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Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t Panic on Koskinen

Don’t ask players to do more than they are capable of and then be upset when they fall short. This applies perfectly to Mikko Koskinen.

Koskinen is not capable of being an every day starter for long stretches. He is best when he is the backup or when he has to split duties. Don’t ask him to do more.

Unfortunately in January of 2019, the Edmonton Oilers decided to pay Koskinen like he was a starter. On January 21st, 2019, they signed him to a three-year extension with an AAV of $4.5m. It was a terrible signing at the time and only looked worse in the coming months when they overplayed Koskinen.

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Fast forward to now and the Oilers are trying to move Koskinen, mainly due to his salary cap hit. His struggles with allowing a goal on the first shot of the game doesn’t help, but if he had a $2m AAV it wouldn’t be nearly as big of an issue. Everything stems back to the contract. I understand it, but Edmonton should not overreact and get rid of Koskinen just for the sake of it.

Earlier today on the DailyFaceoff Rundown Podcast with yours truly and Frank Seravalli, we touched on many teams and their decisions in free agency. Near the end of the podcast, Frank mentioned the Oilers and Blue Jackets are in discussions surrounding Joonas Korpisalo. Frank said he’d heard Columbus was looking for a first rounder and Dmitry Samorukov along with Koskinen in exchange for Korpisalo.

This would have an utter disastrous trade for Edmonton. It would be horrific. There is no need to do it for many reasons, but here is the main one: Korpisalo isn’t a starter. I don’t understand why some suggest he is. In the last three seasons Korpisalo has started 87 games. Koskinen has started 110.

Here are their stats.

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Korpisalo is 38-32-15 with a .901sv% and 2.92 GAA in 5233 minutes.
Koskinen is 56-47-9 with a .908sv% and 2.92 GAA in 6546 minutes.

Why does anyone think he is an upgrade, never mind worth a first and Samorukov?

Let’s look more recently. Here are their previous two seasons.

Korpisalo is 28-25-12 with a .908sv% and 2.91 GAA.
Koskinen is 31-26-3 with a .910sv% and 2.73GAA.

Again, Koskinen has better numbers.

Last season.

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Korpisalo went 9-13-7 with a .894sv% and 3.30 GAA.
Koskinen was 13-13-0 with a .899sv% and 3.17 GAA.

Both were bad, but Korpisalo was still worse.

Trading them straight up would be fair, since Koskinen had better numbers last season, the previous two seasons, and the past three years.

I get people feel a change in goal is necessary. I think that is a valid concern, but for goodness sakes at least look for an upgrade. Korpisalo has a lower cap hit and lower numbers. He isn’t an upgrade in talent.

ONE MORE THING…

Many are wondering about Alex Stalock. Would he be an upgrade over Koskinen?

Financially there is very little savings. If Koskinen is sent to the minors he has a $3.4m cap hit while Stalock makes $785K, which means if Stalock is the backup the cap it is $4.185m. They would only save $315K. Basically an Eric Gryba buyout, which didn’t change anything.

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And is Stalock actually better? He is a better puck handler for sure, but will he make more saves? He didn’t play last season, due to surgery and then being the third string goalie in Edmonton.

His previous three seasons look like this:

2018: 10-10-4 with a .910sv% and 2.85 GAA.
2019: 16-6-8 with a .899sv% and 2.99 GAA.
2020: 20-11-4 with a .910sv% and 2.67 GAA.

Over three years he went 36-29-11 with a .908sv% and 2.80 GAA in 4737 minutes.
Koskinen’s previous three seasons: 56-47-9 with a .908sv% and 2.92 GAA in 6546 minutes.

At this point Stalock could be a better option than Korpisalo, but I’m not sold he is.

Koskinen’s numbers are much better when he isn’t overworked. And did not seeing his wife and young kids for three months play a factor this past season? Possibly. You can’t underestimate the human element. All I know is that Koskinen, when not overworked, is a serviceable backup who posted better numbers than Korpisalo.

In 2018/2019 Koskinen and Cam Talbot split the first 55 games pretty evenly, with Talbot starting 29 and Koskinen starting 26. Koskinen had a .906sv% and 2.89 GAA. Not great, but Talbot had .893sv% and 3.36 GAA. Talbot was then traded to Philadelphia and the Oilers, who had signed Koskinen to his extension three weeks earlier, decided he’d be the starter.

He started 25 of the final 27 games. He was good for the first three weeks, but then got fatigued and in the final 15 starts posted an .885sv% and 3.51 GAA. He wasn’t conditioned to be a starter. He worked hard on his conditioning and positioning in the off season and in 2019/2020 he split time with Mike Smith, and in 34 starts Koskinen had a .917sv% and 2.75 GAA. He was a solid split-duty goalie.

This past season he started the first 11 games and 12 of the first 13. Not surprisingly, he struggled, going 5-7-0 with a .889sv% and 3.55 GAA. Then Smith returned and in the final three months Koskinen was the clear backup. Smith started 30 of the final 43 games and he was stellar, while Koskinen posted a .910sv% and 2.80 GAA.

It is clear that Koskinen is better when he plays fewer games. No question there are concerns about facets of his game, but Korpisalo and Stalock are not obvious upgrades. I’m not sold either is better.

Acquiring Korpisalo only makes sense if Edmonton doesn’t have to give up much other than Koskinen. Stalock will need to be significantly better in preseason to become the backup. The truth is Edmonton doesn’t want Stalock or Koskinen in Bakersfield as they need Stuart Skinner and Ilya Konovalov to play a lot. At this point Konovalov might be a better back up option than Stalock.

I realize Edmonton’s goaltending situation isn’t good, mainly due to a bad contract decision in January of 2019. Now is not the time for Edmonton to be desperate and overvalue opposing goalies just because they dislike the contract attached to Koskinen. I will be stunned this deal ever happens, but any deal has to make sense and not be made out of desperation.

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