Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW(FE): The Other Goalie

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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? 

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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.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    If we are spending $2M on a back-up goalie why not offer sheet Laurent Brossoit? Thought it was a huge mistake to let him walk. He got his game sorted this offseason and finally looked like an NHL goalie. That goalie whisperer Gregor has on – Steve Woodley? – raves about the guy and has talked about how LB was able to get his game on track. A $1.75M-2M offer sheet might be too much for Jets to justify with all their RFAs and the youth they have in the minors. All it would cost is a 3rd round pick next year.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      Broososit played better for the Jets after working with their goalie coach and getting out of some bad habits ( TSN broadcasters said during a game ), yes it was dumb for the Oilers to let him walk but part of their problem was and is their goalie coach and the fact that TM wouldnt really play him. I dont think the Jets are going to let him go, he is a super cheap option of them and he played pretty decent

    • Spydyr

      When was the last time an offer sheet was presented in the NHL?

      Why would you give up a third round draft pick when there are comparable goalies available in free agency?

      Why do people fixate on ex-Oilers? There are many other players out there.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    No matter which goalie we get, the first thing the Oilers have to contend with is a goalie coach.
    Otherwise any goalie we get will revert back to what Talbot had become…
    See how Broissoit, Dubnyk etc. all of a sudden became better when they were taught differently.

    • Hemmercules

      I think its more that our goalies fall into the black hole that is the Oilers over who their goalie coach is. The defences those goalies played in front of were not good, zero support. That one year the defence stayed healthy, played great the entire season and Talbot got them into the playoffs. Such a confidence driven position. When your dmen hang you out to dry 10 times night it can destroy you. Maybe they do need a new guy though, sometime a fresh face and point of view can make a difference.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Yes, I do agree, the goalie should really be the last line of defense, not the first.
        To have 5 forwards & one defense-man is not a great formula for winning hockey games.

  • TKB2677

    When making this list of goalies, I am guessing the writer just went to capfriendly and wrote down all the goalies on the free agent list without giving it much thought. The reason I say that is I can’t understand why someone would list off:
    Ryan Miller – He’s going to be 39 yrs old in July. Why would it be a good idea to go after a going to be 39 yr old who’s been in California for 2 yrs and who’s wife is an actress? What are the chances he does well? Probably extremely low.

    Mike Smith is 37 yrs old. He will be 38 in the middle of next season. He was lousy for most of last year but had a hot playoff to salvage his season. What are the chances he plays well for the season? Probably slim.

    McElhinny has been decent in the playoffs. He will be 36 shortly. There is a good chance a 36 yr old starts to decline big time.

    Ward is 35, going to be 36 next season. He’s already declining so why would they want to sign an aging, already declining goalie.

  • CMG30

    We need a backup that’s cheap yet capable of playing as a first string goalie. Probably have to roll the dice on a older goalie and hope he turns out like Rollie.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I’m intrigued by Darling. He was pretty impressive in Chicago taking over for one of Crawford’s injuries.
      Then, when Chicago seemingly couldn’t afford him as a free agent, he went to Carolina and sucked…
      That “sucked” part was not at all like he showed in Chicago & since then I don’t think he’s even playing any more… He’d be a gamble if we could start him out in Bakersfield? It’s funny actually, now that I think about it, Carolina seemed to kill Eddie Lack as well? I remember Peters publicly calling him out in the Hallway after a game & after that, he vanished into nowhere… For whatever reason, goalies don’t get along with some team chemistry & others they shine… Broissoit, Dubnyk, Darling, Lack,… We could all name many goalies that were great on one team & “sucked” on another in a very short time.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        Darling was impressive under Chicago’s defensive system, when he went to Carolina they didnt have the same system and he wasnt used to playing that many games and it exposed him. if I am the Oilers I dont go near him there and I believe he still has term and money on his deal. I think the Oilers could and wil;l have to do better and find someone a lot cheaper, they just cant risk taking term and a lot of money on another goalie that may not work out

        • Goon

          I think this is likely more a Carolina problem than a goalie problem. Literally every goalie who went to Carolina for a decade was terrible, until this season when coincidentally they had a new coach.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          I don’t think he’s even playing, as they have McIlleney & the starter, what’s his name Mrasic…?
          I think they would give you Darling and retain a lot of salary to get rid of him?
          I’d like the team to be in a better place though, before we take chances.. To your point.

  • ed from edmonton

    The goaltending fiasco is the Oil’s No.1 problem at this point. As we all know bad goal tending in 100% of any team. I would like Holland to do a “forensic audit” on how the Koskinnen signing happened and have a srious conversation with those involved. Getting rid of anyone who thought the Koskinnen signign made sense would not be an over reaction.

    Of the candidates mentioned, a one year show me deal for Vharlamov makes the most sense. He is only one year removed from an excellent season and not a fossil like most of the others mentioned.

    • TKB2677

      I think the signing of Koskinen was done because they looked at the market and once you eliminate Bob who will be WAY too much money, the goalie market is extremely weak. By all accounts Koskinen is a real good guy and teammate and works his butt off. So they went with a guy they knew. So I understand the reasoning why they resigned him.

      What I don’t understand was the timing. They should have waited. I don’t think by waiting, they would have ended up paying more. At the very worst, they would have paid the same and I think they could have gotten him for a bit less.

      • ed from edmonton

        What is the going price for a goalie with a .906 sp and 2.9 gaa? No where near $4m per year. They could waited till the end of the year to see what this guy is. He would be rated similar to the group in this article, basically back up goalie quality, generally in the $1-2M range. The MK signing wsa the last of the PC era and perhaps the most illogical.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          With an improved D, those #’s are way off for Koskinen. Improving the D is the #1 priority.
          I can tell you that Koskinen will be worth more to his salary when the defense improves.
          The Oiler D is one of the worst in the league. if he were to go to a great defensive team 4.5 would be closer to the pay he should get, maybe even a bargain.

      • FanBoy

        I understand why they resigned him but not for that term and money. At most, Koskinen shoulda gotten a 2 x 3M with a M-NTC since he is an older guy who wants to settle his family. 3 years is a year too long, 4.5M is about 1M too much.

        • TKB2677

          I think if he hit the open market at the end of the year, I could see a team giving him a deal of 2-3 yrs at 3-3.5 mill. On a bad team with a poor defense, he had a winning record, was above .905 and less than 3 GA. When the Oilers played well defensively, his numbers were really good. So some team would look at him and his size and decide that on their team with a way better defense, he would be fine.

          So I think the Oilers overpaid by about a million.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I say the assistants have to go, the Oilers defensive system was brutal last year, I saw no change from last season or the season before in the Oilers defensive play.I have zero faith that we are going to be any better under the same assistants, the PP and PK were no better either

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I don’t think it’s the “systems” as much as it is the “players” skill level that are playing it…
      You can’t coach an ant to do dog tricks…

    • Randaman

      Actually the PP was better this past season. The PK was atrocious, yes. I don’t want to give up on Yawney. With better talent coming, he can be very helpful in molding them as he did in Anaheim. Talent level means everything.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Agreed… Randaman. That is the issue for the Oil in all areas but the first two lines…
        We have to get talent soon, by trading out the slugs. We can’t throw the prospects out onto this team as it is. They have to feel comfortable & confident playing their game. It’s not only a question of playing prospects too early like we seemingly have done, it’s about having the skilled support vets to mentor them in game mode. Otherwise, you unfortunately get Jessie, I don’t think it’s too late for him. If the skilled pieces are in place before next season.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    What would I do?

    Number one, I cut Koskinen, then go out and get a #1. Paying him like a starter doesn’t make him a starter. He’s not.

    Number two, use the money you save on Koskinen’s contract to pay the money you need to to get a starter, which you can get in a trade or see about Varlamov as a free agent.

    Fire all those who agreed to sign Koskinen to that ridiculous signing. Whoever was in on it has to be held accountable, because it will take years to get that signing off the books.

    We need accountability in our organization now, and hopefully it starts and ends with Ken Holland (no more outside decision-makers like we had with the Koskinen signing or advice like Chiarelli had when trading for ex-Oil King Griffin Reinhart when he first arrived.)

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Sorry, one more thing:

    Fire our goalie coach and go get an NHL goalie coach, instead of using the WHL coach he hired, and never fired despite goalies often regressing once arriving here, ever since.

  • Schmidt Head

    Just about any of the ones listed above (except Talbot) for max 2y/2mil with the proviso that the Bakersfield guys get told in no uncertain terms that they’ll not only be given every chance in camp, they’ll be expected to seriously challenge for a job!

    If any of them have a good camp, I’d make sure they get their chances with the big team. Maybe they’re not ready to grab the top job this year but some games with the Oilers will definitely help them going forward.

    It’ll also be an unmistakable message to Kosky and whoever his partner might be!

  • toprightcorner

    Only looking for a 1 year term back up that is not too expensive. If Koskinen proves himself this year as a quality starter, I don’t want a $3 mill backup.

    I would go with Elliot, Kinkaid or McElhenny on a 1 year around $1.8-$2 mill.

  • RJ

    I’ve mentioned this several times over the years, but I read an article talking about Dubnyk’s play as an Oiler and then during his Vezina-nominated season. You want to know the biggest difference?

    Location and type of shots. He faced exponentially more quality shots as an Oiler and as a result had a horrific save%. Move to the Wild, with elite defenders and a team commitment to defence, and the percentage of quality chances dropped dramatically.

    The conclusion was not as bad as he looked when he was an Oiler, and not as good as he looked behind a quality defensive team.

    People are mentioning Brossoit; it seems clear to me that he suffered playing behind a sub-par Oiler defence and benefitted playing behind a quality Jets defence.

    If you even partially agree with this reasoning, the real question is about improving the Oiler D, which has been far below average since Pronger left.

  • Hemmercules

    Any of the top three listed (maybe Kinkaid too) or a trade. Koskinen plays half a season and they lock him up for that money and term. Madness I tells ya.

  • TKB2677

    It’s hard to find a guy who can play 60+ games and I think the NHL is going away from that. I think it is especially true for the Western conference who’s travel is more. The Oilers need to get a guy who can legit play 30+ games. So I think that eliminates any of the 35 guys.

  • Hemmercules

    I know next to nothing about the Oilers prospect goaltenders. I know they likely dont have a guy ready for NHL next season but do they have anyone even decent in the pipeline?

    • Burns14

      They have a couple high draft picks in Skinner and Domingue, but they’re still years away. It’s so hard with goalies to tell who is legit or not. Hawkey had a tremendous Uni career, but is doubtful to sign with the oil. Wells is a project, and Starrett had a tremendous year in the AHL this year, but will need to prove it again this next year. So there is nothing ready for next year, and considering we have a maybe in Koskinen, it wouldnt be wise to bank on one of these guys as a backup until they prove it once they come up for an injury or late season.

  • CBK

    I’d look at Petr Mrazek, he’s currently the starter for the Hurricanes and was drafted by Ken Holland. Not sure what Mrazek is looking for this off season but if its within reason and still has a good relationship with Holland, there may be a match?

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    The top three may be available but I would count on Mrazek and McElhinney getting signed possible by who they are playing for now or another team based on the past season and the playoffs. Smith, Ward, Miller and Elliot uh no thanks these guys days are starting to get numbered. Talbot will not be back with the Oilers, he is not going to want to be a back up.

    Stolar never really got a chance to show what he could do, the Oilers could have signed him to a cheap two way deal and sent him to the ahl to play if they had room to. Varlamov lost the starters job but I dont see the Avs trading him not yet they will want to see how the other guys plays during the season first. Kinkiad doesnt really do a lot for me to offere him a deal.

    I said before I think the Oilers needs to go a little younger not guys who are winding down their careers, go look in Europe or in the HAL and fins someone who isn’t in pampers but isnt in the final throws of his career and make sure he can play at least 30 games and for god sakes get rid of Scxhwartz and get a proven NHL goalie coach, it will make a huge differance and give the goalies a fighting chance

    • OriginalPouzar

      Wouldn’t need to trade for Varlamov, he’s a UFA so it would just be a straight signing with no assets given up. Avs are unlikely to re-sign him given Grubauer is now their starter.