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Teams are reportedly calling the Coyotes about goaltender Karel Vejmelka, and the Oilers should be one of them
By Zach Laing2 months ago
If there’s one glaring spot above the rest the Edmonton Oilers still need to fill, and it’s in the crease.
No, the team doesn’t need a netminder to usurp Stuart Skinner, who in his last eight games has gone 7-1 with a .917 save percentage, stopping 1.58 goals above expected, even with him putting up an admitted stinker Thursday against Tampa Bay.
The team needs to find somebody to compliment him after Jack Campbell showed he can no longer provide even moderate backup goaltending. Calvin Pickard is a great story, and displayed in a game a week ago Sunday against the New Jersey Devils he could be relied upon in a spot start situation. But the truth is, as our own NHL_Sid opined this morning, the team still needs to address the crease.
Hours after Sid’s article went live, ESPN’s Kevin Weekes tweeted that teams had been calling the Arizona Coyotes about one of their netminders, Karel Vejmelka, and later that “the goalie carousel is about to start spinning in the NHL.”
The Oilers haven’t been linked to Vejmelka but to netminders like Jordan Binnington, the trio in Montreal, and loosely to the Columbus Blue Jackets, where a name like Elvis Merzlikins could crop up. However, Vejmelka might be the best option for this Oilers squad.
Things haven’t exactly been pretty for him in the desert. Over the last three seasons, when he’s seen all of his NHL action, he’s played in 114 games, posting a 33-63-11 record, a .898 save percentage and a 3.54 goals-against average. Those numbers are far from sexy and far from what you’d think a good option for the Oilers would be, but his goals saved above average per hour of ice time over that stretch is just -0.07 — right below the league average mark, on Coyotes teams that have consistently been among the worst in the NHL.
He hasn’t gotten much in the way of run support there, but his poor performance was sunk by his rookie season in 2021-22, where, over 52 games, he saved 20.19 goals, worse than expected. Combining his most recent 62 games, running from the 2022-23 campaign through the first dozen of this season, he’s stopped 3.2 goals above expected.
It’s not unreasonable to think that on an Oilers team miles better than that of the Coyotes, those numbers could improve. What also plays into his favour as a good option for the Oilers is his contract, which runs through 2024-25 at a cap hit of $2.725 million. For an Oilers team that can barely rub two pennies together in terms of cap space, that makes a move for Vejmelka all the more appetizing.
The Coyotes don’t have much cap space, so the Oilers would need to get creative to make any potential deal work. Would sending Jack Campbell to make the incoming money work and Xavier Bourgault be enough to entice Arizona?
That’s hard to say. But if the Oilers aren’t calling and gauging the cost for the 27-year-old, they’d be doing themselves a disservice.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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