the record, 90.5 is the average save% for an NHL backup. A top-10 backup save% would be closer to 91%. For $2.5 million/year, I have at least “top 10 backup” expectations. Anything less would be a wasted signing.

    (Data sources: http://www.eliteprospects.com & corsica.hockey)

  • overdue

    I think it’s a good gamble, by all acounts a good goalie and if Talbot falters again it could be the difference between making the playoffs and golfing early again. You need good goaltending above all other positions to succeed . ( See Toronto in the playoffs )