For better or worse, the Oilers starting goalie next year will be Mikko Koskinen. The Oilers, as we know, made the puzzling choice to ink him to a three-year deal worth $4.5 million annually despite the fact he hasn’t proved he can be the main guy on a playoff-calibre team.
Ken Holland is now tasked with navigating how to fill the other half of the Oilers’ goaltending tandem. Holland said that he would like to add another goalie, likely in free agency, who can play 30-to-35 games and push Koskinen.
"Many teams have two goalies now. Ideally I'd like a goalie who could play 30-35 games and they challenge and push each other. Ideally I'd like one who has pro experience. I will talk to teams, but right now we likely will find one in free agency." Holland on another goalie.
— Jason Gregor (@JasonGregor) May 8, 2019
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday FRIDAY EDITION question. Given Holland’s comments on the goaltending situation, how do you think the Oilers should move forward? Which goalie should they look to add in free agency? Is there a better route to take?
The list of goalies available on the open market isn’t exactly awe-inspiring. The big prize out there is Sergei Bobrovsky, who most certainly will leave Columbus this summer for a different market. We can cross him off the list immediately because he won’t fit under the Oilers’ cap. The next big name on the list is Robin Lehner, who is nominated for the Vezina Trophy after an excellent season splitting the net with Thomas Greiss with the Islanders. Lehner is coming off of a one-year show-me deal and he’ll be in line for a big raise. Like Bobrovsky, he’ll be too expensive for the Oilers.
Now that we’ve got those two guys off the table, let’s look at some of the names out there.
Semyon Varlamov: The former Vezina finalist lost his job this year in Colorado to Phillipp Grubauer and seems poised to move on this summer. Varlamov would be a bit of a buy-low-and-hope-he-rebounds option, as he’s coming off a season in which he posted a .909 save percentage in 49 games. As recently as last year, Varlamov posted a .920 save percentage and helped the Avs make a surprising playoff appearance.
Petr Mrazek: Somewhat similar to Lehner, Mrazek had a strong season on a one-year show-me deal in Carolina. Three years removed from what appeared to be a breakout year in net with the Red Wings, Mrazek posted a .914 save percentage, which played a key role in helping end the Hurricanes’ playoff drought.
Curtis McElhinney: Mrazek’s partner in net in Carolina this season, McElhinney played a career-high 33 games while posting a respectable .912 save percentage. He’s been a capable backup in the NHL for a decade now and proved this year that he can take on a bigger role. The Canes have top prospect Alex Nedeljkovic in the picture and one of Mrazek or McElhinney will likely move on this summer.
Ryan Miller: Miller has settled in very nicely to gig as John Gibson’s backup in Anaheim. He’s posted very strong numbers on a bad Ducks team and would be a great fit for this role. That said, I doubt he would come here as he signed with the Ducks because his wife, an actress, works in Los Angeles. Still, with Kevin Boyle now in the picture, Miller might be out of a job in Anaheim.
Brian Elliott: Elliott has spent pretty much his entire career in that 1A/1B style tandem Holland is describing. He had a couple of forgettable seasons in the goalie graveyard that is Philadelphia, but Elliott was rock-solid a few years ago when he was in St. Louis.
Mike Smith: After a good first season with the Flames, Smith lost his starting gig to David Rittich last year. Smith had an ugly season, posting an .898 save percentage in 42 games. Despite that, the Flames looked at his previous post-season success and made him their guy in the playoffs. The Flames bowed out in five games to the eighth-seeded Avs, but Smith wasn’t the issue.
Cam Ward: The Canes decided to move on from Ward last season and the decision worked out for them. Ward rode early-career success to a 13-year tenure in Carolina and hasn’t had a really good season in about a decade. In 33 games for the Blackhawks last year, Ward had a .897 save percentage.
Cam Talbot: You all know who he is so I don’t have to go into much detail here. Talbot looked to be the goalie of the future in Edmonton but back-to-back poor seasons after the 2017 playoff run resulted in him getting dumped prior to the trade deadline. He’s familiar with the organization and has worked with Koskinen. Could he come back for another go?
Anthony Stolarz: Was Stolarz ever a part of the Oilers’ plans? Or was he just acquired to be a warm body as Cam Talbot was purely a cap dump? Stolarz hardly saw the net after getting acquired in the Talbot swap, posting an .897 save percentage in six games.
Keith Kinkaid: This is an under-the-radar option I think makes a lot of sense. Kinkaid had a rough year this year on a very bad Devils team and got dealt to Columbus at the deadline. Before that, though, he took the net from Corey Schneider and played a key role in that mediocre Devils squad making the playoffs in 2018. Save for last season, Kinkaid has been a solid backup, 1B type for a few years, and he would be a cheap buy-low option.
A trade: Holland said that free agency was the likely route, but he did also say that he wanted to talk to other teams to possibly explore other avenues. Florida needs to dump James Reimer in order to open up the space to sign Bobrovsky, so that’s an option. Arizona has Antti Raanta, Darcy Keumper, and Adin Hill in the picture and could look to move one of them. Eric Comrie, though he doesn’t have NHL experience, is blocked in Winnipeg. Similar to Comrie is Tristan Jarry in Pittsburgh, as he’s blocked by Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith. The Kings could look to sell high on Jack Campbell or Cal Petersen.
What say you, Nation? Who should the Oilers target to share the net with Mikko Koskinen? Are any of the free agent names interesting? Or is Ken Holland better off looking for an option via trade?
HOCKEY HELPS THE HOMELESS
Last year, the fifth edition of Hockey Helps the Homeless in Edmonton had a record year by raising $200,000 to assist the Mustard Seed and Jasper Place Wellness Centre in helping the homeless and those living in poverty.
With the event fast approaching May 10 at the Terwillegar Rec Centre, we’re hoping citizens of Oilersnation step up to help, as they always do, to make HHTH the biggest success yet. Last year’s response was fantastic, thanks in large part to the 10th anniversary Oilersnation party that raised $5,000 for HHTH, with every penny staying right here in Edmonton.
In these final days leading up to the tournament, we’re hoping to sell as many $1,000 pennant sponsorships, and $100 Mega-Raffle tickets as we can. If you own a small business or want a keepsake for the games room at home, pennant sponsorships are perfect – you get a pennant with your company logo signed by our pros. With the Mega-Raffle, just 100 tickets are printed. The winner gets a Theatre Suite for 10 guests, food and a bar tab at an Oilers game next season hosted by Ron and Linda Low. Good times.
You can check out the website, purchase pennant sponsorships and Mega-Raffle tickets or donate here.