After Sunday evening’s 7-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild, goaltending is again a hot topic in Edmonton.
Mike Smith got the start and allowed four goals on seven shots, far and away the worst outing of what’s been a frustrating season for the 39-year-old. He was replaced mid-way through the first period by Mikko Koskinen, who came in and allowed three goals on 15 shots in relief. Meanwhile, down in the AHL, Stuart Skinner allowed two goals on eight shots after the Stockton Heat buried five goals on Alex Stalock.
It was far from a banner day for the goaltenders of the Edmonton Oilers.
The NHL’s trade deadline is on March 21, so Ken Holland has four weeks to decide whether the answer to Edmonton’s goaltending situation is already in the organization or not. If not, he has to decide just how much he’s willing to pay in order to find the goaltender who’s going to help the team go on a playoff run come spring.
As of Monday morning, the Oilers rank 24th in the league with an .898 save percentage. That’s the lowest of any team that’s currently occupying a playoff spot.
Koskinen has a .899 save percentage through 28 appearances. History indicates that if he doesn’t have to take on a heavy load, he can be very effective. Smith has been limited to just 12 games due to multiple injuries and he has an .895 save percentage. The hope is that he can stay healthy and go on a run like the one he had last season but that’s obviously far from a guarantee.
And then there’s Skinner, who has the best numbers of any of the three goaltenders who have suited up for the Oilers this season. Skinner was called up when Smith was injured early in the season and he’s posted a .913 save percentage over 13 games. He also has a .921 save percentage in 13 games for the Bakersfield Condors this season.
Is there a worthwhile upgrade out there? Or should Holland roll with what he has? Let’s go through some names…
Fleury is undoubtedly the top name on the trade market when it comes to goaltenders. Last year’s Vezina Trophy winner has rebounded after a poor start on a miserable Chicago Blackhawks team as he owns a .912 save percentage over the course of 38 games. If you take away Chicago’s winless month of October, he has a .917 save percentage in 33 games.
There are a few challenges when it comes to trading for Fleury. He carries a $7 million cap hit and the most the Blackhawks can retain is 50 percent. If the Oilers are going to fit him in, there would have to be money going back to Chicago. He also has a 10-team no-trade list and the Hawks would surely only move him to a place he wanted to go.
The New York Rangers have decided that Igor Shesterkin is their goaltender of the future, so it makes sense for them to move Alexandar Georgiev before he can leave the team for nothing in free agency in pursuit of a starting gig. Georgiev is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and he’ll be eligible to hit the open market after the 2022-23 season.
There was once a time in which it looked like Georgiev was going to be Henrik Lundqvist’s successor in New York. He posted a .918 save percentage in 10 games as a rookie in 2017-18 and a .914 save percentage over 33 games in 2018-19. That figure has continually trended down each season and Georgiev currently sports the worst save percentage of his career at .898.
After an ugly season with the Vancouver Canucks, Braden Holtby has found his game as a member of the Dallas Stars. The second year of Holtby’s two-year deal with Vancouver was bought out over the off-season and he inked a one-year, show-me deal with Dallas worth $2 million. In 23 games so far with the Stars, Holtby has a .912 save percentage, his best since his Stanley Cup-winning season with the Washington Capitals.
Jake Oettinger is the goalie of the present and the future in Dallas and they have veteran Anton Khudobin in the minors after clearing through waivers, so they could sell high on Holtby and still push for a playoff spot.
Much like with Georgiev, Joonas Korpisalo is the other goalie on a team that decided to go all-in on somebody else. The Columbus Blue Jackets inked Elvis Merzlinkins to a five-year, $27 million deal back in September and it seems inevitable that they’ll deal Korpisalo, who can walk away for nothing in the summer as an unrestricted free agent.
The problem for Columbus is that Korpisalo is having the worst season of his career, as he owns a .887 save percentage in 18 games. Outside of the 2015-16 season in which he had a sparkling .920 save percentage, Korpisalo has never been all that successful at the NHL level, as his career figure sits at .903.
Once an Oiler, always an Oiler. Anton Forsberg was signed to be Edmonton’s third-string goalie for the 2021 season but he was claimed off of waivers by the Carolina Hurricanes before he could reach the Taxi Squad. Carolina wound up waving Forsberg and he was picked up by the Ottawa Senators, where he’s settled in quite nicely.
Forsberg posted a respectable .909 save percentage in eight games with the Sens last season and earned a new contract worth $900k over one year. This season, Forsberg has been excellent for Ottawa, as he has a .916 save percentage over 23 games. The Sens already have Matt Murray locked up long-term so moving Forsberg before the trade deadline is a no-brainer.
The New York Islanders got off to a terrible start this season and haven’t been able to recover. If the team wants to shed some salary cap room to retool over the off-season, one name that would interest a lot of teams is Semyon Varlamov.
The Islanders inked Ilya Sorokin to a three-year deal worth $12 million back in September and he’s responded with an excellent season. Varlamov has also been good for the Islanders, as he has a .916 save percentage in 15 games, but it’s clear that Sorokin is the guy. Varlamov carries a $5 million cap hit for one more season after this one and he has a 16-team no-trade list.
What say you, Nation? Are any of these goalies the solution to Edmonton’s goaltending situation? Are they better rolling with what they have and upgrading elsewhere? Let us know!