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
Blue Jackets $8.325m
Predators $7m (Saros needs a contract).
Bruins $7m (Khudobin needs a contract).
Golden Knights $6.4m
Capitals $6.1m (Grubauer needs a contract).
Avalanche $5.9m (Bernier and Hammond need a contract).
Red Wings $5.9m
Maple Leafs $5.85m
Blues $4.35m (Hutton needs a contract).
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.
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. I think a one year deal makes sense, and even if you have to pay over $2 million it is hard to see it completely blowing up in their face.
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.