Photo credit:© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Who could the Oilers realistically trade for to solve their goaltending issue?
3 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers need a goaltender.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Oilers sent Jack Campbell and his five-year, $25 million deal down to the AHL, with third-stringer Calvin Pickard coming up the other way. The replacement is fine, but it’s like plugging the Titanic’s hole with a paper napkin.
As Sportsnet’s Mark Spector noted, it isn’t often that a team pulls the trigger on a trade for a starting goaltender this early in the season. The last time a team traded for a starting goaltender before the start of December just once since 1999, and that was Sean Burke in 1999. Edmonton might be the first team to do so in 24 years if Pickard can’t help.
There simply aren’t very many teams ready to pack it in and sell this early in the season. So, who could be on the market?
Montreal’s Jake Allen is an option. He’s played in five games for the surprisingly good Montreal Canadiens, posting a .927 save percentage and 2.72 goals-against average, along with a 3-1-1 record.
The 2022-23 season was his worst season by far, posting a .891 save percentage and a 3.55 goals-against average, along with a 15-24-3 record. While this has been Allen’s only season with a save percentage below .900, Montreal’s defence in 2022-23 was not good.
For his career, Allen has played 400 games, amassing a .909 save percentage and a 2.70 goals-against average, along with an 186-151-39 record.
By sending Campbell down, the Oilers have saved $1,150,000 in cap space on top of their $377,870 they already had. Still, it wouldn’t be enough to take on Allen’s $3,850,000 cap hit, unless the Canadiens eat a portion of his salary, or the Oilers would need to ship off a contract. This will be a theme for every goaltender we’ll look at.
From unlikely to super unlikely, we’ll take a look at Anaheim Ducks’ goaltender John Gibson.
Gibson was once one of the NHL’s best goaltenders, but has struggled behind an awful Anaheim defence in recent years. The 2023-24 season has been his best since 2018-19, as he has a .910 save percentage and a 2.67 goals-against average in six games. However, it seems like the Ducks are shifting to Lukas Dostal as their number-one goaltender going forward.
There’s also the fact that Gibson just hasn’t been excellent the past five seasons. In 201 games played, he has a .902 save percentage and a 3.30 goals-against average. Now, yes, a lot of that has to do with Anaheim’s defence deciding to give the opposition a ton of high-scoring chances, but Gibson isn’t elite anymore.
Add in the fact that he’s making $6.4 million for three more seasons, and yeah, this doesn’t look like a viable option. Gibson also has a modified no-trade clause where he submitted a 10-team no-trade list, which Edmonton could very well be on. Even if they weren’t, Edmonton would take on a large percentage of his cap hit, as there’s no chance Anaheim would eat 50% of his contract. They’d have to move Campbell plus something else to Anaheim.
The Finnish goaltender is probably the best option out there.
Saros is off to a slow start this year, having posted a .909 save percentage and a 2.68 goals-against average in nine starts with a 4-5-0 record. For his NHL career, the heir to Pekka Rinne’s throne has a .919 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average in 295 games, along with a 151-100-27 record, so this year’s slump is something new.
Nashville is in a weird place. They aren’t a bad team by any means, falling three points shy in 2022-23 of what would have been their ninth consecutive playoff appearance. They aren’t really a rebuilding team, but they’ve made moves that a rebuilding team would make, such as trading Mattias Ekholm and Tanner Jeannot and buying out Matt Duchene. However, they’re still just a point of a wild card spot early in the season.
Saros is making $5 million until the end of the 2024-24 season. Interestingly, the Oilers have an easy match to Saros’ contract, as Campbell’s average annual cap hit is $5 million, albeit for one more season than Saros.
And since the Predators are a rebuilding-ish team, the Oilers can send a bunch of picks (hopefully not the 2024 first-rounder) and prospects instead of subtracting from their roster.
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
The 26-year-old goaltender is having a rough one in Toronto. In seven games, he has an .855 save percentage and a 4.11 goals-against average. However, he had a great 2022-23 season, posting a .919 save percentage and a 2.33 goals-against average in 42 games.
Giving up too early on a young goaltender is something the Oilers have done. Devan Dubnyk had a .921 save percentage and a .257 goals-against average in 38 games in the 2012-13 season. A season later, he had an .894 save percentage and a 3.36 goals-against average before the Oilers traded him to the Nashville Predators for Matt Hendricks.
He only played two games for Nashville before heading to the Arizona Coyotes, where he had a .916 save percentage in 19 games. The Coyotes moved Dubynk to the Minnesota Wild, where he truly excelled, posting a .936 save percentage and a 1.78 goals-against average in 39 games played in his first season. Between 2014-15 and 2018-19, Dubynk had a .920 save percentage and a 2.35 goals-against average in 317 games played, and he wasn’t an Oiler for any of those games.
Samsonov finds himself in the same position. The 26-year-old had a great 2022-23, but is struggling in 2023-24. Maybe a change of scenery can do him some good. Now, Edmonton doesn’t have Minnesota’s defensive prowess, but perhaps it’s worth taking a flier on the young goaltender.
Samsonov is making $3,550,000 for the season, meaning that the Oilers would likely have to trade either Warren Foegele or Cody Ceci to make the cap make sense. Is it worth the cap hit? Probably not, but he’s definitely worth mentioning.
Please save us Calvin Pickard:
The route the Oilers will seemingly take is calling up American Hockey League goaltender Calvin Pickard.
The 31-year-old’s NHL career hasn’t been great, posting a .903 save percentage and a 3.03 goals-against average in 116 games, along with a 35-54-10 record. However, he’s had some success in the minors in the past few seasons.
During the 2021-22 season, Pickard played 43 games for Detroit’s AHL team, posting a .918 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average. He spent all of the 2022-23 season with the Bakersfield Condors, posting a .912 save percentage and a 2.70 goals-against average in 38 games. To start the 2023-24 season, he has a .939 save percentage and a 2.03 goals-against average in just four games.
Maybe he can catch fire like Andrew Hammond did in the 2014-15 season with the Ottawa Senators. Hammond essentially dragged the Sens to the playoffs, posting a .941 save percentage and a 1.79 goals-against average in 24 games. It’s a lot to ask for.
The Oilers need a goaltender:
At this point, they can’t rely on Jack Campbell or even Stuart Skinner to find their game. The Oilers need to find a goaltender, and fast.
They can’t mess around in season nine of Connor McDavid. Go and get Saros.
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