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WWYDW: The Goaltending Tandem

We have a goaltending controversy on our hands.

The Edmonton Oilers activated Mikko Koskinen from COVID-19 protocol on Wednesday and, in a corresponding roster move, sent Stuart Skinner to the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL.

Skinner just posted the first shutout of his NHL career on Monday, stopping all 20 of the shots that the San Jose Sharks fired his way. Despite boasting the best save percentage of Edmonton’s three goalies, Skinner will carry on in the minors for now while the Oilers operate with the familiar veteran duo of Mike Smith and Koskinen.

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That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Are the Oilers best off having Skinner in the minors? Does he belong with the NHL club? Who should be the team’s goaltending duo moving forward?

In order for the Oilers to keep Skinner up, they’d either have to carry three goaltenders, which obviously isn’t ideal, or put one of the two veterans on waivers. Given the way that Smith has been playing since returning from injury and how Koskinen was playing before he went into protocol, such a move isn’t currently warranted.

Koskinen was putting together arguably his strongest stretch of the season before testing positive for COVID-19. He’s 4-0-1 in his last five starts with a .920 save percentage, including a massive 44-save performance against the Calgary Flames that ultimately helped snap Edmonton’s seven-game losing streak in January.

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And then there’s Smith, who finally looks like he’s rounded into form after missing a good chunk of the season due to injury. Smith stopped 67 of 70 shots against the New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings in his last two outings and looked much sharper in the net than he did in his back-to-back losses after the All-Star break. His win over the Islanders was his first since Edmonton’s first couple of games of the season.

If the Oilers were to waive either of their veteran goaltenders and they cleared, the team would get a savings of $1.125 million against the salary cap with Smith or Koskinen as a buried contract.

Another thing to consider is what putting a goaltender on waivers would do to their confidence. The Ottawa Senators put Matt Murray on waivers after he started the season 0-5-1. He cleared through, came back up shortly after, and has put up a sparkling .932 save percentage in 11 games since.

Again, it’s hard to see the Oilers pulling the trigger and waiving either of the veterans unless they hit a rough patch. The best path forward right now is likely to let Skinner work in the AHL and have him as an insurance option if either Smith or Koskinen struggle or get injured. Skinner has proved this season that he’s an NHL goaltender and the Oilers shouldn’t be afraid to waive either of their veterans if they believe that he’d be a better option.

What say you, Nation? What are your thoughts on Edmonton’s goaltending situation? Should Skinner be with the NHL club? 


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