Weekly NHL Rumours – Next Season’s Goaltending Options

Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
11 months ago
Regardless of what happens down the stretch and in the playoffs, goaltending will once again be a very hot topic this summer in Edmonton. The Oilers currently have both @Stuart Skinner and @Mike Smith under contract for next season but it’s far from a lock that those two end up being the tandem. 
I feel pretty confident saying that Stuart Skinner will be up with the Oilers next season on a full-time basis just because the Oilers are facing a cap crunch and Skinner’s cap hit is only $750k. They’ll need to have some cost-effective players on their roster next season and Skinner is exactly that.
The conversation around Smith is a lot more complex though. He turned 40-years-old last month and while yes, he is under contract, there’s no guarantee that he plays next year. Smith has been injured twice this season and considering his age, there’s a good chance that the injury issues don’t subside. I think trusting Mike Smith to be healthy for a full season is a massive risk.
I highly doubt that Mike Smith would just straight up retire and give up his $2.5 million base salary. If he doesn’t think he’s healthy, then there is a chance that he decides this summer that he’s going to spend the year on LTIR. It may not be a likely outcome knowing Smith’s personality, but it is possible.
If the Oilers decide they want to move on from Smith, then they could look to either bury his contract or buy him out this summer. Like I said earlier, he has one more year on his deal and while his salary is $2.5 million, his cap hit is $2.2 million.
The Oilers would save around $1.1 million in cap space if they decided to bury Smith next season and then after 2022-23, the deal would expire. If they opted to buy out Smith then they would save $1.66 million next season but have an $833k penalty in 2023-24. Burying Smith would make more sense than buying him out
Of course, if you told Smith that you don’t plan on keeping him in the NHL next season, that could potentially change his plans as well. There is also the option to trade him but I would go ahead and say that’s unlikely.
If Mike Smith is not in the picture next season, then there are a lot of ways the Oilers could go.
The first, and easiest route, is free agency. 
There are four names that stand out among UFA goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury, Jack Campbell, Darcy Kuemper, and Ville Husso.
Fleury likely wouldn’t sign here considering he wouldnt waive his NMC at the deadline for the Oilers. I could see Campbell re-signing in Toronto as well. Kuemper and Husso though both look like potential options for the Oilers.
Kuemper would probably be the more expensive of the two just because he’s more established as number one. We also know that the Oilers have had an interest in him at multiple points over the last 12 months.
Husso is intruiging for a number of reasons. On top of likely being cheaper than Kuemper, he’s also five years younger and that could be something the Oilers like. He’s inexperienced though with just 50 career NHL games under his belt. Would Ken Holland roll the dice on a goalie who hasn’t really proven himself as a legit number one in the league? It would be quite the risk to run with two goalies both under the age of 28 next season.
There is also going to be a rather interesting trade market. The Blues could very well try to keep Husso and try to trade Jordan Binnington, who has five more years left on a deal that carries a $6 million cap hit. If I’m the Oilers, I wouldn’t be too interested in bringing in that contract unless the Blues were either retaining or taking back a contract.
There has also been some talk that the New Jersey Devils could be looking to move Mackenzie Blackwood this summer. He has one more year and a cap hit of $2.8 million before becoming an RFA. I could see the Oilers having an interest in Blackwood because of his reasonable cap hit, his age and when he’s been healthy he’s shown flashes of being a very capable number one goalie. I mean, this guy was being talked about as a potential Olympian at one point. So was Jordan Binnginton I suppose. Funny how things change.
There is also talk that the Washington Capitals likely won’t want to bring back both Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanacek next season. So one of those young goaltenders could be another option for the Oilers.
If the Oilers simply wanted a veteran to pair up with Stuart Skinner next season that wasn’t Mike Smith, they could take a look at Braden Holtby as well. @Mikko Koskinen is also there, but I just really can’t see the Oilers being willing to do that unless he goes on a magical run this spring.
There are plenty of options and the fact that the Oilers already have two goaltenders under contract for next season makes it very hard to predict exactly what they could do this summer. Getting the goaltending right though should be the number one priority for Holland this offseason.


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