Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Examining the goalie market

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:

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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.

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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.

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Dec 9, 2017; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit (1) during the third period against Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

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:

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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.

  • Anton CP

    Very few goalies in today’s game can carry the team all by themselves. Only 10 goalies this season have started 35 games and more. With the current pace that only about 5~6 players will actually be playing more than 60 games total. Many of the teams are not playing with true No.1 anymore so it is kind of pointless to sign anyone to be the next No.1 goalie. What is in front of the goalie will decide how good the goalie can be. With whatever in front of the Oilers net that even a prime Brodeur can’t do any better.

  • FanBoy

    Out of those I still think Koskinen be the best fit minus maybe Varlamov. Should’ve been 3 x 3.5M. I think this he was one of those guys the Oilers could’ve got a really sweet deal on except we had Chiarelli handling the negotiations so I guess I shouldn’t expect much

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    . Koskinen isnt playing well right now, they should have waited till closer to the end of the season and they could have signed him at 4 mil, he isnt having a lights out season I wouldnt have only signed him for 2 years we still dont know what we have with him 5 mil at 3 years if he doesnt work out is going to be a tough trade, and right now teams were not going to beat the Oilers door down for Koskinen

    2 Signing Koskinen now just made the trade market for Talbot weaker, now teams know your going to want to dump him because your not paying him 4 mil to be a back up , so your going to trade him and teams know this so know your trading from a position of weakness and its even worse because Talbot hasn’t been playing well so any trade value Talbot had you just reduced because you have told teams he isnt going to be re-signed and Koskinen is our 1 one guy, like talk about dumb , why weaken an already weak trading position further by doing the Koskinen signing now!

    ‘ The problem is they are going to end up trading Talbot for not much and they cant trade him for some back up who only plays 18 games a year. Think about it, we have no idea how many games Koskinen will be bale to handle playing, he’s only played 28, so hjow is he going to handle the majority of the workload and the Oilers need a back up that can handle at least 25 to 35 games in case Koskinen cant handle the workload, and if Koskinen gets hurt…hoo boy, the back up will take the majority of games and the Oiler cupboard in thin for good back ups in the AHL right now

    • TKB2677

      What trade value do you think Talbot had?

      Talbot was crappy for almost the whole season last year. He supposedly worked extra hard, trained more, was on the ice more this past offseason in an effort to bounce back in a contract year and he has 3.27 GA and a .894%. With numbers like that, if he was a young guy, people would say he’s not NHL ready and ship him to the minors. You can’t even blame the Oilers crappy defense. Koskinen plays behind the same everything and has been superior all year. So what trade value did signing Koskinen lose Talbot? He’s been crappy for 2 years, makes over 4.1 mill cap hit and has numbers that aren’t even good enough to be decent back up.

    • Jeff Petry

      Talbot has no trade value. Even before the signing. How do you not see that? Just look at his stats. No decent GM would wait until the end of the year to save $500,000. You can save more than that just by signing a cheaper backup

      • TKB2677

        I thought all along that with both your goalies as UFA’s there was a good chance that one of them would get traded. I think he has some value to a few teams who’s goaltending is iffy that are in the playoff hunt. Like a St. Louis as an example. People thought they were LOADED this year but have been a disappointment but they aren’t out of it yet. Goaltending has always been a problem for them. Philly is out of the playoff race but they have had goalie issues for as long as I can remember. I could see them trading for Talbot to try him out, see if he’s worth signing. Either way, the cost to get Talbot won’t be much. If I am Philly and I could get Talbot to test drive for a few months and all it cost me was a 3rd, I’d do it.

        • North Van Halen

          You actually think an overpaid back-up goalie with a sub .900 save % could fetch a 3rd round pick?!?! And you think Philly who’s outta the playoffs and likely to be able to sign him in the off-season for the veteran minimum would just toss a 3rd in to ‘try him out’? I think those rose coloured glasses are a little blurred from the tears of joy from Chia’s departure.

    • JudgeDredd

      things like this seem to have been the trend with Chia at the helm, if only he’d been fired last year this team might still be salvageable, whoever takes over is going to have their work cut out for them…. again.

  • TKB2677

    I said it in another site. I do not hate the amount of money or term that the Oilers decided to spend on a starter. I like Koskinen, he clearly has been the better goalie this season. Behind the same defense, same system, same everything, he’s been flat out better than Talbot. I like the fact that from day 1, he’s putting in the work to get better. He comes out 30 mins before practice just to work on his own. Talbot has been crap for 2 seasons now, why Talbot isn’t doing that, is baffling to me. What I don’t like is the timing. I personally would like to see Koskinen more. Even waiting a month would have been better. I hope it works out.

  • Jeff Petry

    Finally someone with enough smarts to look past just the signing and see how slim the goalie market really is. I’m sure Koskinen’s agent knew it too. I think this deal is ok if you look at ALL the info

  • Spaceman Spiff

    The unfortunate thing about the Koskinen signing earlier this week is that it will be swept up in all of the detritus of the Chiarelli firing, and it shouldn’t be. Chiarelli made many bad moves for this organization and definitely should have been fired, but from the right-here and right-now, this was a reasonable bet. A sensible signing. If it turns out well, the credit will need to be given when it’s due.

  • Dulock

    They signed Koskinen then fired Chiarelli because they wanted him to be their goalie but wanted to blame Chia if it didn’t work out. That’s the reason behind all of the moves this week and the reason that Chia didn’t announce any of them. What GM has ever signed a player but is nowhere to be found to announce it?

    • Spaceman Spiff

      Yes. I’m actually of the mind that Chiarelli didn’t sign Koskinen. The “group” did, whatever that is. I’m actually thinking that Chiarelli effectively had all or most of his GM “powers” removed after the trade for Manning.

    • hagar

      Thats right Dulock, the oilers like to use firings as a way to give the fans a false hope that things are changing so they calm back down when the temps get too high. Might as well sneak in some last minute moves under the current “reason” for failure, it leaves more failures allowed before firing for the next puppet.

  • Goaltender Interference

    Not terribly upset about the Koskinnen signing but it’s a little higher in $$ than I’m really comfortable with given the small sample size of games we’ve seen him play. Remember that Talbot had an incredible year then suddenly and inexplicably ranked after a summer working with the Oilers goalie coaches. Same thing could very well happen to Koskinnen…

    That’s also why I feel Talbot is going to get picked up by someone and turn back into a Vezina candidate like Dubnyk did. There’s probably just one or two minor corrections needed to his game that either the Oilers staff can’t see – or worse have embedded into – Talbots play. I think other GMs can see the trend of good goalies struggle with the Oilers and leave only to find success elsewhere. People saying Talbot has no trade value aren’t taking this into account.

    I also don’t like the timing on the Koskinnen signing – but bonehead moves like that seem par for the course for Oilers management.

    • NickL89

      Wow yeah that’s a pretty good point. His value could be much higher with a decent goalie coach. The problem now is the “position of weakness”. If there are trade offers coming they will definitely be lowballs.

  • Hemmercules

    Who the hell signs a goalie that has like 30 NHL games on his resume to almost 5 mil a year? The Oilers that’s who. No other team in the league signs that contract. Pure madness.

    I have zero faith the Old boys hire the right guy and they probably force him to fast track a contender anyway. Zero patience in that upper management group. They wont be able to entice anyone good anyway. This is where Gm’s go to die.

  • HockeyRooster

    I like Koskinen’s game most nights and based on the info above, this seems like a logical signing. I believe he is solid goalie and will perform like a he is paid-a middle of the pack starter. We’ve also seen signs of an upside so there is hope he can outplay this contract, in my mind.

    What I am more concerned about is Schwartz. I hate the idea of saying that someone should lose their job, but the Oilers need a new goalie coach. No two ways about it. Koskinen has some great parts to his game-did you seem him put a skate outside of BOTH posts on that breakaway last night??? He also needs some help sealing the post. We know he has been surprised on the sharp angle shots from the corner (guess they don’t shoot from these angles as much in Europe-according to commentary from the begining of the year).
    There have to be better coaches available and the Oilers need to bring one into the organization ASAP.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      I agree. Talbot’s performance warts are ALL deviations from the strong fundamentals he arrived with from NYR. These warts have accumulated to a disastrous level. Any half decent goaltending coach could drill Talbot’s new tendencies toward playing “small” out of him. If a guy (me) who only played goal until junior can see the issues and knows how to correct them, why can’t Schwartz? It’s so frustrating because Talbot is capable of being a very solid goalie.

      • HockeyRooster

        Small is the key word here-well said. Maybe there is something in the water (to take a line from Bobby) because Dubnyk played the same way. They are routinely finding ways to be small.
        Hitch seems to fancy himself a goalie guy and hopefully he sees the need for a new goalie coach…I’d have to think management would respect that.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    Before this team even begins to evaluate its goaltending it has to fix its defense… Most of the goalies that the recent Oilers have given up on have gone on to great things. Dubnyk, Broissoit… All the the great goalies named above have a considerably good defense in front of them. If you brought any of those goalies here to Edmonton, I’m afraid they wouldn’t be much better than what we have here now… Fix the “D”, then we’ll talk.

  • @S_2_H

    If Elliot is the best option out there for a back-up then we are in serious trouble. They should explore resigning Cam, as crazy as it sounds. The devil you know, as they say…

  • JimmyV1965

    The issue with signing Koskinnen is the timing. They simply signed him way too early. Let’s say he goes in a heater and ends the season with a .920 save percentage. What’s the cost of signing? Probably $5 mill. So to save $500,000 they took a huge risk on a goalie who has been trending down. It just doesn’t make sense.