Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The Koskinen contract gets tougher and tougher to swallow

When Mikko Koskinen got signed to a three-year deal that pays him $4.5-million annually, there weren’t many fans of the deal.

But would the Oilers have been better off waiting?

Yes, I think they would have.

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Since Koskinen signed on Jan. 21, 47 other goaltenders have signed standard contracts. While the majority of them are for AHL, or backup roles, there are a few notable contracts signed post-free agency — and there’s two I really want to note.

Those are for UFA Robin Lehner, who signed a one-year, $5-million deal with the Blackhawks on July 1, and for RFA Jordan Binnington, who signed a two-year, $8.8-million deal.

Koskinen is still a largely unproven NHL goaltender. At 31 years old, he’s posted nothing but below average numbers for a goaltender. Last year, his .906 save percentage was second worst amongst goaltenders who played over 46 games.

His quality start percentage wasn’t even that great at a 47.1 percent. For those unfamiliar, that’s about five percent below the league average in a stat that evaluates whether or not the value of their start was good, or bad. You can read more on it here.

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Lehner’s .930, meanwhile, ranked second. For one, my mind is absolutely boggled that he couldn’t secure a better deal than what he got. He’s posted consistently good numbers throughout his nine-year career with a .918 save percentage with two of his last three seasons over .920.

Why were teams so hesitant to give him a deal? Maybe it’s the fact he’s only averaged 40 games a year?

Nonetheless, I think the Oilers would’ve been much smarter in spending $500k more on Lehner than they did Koskinen — even if it was just a one-year deal instead of a three year.

Morning Report: Oilers vs. Sharks (6 February)

Lehner still has age on his side and as I mentioned, has posted consistent save numbers. Lehner, while starting nine fewer games, has 60 of his starts of good quality. He did have more run-support than Koskinen did, which should be noted too.

Even if the Oilers wanted a more consistent split in games played amongst their goaltenders, Lehner very likely could’ve shown better than Koskinen will.

Two of the only guys that jumped out to me as potential stop-gaps in net beyond Mike Smith would’ve been Petr Mrazek, who signed for two-years and $3.125-million with Carolina, or Keith Kinkaid, who signed a one-year, $1.75-million deal with Montreal.

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Now, truth be told, Koksinen’s deal was a bit of a trend-setter for following deals.

Only three (3!) goaltenders signed for a higher AAV than him. Semyon Varlamov inked a four-year, $5-million per year deal with the Islanders. Sergei Bobrovsky signed a seven-year deal that sees him paid and AAV of $10-million. Then Lehner’s one-year deal.

And that’s where Binnington’s deal comes in.

Just yesterday the Blues signed him to his two-year deal paying him $100k less, for one less year, in a deal that takes him to UFA as a 28-year-old. He’s still largely unproven, but he did, of course, have the Cinderella-season carrying the Blues to a cup championship.

But I do find his contract details notable.

At the end of the day, I’m hoping for the best from the two-headed monster of Mike Smith and Koskinen because honestly, that’s all we can do.

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If Mike Smith is able to rebound to his career average .912 and get the league average 53 per cent quality starts he’s had in the past, and Koksinen is able to improve his game, the Oilers should be okay in net this year.

Darnell Nurse is apparently seeking $8 million annually on his next contract

But if things go awry, the Oilers are going to be in tough.

On Twitter: @zjlaing

  • juno

    One of the many panic and completely unnecessary moves that the Owner and Executive allowed to happen.

    It wasn’t just the incompetence but the embarrassment and shame that PC brought to this team and the Owner that refused to do anything about it.

    Holland may bring back some competence and maybe some success to this team but the PC and Katz era is completely unforgivable.

    • juno

      I have also asked this many times. Some thoughts came to mind: PC was completely incompetent in negotiating contracts and in professional scouting. Therefore I believe he thought he had a winner (like Manning, Petrovic, Montoya) but due to his non-existent negotiating skills he signed him to a higher number than possibly most GM’s would sign.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Isn’t it obvious? He was trying to save his job. Petrovic, Manning, Koskinen deal were clearly an attempt to save his ass from being fired

    • percy

      Hopefully by this time next year we will be happy we signed Koskinen, it’s always a crap shoot signing a goalie. 6 months from now we will know if it was a good or bad signing. I think our biggest need is a quality goalie coach.

  • Esa Beukberger

    The entire Org signed off on the Koskie contract… that blows my mind. No wonder we can’t make the playoffs…
    Is it crazy that I miss Ty Conklin… ? 😢

  • aspin

    What makes you think any of those goalies would have signed here? Look how mnaybqingers are lining up to sign here? The Oilers have been a goalie career killer the last 10 years…not sure why someonewould want to come into that situation.

    • OriginalPouzar

      With an extra $4.5M in their pockets, they wouldn’t have had any issue signing a more established tender. They overpaid Koskinen by $3M and two years. Without the Koskinen contract, they could have taken on the new Mrazek contract plus an “Oilers Premium” if required.

      • RJ

        He’s saying if they didn’t sign Koskinen, they could have probably gotten Mrazek for a shorter term (2 instead of 3 seasons) but a higher amount ($3.125m + extra to play for the Oil).

  • aspin

    What makes you think any of those goalies would have signed here? Look how many wingers are lining up to sign here? The Oilers have been a goalie career killer the last 10 years…not sure why someonewould want to come into that situation.

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Koskinen won 5 games in a row for the Oilers last season (on a brutal team with almost no secondary scoring, after the big 3).
    He’s got good size, adapted well to the angles and small NHL ice.
    Sure he need to work on his glove hand, but name a goaltender who doesn’t need to. Mike Smith is a true Pro and will be an excellent backup to Mikko. Wait and see 🙂
    p.s. Last season I predicted Mikko would be the starter by the 20 game mark too.

    • Dean Martin

      Not to mention a team that most times was brutal defensively.
      The few games where the Oil played defensively sound, Mikko was awesome.
      He & Mike Smith are similar in stature. I think that Mike Smith will also be a great mentor to Mikko. Mind you, I’m just thinking about hockey, not the $$$ side. Hockey wise, with an improved defensive system, I don’t feel bad about the Oiler goaltending. Two more great wingers are more important to me.

    • Hemmercules

      I think its pretty close. Smith is one injury from retirement and Koskinen is still probably just a backup calibre goaltender. Riddick had good stretches and its not crazy to think Talbot can return to form with a decent defence in front of him. Neither team is likely overjoyed with their tandems.

  • Beer

    Lehner isn’t worth 5m, and Koskinen isn’t worth 4.5m. Who, if anybody with half a brain cell thinks paying backup goalies that much cash is still considered relevent.

  • jake

    I recall reading the talks b/w the two camps started in December. This was well after the heater he went on if I recall correctly. Things didn’t get better all throughout January. Where do these players get leverage in negotiating??? Cap killing.

  • Gary Chalmers

    This just pisses me off, we didn’t need a back up this year, and we didn’t need one last year, had Chiarelli worked on the team in front of Talbot. Fix the defense and bring in scorers, now we are stuck with Cost-A-Win and the geriatric Smith, rather we still had Talbot backed up by Montoya.

  • TKB2677

    The Oilers need to do something in the offseason so the bloggers can write about something else other than dwelling on mistakes or potential mistakes.

    On paper today, it looks like a bad contract. They signed it too early and it looks like they gave up too much money. BUT if he comes out and plays well, then it’s not a problem.

    We shall see.

  • CactusJr

    If the oilers can clean up their dog’s breakfast defensive zone play and not give opposing shooters all day to go bar down then Koski/Smith will be good. Giving any NHLer the time and space they do leaves the goalie at their mercy. What’s harder to swallow is the grammar and sentence structure in this article.

  • Neilio

    I think its not unreasonable to think Smith will bounce back a bit and at least hit his average. He did mention some personal problems that affected his game at the first half of the year.

    Koskinen hopefully has been watching video of his performance this year and is working on his weaknesses.

    Also, actual competition in net should push both guys. I don’t think Koskinen was concerned about losing his spot to Stolarz.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I said before when it was announced they signed Koskinen to this deal that it was far too small a smaple size to do this kind of deal for that kind of term and money, I still cant fathom why they didnt wait till close to the end of the season and go from there a lot better sample size and you could see just how many games he could handle playing and we found that out, koskinen couldnt handle a ton of games in a season, he just wasnt ready for it.

    Koskinen could have been had much much cheaper and for a shorter term, if he doesnt pan out the Oilers are in deep on him with not a lot of options to get out that arent going to be painful.

    I seriously hope the Oilers had dicussions with Koksinen’s agent about getting him working with a differnet goalie coach during the off season after he rested up, because he seriously needs to close the holes in his game and Schwartz isnt the guy to get him out of the bad in his game. I sure hope Koskinen comes to camp and plays well there and into the season, because if he doesnt…hoo boy

  • justDOit

    A friendly reminder that Burger Bob said the Kozzie signing was a ‘group decision’, and a lot of those people are still with the org. And he said that at a time when he could have just blamed it on Chia.

    • Torgerson

      David Staples speculated that maybe it was a better look to blame it on the entire Executive instead of Chiarelli. The latter would have implied that Chia was left alone to make boneheaded decisions and the rest of them were negligent. Either way they looked like incompetent fools IMHO.

      • Kool-Aid Man

        “Either way they looked like incompetent fools IMHO.”

        I believe what you meant to write is “Either way they ARE incompetent fools IMHO.”

        This organization has been run by the OBC for far too long. I personally hope K.H. isn’t done weeding out more of the fools whom are still within the organization. However, in usual Oiler fashion, they will promote idiots before terminating them.

  • Torgerson

    It must be summer silly season if we’re regurgitating dumb decisions the Oilers made during the Chiarelli era. At least there is plenty of material to work with.

  • Arfguy

    Didn’t Robin Lehner lose the starting goalie role for two different teams before joining a New York Islanders team with Barry Trotz as the coach? Isn’t it possible that Jordan Binnington might have more in common with the likes of Cam Ward and Antti Niemi than Patrick Roy or Matt Murray?

  • KootenayFlamesFan

    Just an FYI, Talbot has pretty much exactly the same career stats as Lehner but I don’t hear anyone crying about not getting him. Many flames fans are not impressed we picked him up – I like the signing for the record.

    My point is that the “Goalies are voodoo” saying keeps holding true. Because a goaltender has a good year does not guarantee another and same goes for bad years.

    The best thing a team can do to help their goalie is minimize HDSC. Both alberta teams bled them last year and it showed in the goaltending stats.

    • Arfguy

      Talbot had really faltered the last couple of seasons. Letting in so many goals on the first shot can be very deflating…especially when your team cannot produce that much offense.

      I was watching highlights of all 50 goals Leon Draisaitl scored and it was astonishing to watch how 90% of those goals came when the Oilers were already down in the game. Koskinen may not be any better next year, but to say that the Oilers should look to Robin Lehner and Jordan Binnington as examples of who to sign and for how much seems very shortsighted.