The Oilers need a new General Manager, at least a couple of new forwards, ideally a defenseman, and a backup goalie. All of that needs to be accomplished if the team wants to find their way back into the playoffs next season.
The goaltending side of things is incredibly interesting. We all know that they’re committed to Mikko Koskinen, who is coming off a season in which he appeared in 55 games and posted a 2.93 goals against average and a 0.903 save percentage.
Out of goaltenders who played at least 41 games this season, he was 23rd in GAA and 24th in SV%. He had a couple of nice hot streaks mixed in with a couple of stretches where he hardly looked like a legitimate NHLer. Looking at the season as a whole, I would struggle to say Mikko Koskinen is a legitimate, stand-alone, number one goalie, but he’s capable of playing 50-55 games. Can he improve? Possibly. I looked into that and you can read that piece HERE.
We don’t know for sure what we’ll get from Koskinen next year, but we know he’s going to be the starter. What the next GM needs to do is go out and snag a quality backup who can step in when Koskinen goes through his inevitable struggles.
They could hit the free agent market and while that could be the most cost-effective option, it may not bring back the best quality. In total, there are 16 UFA goalies who played at least 15 NHL games this past season. Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov will be too expensive. Robin Lehner and Petr Mrazek will no doubt be resigned by their current teams.
That leaves Mike Smith (CGY), Keith Kinkaid (CBJ), Anders Nilsson (OTT), Cam Talbot (PHI), Cam Ward (CHI), Curtis McElhinney (CAR), Brian Elliot (PHI), Ryan Miller (ANA), Chad Johnson (ANA), Anthony Stolarz (EDM), Antti Niemi (MTL), and Calvin Pickard (ARZ) as the remaining. Only five of them had a GAA below 3.00. The bottom line is that there isn’t a lot of quality on the free agent market.
If the Oilers want to get a quality backup goaltender, they may need to hit up the trade market. I’m not saying that the new GM should go and trade Darnell Nurse, Jesse Puljujarvi, or a first round pick for a backup goaltender, but they might need to spend some sort of asset. I’m thinking more along the lines of a third-round pick or a lower-end prospect.
To see what the market for goaltenders is liked, I looked back through the past three off-seasons to see what past trades involving goalies looked like. The reason I ignored mid-season deals is that the market changes when we aren’t talking about rentals, the prices can change.
- The Maple Leafs acquired Frederik Andersen from Anaheim for a first-round pick and a second-round pick.
- The Flames acquired Brian Elliot from St. Louis for a second-round pick and a conditional third-round pick.
- The LA Kings acquired Jack Campbell from Dallas for Nick Ebert.
- The Blues traded Anders Nilsson to Buffalo for a fourth-round pick.
- The Anaheim Ducks got Jonathan Bernier from Toronto for a conditional draft pick.
- The Stars acquired pending UFA Ben Bishop from LA for a fourth-round pick.
- Carolina spent a third-round pick to get pending free agent Scott Darling from Chicago.
- The Rangers packaged Derek Stepan with Antti Raanta and sent them to Arizona for Anthony DeAngelo and a first-round pick.
- The Flames acquired Mike Smith, who had two more years on his deal, from Arizona for Brandon Hickey, Chad Johnson, and a conditional third-round pick.
- The Maple Leafs acquired Calvin Pickard for Tobias Lindberg and a sixth-round pick.
- The Flames acquired Eddie Lack, Ryan Murphy, and a seventh-round pick from New Jersey for a prospect and a 6th round pick.
- The Kings acquired Peter Budaj and sent Andy Andreoff to Tampa Bay.
- The Capitals traded Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik (who was bought out) to Colorado for a 2nd round pick.
There aren’t really any quality pending UFA’s for the Oilers to acquire, that would have been the easiest route to go. Quality NHL goalies rarely get traded, but it does happen. The odd time that they do, it rarely costs more than a second-round pick and usually involves a decent amount of risk.
So who are some teams that might be willing to trade a goaltender? Here are a few teams that appear to have too many goaltenders under contract for next season:
PITTSBURGH: They have Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray in the starters role and for a few years they’ve been rolling with Casey DeSmith as the backup. Could the Oilers look at former Oil King Tristan Jarry? He’s coming off a good season in the AHL and has 29 games of NHL experience. It shouldn’t cost too much to acquire him and I think he’s ready to step up to the NHL level.
TORONTO: Garret Sparks had an awful season and it appears as though the fan base, and a few within the organization, don’t have any confidence in his ability. I could see him getting moved this summer, but I also think the Oilers should aim a little higher.
FLORIDA: This is a weird situation in general. Roberto Luongo still hasn’t decided if he’s going to come back, they have James Reimer under contract for two more years at $3.4 million, they have 22-year-old Sam Montembault, and they’re reportedly going to push for free agent Sergei Bobrovsky this summer. Reimer is expensive and hasn’t been consistent for two seasons now and he’s far from my favourite choice out there, but if the Panthers retain 50% and are looking to give him away, maybe the Oilers call. Still, that’s hardly a good solution to their problem.
NASHVILLE: Juuse Saros would be the perfect fit here in Edmonton. He’s young, inexpensive, has NHL experience, and really good numbers to go with it all. Nashville has Pekka Rinne in the starter’s crease, but I still don’t see think they’ll move Saros. He’s only 24-years-old and I would imagine they see him as their goalie of the future. Edmonton needs to find someone like Saros, who just hasn’t broken out yet.
ST. LOUIS: Jordan Binnington came in and quickly became a Calder Trophy candidate with his play in the second half of the season. Jake Allen has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career but if the Oilers go the “reclamation project” route (which the Islanders and Hurricanes had success doing this season), then Allen is someone they should look at. The only problem is that he’s rather expensive and with $4.5 million committed to Koskinen, the Oilers aren’t in a position to take on Allen’s $4.35 million cap hit.
ARIZONA: Antti Raanta is a legitimate number one goaltender in the NHL. He went down with an injury earlier this season and the job was eventually given to Darcy Kuemper who stepped in and posted numbers that are almost Vezina worthy. Both are under contract next year which raises the question: will the ‘Yotes keep both? Or will they try to sell high on someone like Kuemper?
LOS ANGELES: I really don’t think Jonathan Quick will go anywhere despite the constant whispers about his future in California. The team also has 24-year-old Cal Petersen sitting in the AHL and based off his 11 game stint in the NHL this season, he might be ready to become Quick’s full-time backup. 27-year-old Jack Campbell had a hell of a season, posting a 2.30 GAA and a 0.928 SV% in 31 starts, and I wonder if LA will try to sell high on Campbell. They might prefer to keep all three, and that wouldn’t surprise me, but the Oilers should make a call. There might be a low-end roster player in Edmonton that Todd McLellan might push the Kings to acquire.
The free agent market is thin and after looking through things a bit, the trade market doesn’t appear to be much better. One thing that might be able to help the Oilers: the eventual destinations of high-end free agents like Bobrovsky or Varlamov. That might change the landscape of the league and allow the Oilers to acquire someone who may not appear to be available at this moment. Right now there doesn’t appear to be one single “slam dunk” candidate, that could change though.
Goaltending is everything in today’s NHL and the Oilers have a clear hole at the NHL level that needs to be filled. It’s imperative that the incoming GM gets this right.