The hot topic today, as it has been for most of the season, is the Edmonton Oilers’ goaltending, or a lack thereof.
After a loss that saw Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen combine to allow six goals on 24 shots, the Oilers have allowed the fourth-most goals against in the league (58) and they sit 23rd in terms of save percentage (.895).
To be fair, Smith had put together back-to-back excellent starts before Monday’s loss to Winnipeg and it’s reasonable to expect Koskinen’s play to improve now that he’s operating in a goaltending tandem rather than on his own.
If Edmonton’s duo can up that .895 save percentage to the .910 figure they posted last year, the team will be fine. Smith and Koskinen don’t need to be world-beaters, but they need to be good enough to give the team a chance to win more often than they don’t.
That’s the bet that Ken Holland made coming into the season rolling again with this tandem. If that doesn’t happen and we see Monday’s performance more often than not, Holland will need to look to make an upgrade.
I wouldn’t say it’s time to sound the alarms just yet, but this is a worthwhile conversation to have.
When we see mid-season goaltender trades, it’s generally either a non-playoff team selling off an impending free agent or a team selling high on a back-up who appears ready to be a starter somewhere else.
In 2006, the Oilers acquired Dwayne Roloson from the former category, sending the Minnesota Wild a first- and a third-round pick in exchange for the veteran goaltender. In the summer of 2015, Edmonton sent a second- and a third-round pick to the New York Rangers in exchange for Cam Talbot, who had been thriving behind Henrik Lundqvist. Both goaltenders played key roles on playoff runs.
So, with that in mind, who’s out there? I’ll start with impending free agents.
Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak
Both of Boston’s goaltenders are eligible to become free agents at the end of this season. Given the team’s cap situation, it seems one of them is likely to move on and one will stay. Whoever leaves will be a name we talk about as a possible solution for the Oilers come summer.
But with the Bruins sitting at 10-2-2, it’s difficult to see them moving a goalie mid-season.
The same goes for names like Frederik Andersen, Phillip Grubauer, and Jordan Binnington. These contending teams won’t be selling a starting goalie mid-season, so I’ll skip over them.
The Predators are off to a difficult start with a 6-9-0 record through their first month of play. After years of buying to make playoff runs, David Poile could look to sell this time around. If that’s the case, Pekka Rinne might become available.
He’s a former Vezina Trophy winner with plenty of experience, but it’s difficult to say how much the 38-year-old has left in the tank. He owns a .907 save percentage through nine appearances this season.
The Sharks sit 6-7-1 in a top-heavy West Division and look far from being a legitimate contender. One bright spot for the team has been the play of Devan Dubnyk, who owns a .917 save percentage through six appearances.
San Jose acquired Dubnyk from the Wild as a cap dump over the off-season and flipping him mid-season for draft picks or prospects would be a tidy piece of business. His cap hit is only $2,166,667, making Dubnyk very tradable.
A Dubnyk redemption tour in Edmonton would be interesting.
The Coyotes have a three-headed goalie monster right now and it looks like Raanta will be the odd man out. Darcy Kuemper is better and he’s signed for one more season and Adin Hill appears NHL-ready. That would leave Raanta as a sensible option for the Coyotes to sell.
Raanta has been good in the past but his career has been bogged down due to various injuries. He owns a .902 save percentage in just three appearances this season and a .920 figure for his career.
Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton
The Sabres are in an awful situation. They own a 4-5-2 record and they’re buried in a division behind the Bruins, Flyers, Capitals, Penguins, and Islanders.
They have two goaltenders, Ullmark and Hutton, who are set to hit the open market. Ullmark has been the better of the two, as he sports a .912 save percentage through seven games, but Hutton has the larger track record.
Petr Mrazek and James Reimer
Yet another team with two impending free-agent goalies is the Carolina Hurricanes. But, unlike the Sabres, Carolina is currently a playoff team with a 10-3-0 record.
Carolina is currently operating with three goaltenders on their active roster, so there could be a move to be made here. Holland knows Mrazek well as he’s a Detroit draft pick but Remier would be the more likely one to go.
Finally, let’s take a look at the other options out there that could be more than just rentals.
This would certainly be a home run swing.
Gibson is one of the best goalies in the league and he’s trapped on a terrible Ducks team. He has a cap hit of $6,400,000 for six more years after this season so this would be a long-term move.
He would also cost a lot to acquire. Would you deal from the top of the farm system (say, Philip Broberg) to acquire Gibson? Anaheim would also have to be willing to take Koskinen back in order for the money to work.
The Golden Knights acquired Robin Lehner mid-season last year and inked him to a five-year deal in the fall despite still have Marc-Andre Fleury on the books for 2020-21 and 2021-22. Ironically, Fleury has been the better of the two goalies thus far with a sparkling .944 save percentage through eight games.
It’s difficult to see Vegas moving a goalie mid-season as this is a very strong tandem to take into a playoff run. Fleury is likely a name we’ll talk more about come summer.
Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo
Though neither of Columbus’ goaltenders have been good this season, they’ve both been good in the past. That’s especially the case with Korpisalo, who owns a .941 save percentage in nine playoff starts.
Both of these goaltenders are inked for one more season beyond this one and the Blue Jackets could look to sell from this position of strength in order to fill an area of weakness. Perhaps a young defenceman could entice Columbus to make a deal.
For years we’ve seen the Rangers develop goaltenders behind Henrik Lundqvist and trade them off to other teams. Cam Talbot and Antti Raanta come to mind and Alexandar Georgiev could be the next in line.
Igor Shesterkin appears to be the goalie of the future in New York which would leave Georgiev as the goalie they look to sell. He owns a .912 save percentage in 82 career games and is under team control for a couple more years.
Much like the Rangers, the L.A. Kings have done well selling off back-up goalies in the past. Jonathan Bernier, Ben Scrivens, and Martin Jones were backups to Jonathan Quick that the Kings traded away and now they have a decision to make with Cal Petersen.
Quick is signed at $5,800,000 for two more years after this and Petersen becomes a UFA in 2022. Petersen owns a .924 save percentage over 24 NHL games and the Kings could opt to sell high.
What does it all mean?
It’s difficult to say how much of a priority a mid-season goaltending upgrade is for Ken Holland. He was confident enough in the Smith and Koskinen tandem to roll with the duo yet again this season and one terrible game against Winnipeg isn’t going to change that perspective.
Making a move this season won’t be easy. Any player acquired from an American team will need to quarantine for two weeks and none of the Canadian teams are going to look to do Edmonton any favours when it comes to upgrading in net.
Would Holland be comfortable selling the farm for John Gibson and solving this issue once and for all? I would guess that he’s more likely to acquire a less expensive rental like Devan Dubnyk or Antti Raanta.
What say you, Nation? Should Holland be looking to make a goalie upgrade? Can he? How much should he be willing to give up to do so?