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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – How worried are you about Mike Smith?

Happy Monday, Nation! As per tradition, I’ve got a brand new Mailbag set and ready to help you get your week started and also to make sense of everything that’s going on with our beloved Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re talking about the Evander Kane rumours, trading first round picks, Mike Smith, and more. If you’ve got got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

1) @jgoo1234 asks – Based on the press conference from last week should Kenny come out and say Edmonton’s first rounders are on the table? Wouldn’t that be a bad bargaining move for trades, announcing he’ll do anything and “hey come ask me for my first rounder?”

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Robin Brownlee:

What Ken Holland says or doesn’t say publicly, as in to the media, isn’t the way he communicates with his peers. They talk and they text. Trading for a left winger isn’t like taking out an ad in Kijiji. If he’s shopping a player or a pick, he’ll let it be known through private lines.

Jason Gregor:

I wouldn’t expect him to outline his exact plan, but I also don’t think he was lying when he said he wouldn’t trade the 1st for a pure rental. He’d trade it for a player with term.

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Cam Lewis:

I don’t think it matters all that much. It wouldn’t have been much better for him to come and out and say ‘oh boy we sure are desperate to make the playoffs, I’ll do anything I can to avoid that!’ Ken Holland has been around for ages and everyone in the league knows he’s going to hold on to that first-round pick tight.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It certainly wouldn’t be smart to come out and sound desperate, but I still wouldn’t have minded if he came out and said he’s open to anything that could improve the team. It just didn’t feel like he believes that this team is a Stanley Cup contender and in his third year on the job, I don’t see how that can be an acceptable line of thinking from the GM.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t really expect any GM, Holland included, to reveal their cards in a press conference with the media, but I certainly hope what’s going on behind the scenes is not what he said in that presser. The first rounder should be on the table. Players should be on the table. This is supposed to be win-now mode for the Oilers and refusing to make trades to bolster the roster with players that can stick around — Jacob Chychrun as an example — would be the opposite of that.

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May 7, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Jose Sharks left wing Evander Kane (9) skates during the third period against the Arizona Coyotes at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

2) Clay asks – Are you surprised how split the Oilers fanbase is in terms of the Evander Kane rumours? There are some that would love to bring him in and others that say it could be the end of their fandom.

Robin Brownlee:

No, not really. Some people would trade their mom if they thought it would help the Oilers win. Rationalizing why it’s OK to bring in Kane for a seventh chance while looking away and downplaying his terrible conduct for the better part of the last decade is a perfect example of that.

Jason Gregor:

No. It is rare to have the majority agree on anything. The Oilers are struggling so there will be many ideas that some fans like and others dislike. Almost any trade proposal will see mixed reaction.

Cam Lewis:

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Not really, given just about anything that happens around here causes intense division. The thing that surprises me most, actually, is how many fans here are excited about the idea of bringing Kane into the mix despite his baggage. So many players have been run out of town because they’re “bad in the room” despite there being no evidence of that being the case beyond urban legends and gossip. Now there’s a player who’s been bounced by his third team for that exact reason and the room no longer seems to be an issue.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’m not surprised at all. Kane has been accused of doing some pretty deplorable things and I don’t blame fans at all for saying they’d be against a player like that being added to the team.

Baggedmilk:

I was a little bit surprised how split the reaction to this rumour was, but maybe it shouldn’t have been based on how the last month+ has gone. Personally, I wouldn’t pick him up based on the off-ice stuff but at the end of the day, what I think doesn’t really matter.

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Jan 5, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward John Tavares (91) scores on Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) during the first period at Scotiabank Arena.

3) Clare asks – How concerned should we be that Mike Smith is injured again? Coming into the season, Smith was expected to play at least half of the team’s games but we’re nearing the halfway point and he’s only played six times.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m concerned because Mikko Koskinen has already shown beyond a doubt he can’t carry the load for any length of time and Stuart Skinner has yet to prove he can — he’s got a great chance to take the crease here but that 6-4 loss to Ottawa Saturday was not a good start. We need to see in relatively short order if Smith and Skinner can form a reliable tandem. Can’t get started on that until Smith gets and stays healthy.

Jason Gregor:

The latest injury isn’t age-based in my eyes. I don’t think thumb tendons suddenly break down when you are 39. It is funny how many use ageism and assume because he is 39 this was obvious. I’ve seen player get injured at any age. Many players are playing into their late 30s and early 40s now and they are all aren’t “breaking down.” The main concern is can any Oilers goalie be consistent over the final 47 games. None have thus far regardless of age.

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Cam Lewis:

It’s definitely very worrying because he’s 39 years old and it’s getting hard to imagine him being healthy for any period of time.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He’s 39-years-old so it shouldn’t be surprising that his body is starting to break down. He’s had a long career and played a lot of hockey. This is why some were concerned about signing him to a two-year deal. The Oilers could use a fully healthy Mike Smith right now.

Baggedmilk:

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Absolutely concerned. Having an extra year on Smith’s contract was unnecessary at his age and I don’t know that I’ll be convinced otherwise based on how this season has gone.

Dec 16, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) makes a save on a shot by Columbus Blue Jackets forward Eric Robinson (50) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) @kiwi_pfitz asks – Which goalie do they need to look at in the off-season? We can’t go into next year being a Smith injury away from having a Skinner/Konovalov tandem on a team that should be a contender.

Robin Brownlee:

Don’t know. Who will be available via free agency and trade? What’s the cost? Can Skinner make himself a contender to be the starter by how he performs for the balance of this season? I’m all for looking around, but not at 35-year-old guys who are at or near the end of the line and are getting paid starter’s money until they’re 40. Yes, I’m looking at you, Carey Price, even with 50 per cent retained. That just keeps the cycle of past-their-prime goaltenders who need to be replaced again in two or three years alive. The sweet spot for me is guys 25-28 with an established level of performance who are available and don’t bust your cap. Tough ask.

Jason Gregor:

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There are many pending UFAs… Fleury, Kuemper, Korpisalo, Campbell, Halak, Holtby. Fleury on a short-term deal would be enticing to me. I think Kuemper and Campbell stay in Colorado and Toronto, so I don’t think they are realistic options. Korpisalo is much younger than Fleury and would also be an option.

Cam Lewis:

It’ll likely have to come through trade, because the Oilers might not have the cap space necessary to bring in a top name like Darcy Kuemper or Jack Campbell. If that’s the case Alexandar Georgiev from the Rangers would be the guy to look at. Maybe good old Glen Sather can help them get another sweetheart deal like with Cam Talbot a few years back.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I would look at Alexandar Georgiev if he’s available in a trade. If they can open up some money by trading Barrie or Kassian this summer, or both, then maybe you can afford to go after Darcy Kuemper in free agency as well.

Baggedmilk:

I think they need to look at every goalie option under the sun because it’s a position they need to get right. I don’t have a specific guy in mind or anything like that, but as we’ve seen, not getting saves you need can sewer your team in a real hurry. I truly believe Skinner is better than what we saw on Saturday night against Ottawa but he’s also very young at this point and may need more time to polish his skills before making a full-time leap to the NHL. My hopes for him are sky-high, but the expectations at this stage in his career are much much lower.

Nov 12, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) and center Connor McDavid (97) talk during a stoppage in play in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

5) David O. asks – Lighter question than usual from me: with the all-star rosters starting to be announced, what’s each respondent’s favorite all-star game memory (NHL or otherwise)?

Robin Brownlee:

It used to be the home run derby at the baseball all-star games, but even that is an over-produced and drawn out borefest now. The two that stand out for me are 2002, when former Trapper Jason Giambi won but Sammy Sosa stole the show with some ridiculously long homers, and 2005 when former Tucson Toro Bob Abreu hit 41 jacks. 41. That’s outrageous.

Jason Gregor:

Gretzky scoring four goals in the third period wearing those sick orange Campbell Conference jerseys in 1983. He dominated against the best of the best, because back then there didn’t need to be one player from every team.

Cam Lewis:

John Scott at the All-Star game was fun. Vince Carter’s iconic slam dunk was amazing. Vladdy Jr going nuclear in the home run derby also rocked.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Ovechkin wearing the Canadian flag hat at the ASG early in his career always stands out to me. That was funny.

Baggedmilk:

I used to LOVE the skills competition as a kid and my favourite event was always the hardest shot. One memory that stands out is Al Iafrate setting a league record at 105.2 mph with his skullet blowing in the wind. Just hilarious.

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