It’s not a newsflash to suggest the Edmonton Oilers need to upgrade their goaltending, among other things, this off-season after watching the tandem of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith come up short. The obvious question for GM Ken Holland: who is capable of providing that upgrade and how much will it cost? The answer isn’t as obvious.
If Holland had lots of salary cap money to play with, he might be able to pry big free agent name like Vegas Golden Knights’ Robin Lehner or Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks loose, but he doesn’t. Cam Lewis did a solid piece including both of them here. Of course it would make sense for Holland to inquire about both, but the combination of salary and circumstance makes both of them longshots. I’d go further than that. No chance.
Lehner, 29, will be a UFA and he’s going to cash-in after taking the crease in Vegas from Marc-Andre Fleury. At .920 in 215 games over the last five seasons and .918 for his career, he’s already at an AAV of $5 million ($3.6M retained by Chicago and Toronto). He’ll get paid and if Vegas can’t make that happen, another team will. He’s too rich for the Oilers unless Holland can move big money.
Markstrom, 30, posted a .918 and 2.75 GAA in 43 games this season and he’s a career .911 and 2.80 GAA guy who carries a $3.66 million AAV. The Canucks have Thatcher Demko waiting in the wings, but he’s just 24 with 37 NHL games on his resume. I can’t imagine the Canucks will let Markstrom walk if they get him for two or three seasons at a reasonable number – a number that’s still too rich for Holland.
WHAT ABOUT LAURENT?
While there are lots of other names out there – Anton Khudobin, Thomas Greiss, Corey Crawford and Cam Talbot come to mind – I’m thinking it makes sense for Holland to consider an encore for Laurent Brossoit. Is Brossoit, 27, the best goaltender who might be available in free agency? No. He’s not Lehner or Markstrom or even Khudobin. What makes Brossoit a realistic option is his price point and circumstance – made under the assumption the Oilers keep Koskinen and jettison Smith.
If Koskinen, 32, who has two years left on his deal, sticks around at $4.5 million, there’s no way Holland is going to be in the market for a new starter at something over $5 million. What he needs is a solid option behind or alongside Koskinen at a reasonable cost. Brossoit, who got into 28 games with the Oilers 2014-18 (7-13-2 with an .897 and 2.98 GAA) his first time around, qualifies as that. In 68 career games he’s 26-26-5 with .906 and 2.91.
Brossoit, who earned $1.225 million this season and isn’t nearly the sexiest name on the list of potential UFA goaltenders, is buried behind Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg. Hellebuyck is in the second year of a six-year deal with an AAV of $6.16 million. He’s the clear-cut No. 1 guy, no question. If Brossoit wants to cheer-lead 60 games a season, Winnipeg is the place for him.
If Brossoit, who came and went in Edmonton before Holland arrived here, wants to play, he’s got to like his chances alongside Koskinen better than in Winnipeg. In 2018-19, Brossoit got into 21 games with the Jets and was 13-6-2 with a .925 and 2.52 GAA. He struggled mightily this season and his numbers slid – in 19 games he was 6-7-1 with an .895 and 3.28 GAA. Based on those numbers he wouldn’t be an upgrade on Smith. Based on his numbers of two seasons ago, he might be a fit.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Simply put, the names change depending on the circumstances. If Holland ditches Koskinen and Smith and finds a way to move out some money, he can go big-name hunting for the likes of Lehner or Markstrom. I don’t think there’s any chance it unfolds that way, but I’ve been wrong countless times before. I just don’t think it makes any sense to buy out Koskinen. For all the ups and downs, it’s not like he’s Andre Racicot.
If Holland keeps Koskinen, the epitome of an average NHL goaltender at 45-35-9 with a .909 and 2.91 GAA in 97 games, then a guy like Brossoit makes sense. If Brossoit can regain the form he showed in 2018-19, he’ll provide coach Dave Tippett the option of employing the kind of split he had with Koskinen and Smith, and the price is right on a one-year deal. If it doesn’t work out, walk away.
Again, Brossoit isn’t near the top of my list – he isn’t even on it — if you’re talking about the Oilers signing a No. 1 goaltender, but salary and circumstance lead me to believe he might be an option here if things unfold as I think they might. I don’t know if Holland feels the same way and will make that inquiry, but we’ll find out soon enough.