The Oilers need a win, and they need one bad. They’ll also need a win after that, and a couple more after that. Edmonton currently stands in a precarious position in the standings; barely hanging on to the second wild card spot. The Kings and Sharks are just one point behind the Oilers in the standings. The Canucks have caught life after hiring Bruce Boudreau and are 8-1-1 in their last ten. They’re three points behind the Oilers.
The Oilers aren’t scoring very many goals, which is a pretty big issue. Compounding this fact is the fact that both Mikko Kokskinen and Mike Smith are hovering around the .900 SV% mark, Simply put, that’s not going to get it done most nights. Mikko Koskinen has been off and on, while Mike Smith is about to hit 40 and has been injured for the majority of the season. Riding both goaltenders in the hopes of a successful playoff run is a large gamble that is not likely to pay off.
Ken Holland has had nearly a thousand days on the job to improve the goaltending position, he’s running out of time on this season to do it. If this year is their “all-in” year, they’re going to need to change a few things, and fast. The Oilers could explore the goaltender market, but they’ll need to tiptoe the issue of cap space precariously. They’ve got none to absorb, so there’d need to be an almost dollar-in, dollar-out scenario if they were to take on a goaltender. The Oilers could also just call up Stuart Skinner and let him take the reins with just 12 career games, but I’m not sure if putting the season in the hands of a rookie netminder is the best course of action.
Does anything on the market make any sense for Edmonton?
Here are a few scenarios.
CHRIS DRIEDGER, SEATTLE KRAKEN
Driedger is in the first of a three year contract with a 10-team modified NTC. He averages 3.5MM a year until 2023-24.
I like Driedger, even starting out on a tough year. Driedger’s SV% is a sleepy .892in 2021-22, that’s no better than either Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen. I’m encouraged that the Kraken might give up Driedger becuase both he and Philipp Grubauer have had a rough start to their season, and that the Kraken have put up just 24 points as we get closer to the halfway mark of the season. Grubauer isn’t going anywhere on a deal with a 5.9MM cap hit for the next five years, so I’m looking the other goalie instead.
Driedger had spectacular numbers last year as a backup on the Panthers (14-6-3, .927 SV% / 3 SO) and again in 2019-20. At just 27 years of age (and equipped with two more years on his contract), Driedger’s asking price is likely more in line with what Edmonton would want to spend. The Oilers would be fine moving Mikko Koskinen in the deal, though they’d have to clear cap in 2022-23 to make it work.
JAKE ALLEN, MONTREAL CANADIENS
Carey Price is the name that’s on a lot of minds right now, and I’m really not trying to hear any of it. Price is a great goaltender that’s going to be 35 in April. Even at 50%, the Oilers would be on the hook for over 5MM cap for the next four seasons after this one. The ask would also likely be astronomical.
Allen’s cap hit is a much more palatable 2.875MM this year and next. A winner of the 2018-19 Stanley Cup with the Blues, Allen conceded the starter’s net to Jordan Binnington midway through the ‘18-’19 season. Now with the Canadiens, he finished last year with a .907 SV% and is now behind a Habs defence that’s allowing more than 34 shots per game (T-29th). Allen seems like a safe enough bet that shouldn’t come with an astronomical ask from the Canadiens.
MARC-ANDRE FLEURY, CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Marc-Andre Fleury will likely be the most costly to acquire of the three goaltenders listed here. He’s got a modified no-trade clause with ten teams, so that could be a hangup right off the bat. He comes with a lengthy résume; he’s a three time Stanley Cup Winner with Pittsburgh, he’s won a Vezina Trophy, and he was instrumental in the Golden Knights’ success early in their franchise history. He was traded to Chicago this past offseason where he is in the final year with a 7MM cap hit.
There’s no denying Fleury’s body of work and accomplishments, it’s just that his acquisition cost would likely be enormous. He’d be a pure rental, and the Oilers would need to free up significant space to make it work unless the Blackhawks were to eat 50%. Given Ken Holland’s recent history in trades with Chicago, I don’t think there’s a good chance of that happening unless we see Ken Holland ship multiple firsts. For a pure rental, that’s a tough pill to swallow. Seeing as how the Oilers are teetering on the brink of the playoff cut line, that’s more of a reason to look elsewhere.
Whatever move the Oilers make, they’ll be pressed to make it sooner than later.
They can’t afford another month like December.