Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Trading for a goalie

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.

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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.

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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.

In 2016:

  • 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.

In 2017:

  • 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.

In 2018:

  • 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.

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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.

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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.

  • billsbills

    There is also 24 year old Shane Starrett who has had a pretty decent and steady development trend. Signing any long term back up is a bad idea. Giving up legitimate assets in order to acquire a questionable back up with term is also a bad idea.

    I don’t want to say goalies are voodoo but especially when discussing career back ups, is there any guarantee? None. There is a reason they are a career backup.

    Signing Koskinen to a long term deal was dumb, we all know that. So signing another goalie as a back up to anything over a year is going to compound the issue.

    But besides that, there are other issues with goaltenders in Edmonton that need to be corrected at a higher level. Someone tell me the last time a goalie improved over time in Edmonton??

    • Johnny Utah

      100% agree with this. I think they need to take a hard look at the goalie coach. Seems like a lot of writers back him, and while he’s surely far from the biggest problem, I don’t think anyone can argue that he’s done an excellent job. Serviceable at best.

      Also agree that investing long term or trading an asset for a backup doesn’t make much sense. Have a decent pipeline with Starrett, Skinner, Rodriguez. Need someone to hold the fort for 1, maybe 2 years. I’d try for Reimer there… maybe a late pick and Florida retains 50%. Alternatively, maybe they take one of our bad contracts in return. Assuming Bobrovsky is there, they’ll have a goalie logjam so they’d get better use out of a Russell, Sekera or Lucic than a 3rd expensive goalie. Maybe we’d even get the late round pick or depth forward depending on which of the 3 is going that way.

  • Schmidt Head

    What the Oilers should do –
    Find a reasonably capable, low priced, 28-32 yr old and sign him for no more than two years while giving each of their AHLers a few games up to have a look-see what they can do.

    What the Oilers will probably do (knowing them) –
    Package Pully, Yamo and a pick to Florida for Bobby Lou, give him a five year extension then hold a news conference where Nicks and his new/old GM Craig MacT gushes over their luck at bagging “the 4th all-time leader in goalie wins” (or whatever the H he is).

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    The issue may be the goalie coach, maybe the goalies themselves, but it’s hard to evaluate either of those two when the team has iced a sub par defence in front of its goalies for so long…. I bet even the top goalies in the nhl would struggle here… maybe they need to put a proper nhl caliber d group out there for once, then you can actually tell what kind of goalie you have

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I would rather see the Oilers find a goalie that has something to prove and wants to play in the NHL. I dont think any backup they get is going to be someone qa team gives up willingly unless you get a situation like the Flyers were in where they had too many goalies and not enough room for them.I would be very wary of reclamation projects of the older guys, we had that with Montoya and while he fared okay, he sure wasnt going to play 30 games.

    Stolarz I believe wouldnt have been the back up answer either but they hadn’t reelly played a lot in the NHL and had been injured, but the Oilers never really let him play a bunch either to see if he was worth hanging onto even on a 2 way deal.

    Unless the Oilers find a team that has a crowded crease btwn the NHL and AHL I think they will be forced to look for a goalie from europe but whoever they bring in it should be for a 1 yr deal and then see where it goes and no dang NMC or NTC clauses. I would rather the Oilers stay away from the Older NHL gtuys who are reclamation projects and please get rid of Dustin Schwartz and hire a proven NHL goaltending coach

  • Oilman99

    Trading for a goalie is ridiculous, there are going to be viable free agents available, trading for top six forwards is first and foremost. It doesn’t matter how good the goalie is if only three platers are capable of scoring.

  • We’re in the exact same position the Islanders net was last year with Koskinen playing the role of Thomas Greiss. Im fine with Koskinen being the starter but we really need to get a backup who has shown he can step in as the starter too if Koskinen’s play declines

    • Vanoil

      BIG difference between Greiss and Koskinen. I would take Greiss in a heartbeat as a 1A / 1B. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would take Koskinen as anything other than a No.2 (or 2b).

  • Oiler Al

    How about Mclhinney…. I know hes 35, but had won 20 games out of 30 played last year with the Canes. His career numbers are respectable.Brings age, but also experience.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      The problem is that the east and west are different beasts, there is a ton of travel in the west, where in the east guys can be back in their own beds not long after the game, the travel schedule isnt as brutal, when your not use to it , it is a killer. I think Koskinen was having issues with the travel and games played not mention all the rubber he was seeing. We need someone a little younger and hungrier. I get what he did for the canes, but thats a lot of miles on that body

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Koskinen has all the tools to be a great #1 goaltender. Needs to work on his glove hand 4 sure. Remember his 5 game win streak, something the Oilers havent done in years, prob since Roloson?

  • TKB2677

    I was never a fan of the Koskinen contract simply because of the timing. I felt it was a bit early. I would have preferred them to wait until the end of the year, then decide to sign him. But what amazes me though and I think this is unfortunately how Oilers fans have gotten is how quickly people turn on a player and are convinced it can’t be done.

    There was a stretch when the Oilers as a team were playing well, their defense was solid, it wasn’t a tire fire in their own zone and it wasn’t a shooting gallery every night where Koskinen played at a really high level. At the end of the year, he ended up with a .906% and a 2.93 GA. Not awesome numbers but not horrible. It wasn’t like he was Talbot and below .900. So he showed he can play at a high level.

    SO what happened. Well he played something like 24 out of the last 25 games. In previous years, when Talbot did that, people freaked yet no one said a word. Coming from the KHL, he wouldn’t be used to that. So going into next year, he will be better prepared because he will know what to expect. The team in front of him didn’t play well. The defense sucked and it was a shooting gallery at times. So did he look great? No but neither did the team. I fully agree that the Oilers need a good back up but I think that is how the league is going in general. Gone are the days where you have a guy play 65+. So if they can get a good back up, not be a complete tire fire in their own zone and play with some defensive consistency, I don’t think he’s a complete disaster like some people think.

  • GK1980

    “The Oilers need a new General Manager, at least a couple of new forwards, ideally a defenseman, and a backup goalie”

    They have a backup goalie, they need a number 1.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      I dont think the Oilers can afford another 3 or 4 mil guy, they have to get a real proven NHL goaltending coach and an up and comer who is hungry with something to prove 10 be the 1A/B

  • Duke of OiL

    Tyler,c,mon buddy
    Great article as usual but the 1 constant is never mentioned ” Schwartz”
    Alot of us has been saying it for yrs and its so tough to watch,you obv know the guy and must be a great guy as you and noone ever writes about him and his FAILURE to develop a DECENT tender…
    ITS TIME MAN,fire the guy

  • RJ

    I know a guy who has been a goalie coach at the pro level. The position is highly technical and requires a lot of skill.

    The issue, it seems to me, is that you send scouts who don’t have the understanding of the skills and technical side of goaltending to really tell the difference between quality goaltending or a guy with a quality team in front of him.

    Dubnyk is the perfect example. In his last season as an Oiler, he had an 0.894 save percentage. In his first season with the Wild, he had a 0.936 save% and was nominated for the Vezina.

    What caused the change? Part of it was technical. The bigger part of it was the type of shots he was facing. Playing behind a much better defensive team and a exponentially better defensive corps, the majority of shots were of the low danger variety.

    Chia’s approach seemed to be “Hey Koskinen is big, he must be good!”

  • Goalies along with with rookies or young players are as good as the team is playing. Look at Makar for the Avs. He came in and looked like he been playing all year at a high level . Put him on a struggling team and things are different.This fan base is extremely hard on goalies.

    Bouchard is in a great place in Bakersfield and hopefully we can Benefit in the big club

  • Kool-Aid Man

    The way goalies’ trend under Schwartz‘s tutelage; it wouldn’t hurt to try someone new that could bring a fresh perspective. Perhaps someone whom won’t turn a goalie that is the size of a tree into shrub.

  • GK1980

    I gotta agree with you here. Koskinen is the number one next year. Hopefully he pans out. Might as well just have Starrett as a backup next season to Koskinen. Next season will be another disaster anyways. Might as well role with these two goalies and see what happens.