Earlier this week, the Oilers inked Mikko Koskinen to a three-year contract extension that comes with a cap hit of $4.5 million. As it stands right now, that will make him the 17th highest paid goaltender in the NHL.
The decision to re-sign Koskinen has divided the Oilers fan base, as most of Peter Chiarelli’s moves have, and rightfully so.
They probably could have waited a few months to give Koskinen this kind of offer and waited to see how he performs through the back half of the season and also waited to see how the rest of the goaltending market was going to look. Lots can change in the matter of 40 games.
Some will say that the goaltending market this upcoming summer is rather thin and at first, I kind of scoffed at that, but they may be correct in saying that. Here are the current pending UFAs that I believe could be starting goalies at the NHL level next season:
SERGEI BOBROVSKY: He’s probably the only true elite goaltender on the free agent market and when it comes to ‘Bob’ and the Oilers, it isn’t even worth discussing. They can’t afford him and even if they could, I doubt he would want to come here.
JIMMY HOWARD: He’s actually having a solid season with the Red Wings posting a 2.82 GAA and a 0.915 SV%. The fact that Detroit has given up the 6th most scoring chances in the league make those numbers even more impressive in my opinion. He will likely cost more than Koskinen, so it wouldn’t have been a fit in Edmonton.
SEMYON VARLAMOV: He’s been a starter in the NHL for pretty much six seasons with varied results. While he’s been inconsistent, he’s still been a solid NHL goaltender in that time. I think he will cost around the same as Koskinen, maybe a little bit more. He’s one name that actually may have been a fit here in Edmonton.
ROBIN LEHNER: He’s had a very up and down career, and his personal struggles are now well known, but he seems to be in a good spot right now in Brooklyn. He has a 0.930 SV% and a 2.02 GAA this season and I would expect the Islanders will look to lock him up.
That’s pretty much it for legit number one goalies on the UFA Market. There is a soft middle group of guys who could be starters, but could just as easily get overpaid…
CAM TALBOT: Do I need to explain this one? Oilers fans have seen the best of Talbot and the worst of Talbot. He could go to a new city and find his 2016-17 form, but he could just as easily sign a $3-4 million deal and post a save percentage close to 0.900. I had high hopes for him coming into this year, and I was wrong. He won’t be back in Edmonton.
KEITH KINKAID: His numbers aren’t great this year, but he has a history of going on some really impressive hot stretches. I don’t think he could handle a 50-60 game workload, but he’d be an interesting pickup as a ‘1B’ type of starter. I would imagine the Devils want to keep him around too.
So looking at that group, the only realistic option that could have been a clear upgrade on Mikko Koskinen is Semyon Varlamov, and even that may have been far fetched. I can’t see him being within Edmonton’s price range and I doubt he’d come here.
When you consider just the UFA options, maybe bringing back Koskinen was the right decision. But what about the RFA options?
This summer, there will be 11 RFA goaltenders who have played at least five games this season, assuming none get resigned before the end of the year.
David Rittich (CGY), Joonas Korpisalo (CBJ), Cal Petersen (LAK), Adin Hill (ARZ), Malcolm Subban (VGK), and Jordan Binnington (STL) are all names that I believe their current organizations view as big parts of their future, so I would imagine those names will all be locked up by their respective clubs. You could probably throw Garrett Sparks (TOR) in there as well, but I don’t know enough about his situation in Toronto.
Laurent Brossoit will be an RFA this summer and he is currently having a fantastic season with the Winnipeg Jets. In 12 games, he has a 2.01 GAA and a 0.943 SV%. No one could have predicted these kinds of numbers from ‘LB’. Given how things ended in Edmonton for him, I’d say there’s no chance he comes back to the Oilers. Don’t think they’d be very interested either.
There’s Linus Ullmark is Buffalo, but I can’t see him leaving either. Ullmark is playing great this season and the combination of he and Carter Hutton is a massive reason the Sabres are in playoff contention. I could see Ullmark wanting a shot to be a legitimate starter somewhere, but he’s only 24 years old and I’d expect the Sabres will want to keep him around.
There is also Colin Delia (CHI) and Anthony Stolarz (PHI) but I don’t see either of those guys as legitimate NHL backup goalies, nevermind starters.
So now we’ve gone through the UFAs and RFAs and there really isn’t an option that would both come to Edmonton on a decent deal and is definitely better than Koskinen.
Of course, they could go the trade route as well. That could work because you can usually find a good goalie on a decent contract, but you’ll also have to spend assets to do so, and we all know that the Oilers don’t really have any assets. If they wanted to find a trading partner for their goaltending problems this summer, here are three teams they could target:
BOSTON: Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask have split time in the crease this year and both posted some really good numbers. I don’t see the Bruins getting rid of Rask and while Halak has been a very good backup for them this year, maybe they would cash in on his sky-high value this summer. While a move might happen in Boston, are the Oilers going to roll with an ageing backup? Doubt it. So you can probably cross them off the list.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS: If they do in fact re-sign Robin Lehner, maybe they’d be open to trading Thomas Greiss, who has played in 26 games and has a 2.50 GAA to go with a 0.920 SV%. I could just as easily see them opting to keep both goalies because if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I would imagine the price tag on Greiss would be rather high.
PITTSBURGH: They have Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith under contract for next season and it’s pretty obvious that those two will be the duo at the NHL level. If Pittsburgh decided to move on from one, they would both be perfect fits in Edmonton. They also have former Oil King Tristan Jarry, who is currently in the AHL.
He wouldn’t be a starter, but with Koskinen locked up, I wonder if the Oilers take a look at Jarry as a good, young backup. In 29 career games, Jarry has a 2.84 GAA and a 0.906 SV%. I think there’s some untapped potential with him and he might be available at a low price tag. It’s not a perfect solution, but I think it could be worth a look.
So now we’ve gone through the pending UFA’s, pending RFA’s, and the trade market and so far I’ve found two veterans who are having good seasons and a young goalie who could be a backup.
Safe to say the goaltending market is a little bit thin, so maybe it was smart to sign Koskinen. Maybe they overpaid, but they got their guy. What’s done is done, so let’s look ahead a little bit. Talbot is clearly going to be gone, so who will backup Koskinen next year?
I like the idea of Jarry or another young goalie, but I have a feeling that the organization will go out and a find a reliable veteran on the UFA market. There are plenty of names to consider if they choose that route.
Ryan Miller is having a decent season in Anaheim, but I doubt he’s itching to leave SoCal for Edmonton.
Mike Smith has had a very up and down career with the Calgary Flames, if they chose to let him walk at the end of the season, he might be available at a very cheap price. Not sure if I even trust him to be a reliable backup, but if the Oilers are looking for a cost-effective option…
Petr Mrazek has over 200 games of NHL experience. He’s a guy who I think can handle 20-30 games a season and give you some good, honest starts. Shouldn’t be too expensive either.
Brian Elliott is the best goalie on this list in my opinion. He honestly shouldn’t cost more than $3.0 million this summer, which still might be too expensive for the Oilers, but I think he is a guy who could come in and push Mikko Koskinen. Maybe I’m undervaluing him, especially considering that the market is razor thin this summer, but he’d be a name I would be circling
Going through all of these names was very frustrating because it showed that Koskinen was one of the better options out there. I still wish they would have waited another month to see if his game rebounds once Oscar Klefbom comes back, but regardless, this is the reality of the situation. Mikko Koskinen will be the Oilers starting goaltender for the foreseeable future and now the focus in the crease shifts to who will be his backup, and even filling that spot seems like it could be a daunting task for whoever the Oilers GM is this summer.