Stuart Skinner’s surge is timely as Oilers’ GM Ken Holland shelves goalie trade talks

Photo credit:Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
4 months ago
During the Edmonton Oilers’ 16-game winning streak, they allowed two or fewer goals in 14 of the 16 games, and a big part of that was due to the stellar play of netminder Stuart Skinner. The Oilers’ goaltender set a new franchise record over that timeframe with 12 consecutive wins, falling just two short of the NHL record.
Yet, coming back from the All-Star break, he had a rough stretch, going 2-4-1 and posting a subpar .867 save percentage (SV%) in the seven games played thereafter. That said, he’s rebounded impressively, winning his last three games and averaging a .950 SV% in that span.
Skinner’s resurgence couldn’t have come at a better time as the trade deadline is fast approaching. The timing also aligns perfectly because The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman recently had a Q&A with Oilers’ GM Ken Holland and asked him if he’s in the market for another goaltender, and he said:
“No, I’m not exploring the market at all. I’ve got a guy that was a Calder Trophy finalist with 27 wins and he’s (25) years of age. Calvin Pickard has come up and he’s done a real good job.”
Assuming Holland’s statement remains true, it suggests he has full confidence in Skinner as the starting goaltender come playoff time, and the timing is perfect because the netminder is coming off what was one of his best performances of the season, supporting the idea that the GM is making the correct call.
Skinner was outstanding in his last game against the Seattle Kraken, stopping 24 of 25 shots and Natural Stat Trick shows he faced 10 high danger chances and the lone goal that snuck by him was a flukey one that went off of Darnell Nurse. He was on his A-game from the start, especially in the final minute, which was filled with a ton of action that could’ve aged even the youngest of fans. Skinner made three big stops and among them was robbing former Oiler Jordan Eberle with his blocker, with only 25 seconds left.
Additionally, Nugent-Bowman’s article, in which Holland claimed he wasn’t looking for another goaltender, was published before the game versus the Kraken. Now, could you imagine if Skinner put up a stinker in net thereafter? It wouldn’t have sat too well with the Oilers’ faithful.
Holland may have had a prior conversation with Skinner, letting him know his trade deadline intentions. Looking ahead, the netminder’s understanding of management’s outlook in net might provide him with a sense of mental calmness knowing that the team isn’t actively seeking a 1A and 1B goalie tandem situation, which could benefit him both now and beyond the trade deadline.
Skinner has been streaky this season, but the mental aspect may play a factor in that, and he may perform better when he knows with certainty that he’s the main guy in net. For instance, during the Oilers’ earlier struggles, they juggled between him and Jack Campbell for the starting role. His performance suffered in that time, going 1-4-1 with a .856 SV% and 3.99 goals-against-average (GAA). However, after Campbell was demoted to the AHL, Skinner’s play improved gradually, going 3-1-0 with a .915 SV% in the following games.
Nonetheless, if Holland truly isn’t looking to upgrade in net whether through a 1A or 1B setup or even just by upgrading on backup Calvin Pickard, he has every reason to have confidence in his starting netminder. Skinner has won at every level he’s played, from winning in Bantam to capturing a WHL championship. He’s also won a Pacific Division title in the AHL during the shortened 2020-21 season, and he could be on a similar path at the NHL level if history repeats itself.

Anything Can Happen From Now and Until the Trade Deadline

Overall, it’s been an eventful last couple of months with the trade speculations and assessing what the Oilers’ needs could be. It was only a month ago that Elliotte Friedman mentioned in a 32 Thoughts column, “It’s very possible the Oilers will dabble in the goalie market, but you never know if you’re going to need someone again.”
Now, on the flip side, it could be entirely possible that despite Holland stating he’s not in the market for a goalie, he might not be revealing his true intentions. There could be several reasons for this, and one motive could be to gain an advantage in negotiations with other teams. Also, there’s unpredictability leading up to the trade deadline as shown by his other remarks in Nugent-Bowman’s article:
“I didn’t know the night before I went to bed that we were going to end up with Ekholm. And I didn’t know the night before I went to bed that we were going to end up with Bjugstad. You just don’t know.”
The fact that he was unaware the day before which players the Oilers would acquire last season before the trade deadline highlights the uncertainty leading up to it, suggesting that he might still entertain the notion of acquiring another goaltender.
Despite this, the current sentiment is that there’s a limited selection of goalies available that would be seen as a clear upgrade in net, and Zach Laing states that the goaltender market isn’t very robust right now. Marc-Andre Fleury would be an ideal grab, but it was reported he’s likely not available. Nashville Predators’ Juuse Saros would be quite pricey and would be an upgrade, but Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli mentioned the Preds wouldn’t consider a trade if they’re in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Nevertheless, we’re still days away from the trade deadline and anything can happen from now until then. With that in mind, how are you feeling about the Oilers’ goaltending situation moving forward, especially if Holland is indeed not seeking an upgrade in net?


This article is a presentation of Servus Credit Union. Start saving now to have your chance at winning $1 Million with the Servus Big Share Contest. For more info, go to Servus.ca/bigshare.

Check out these posts...