We’ve come to the halfway point of the 2021-22 NHL Season. The Oilers are 4-0-1 in their last five games, good for fifth in the Pacific as of today. They had a roaring start to the season, they also had a couple of slippery points along the way. Who are these Oilers? Are the Oilers ready to peel off eight or nine wins in a row? Are they just an average club that had a red hot start?
Our staff weighs in. Today, it’s all about the goaltending, Evan Bouchard and Tyson Barrie. Let’s dive right in.
QUESTION: Ken Holland has been Oilers general manager for over a thousand days now, yet goaltending remains a significant question mark going forward. How should the Oilers navigate the crease between now and the end of the season?
Sunil: Holland hasn’t been able to address the goaltending up until this point, so I wouldn’t have faith in his ability to figure it out now. My preference is to ride out the Koskinen/Skinner tandem until the summer, when more goalies are available and acquisition costs should be lower. Acquiring a goalie now would require significant assets, and I’m not convinced that the names available would be an upgrade on what the Oilers have right now. The other issue is that goaltenders typically need time to adjust to the new team and the system – so the Oilers would be taking some risk if they do decide to bring in a new goalie mid-season. I’d rather Oilers management spend their time reviewing their goaltender-evaluation process, figure out why they’re so bad at it, and make a better effort finding a goalie this off-season.
Shona: The Oilers have no cap. They have so much no cap that Smith coming off the LTIR is not possible unless Skinner is in Bakersfield. I think that they just ride out the awful goaltending situation that Holland has set up and maintained for all of his period as GM. Honestly, I think they like having questionable goaltending because it is an easy out with the media.
Czechboy: I don’t think Kenny is capable of landing a good deal. I also think our Pro Scouts are trash and will identify the wrong goalie. They need another guy and some of the goalies I want have some trade protection and we are almost always on those lists. Our current goalie situation is just mired in ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’. Maybe Koski pulls it together? If Smith returns, maybe he regains his form of the last season and a half? Maybe Skinner is ready now and can pull a Binnington if given the chance? If Kono is ready maybe he does the same? Maybe Stalock is the answer and saves us? We literally can’t pick 2 goalies and hope for any consistency.
Guy I reasonably think could be targeted is Varlamov (note: trade protection). Skarek is doing well and could back up Shestorkin next season and get a few looks this season if they stay out of the playoffs. His value is currently low and he is very good. So expect an overpay for Matt Murray. I really want Swayman and he’s taxi squad or AHL right now. Ulmark has trade protection. Fleury would be great but trade protection as well. I’m higher on Georgiev than most and think he could help. One of Samsonov/Vanecek if Washington picks up Fleury.
Rob: Not sure they can. Making a sideways move for a mediocre replacement for Mikko Koskinen or Mike Smith is a pointless exercise. Change for the sake of change is not the answer and something Holland shouldn’t even consider doing. If a legitimate upgrade can be had, look it at but the mess Holland has made of the Oilers cap will make this extremely difficult.
Marc-Andre Fleury is the sexy option and would be the perfect short-term solution. He wouldn’t come cheap, is a massive hit on the cap, is a pending unrestricted free agent and is probably in no hurry to move his family to Canada in the midst of a pandemic.
Oilers NOW host Bob Stauffer has hinted in recent weeks at the potential of a three-team deal. The trade would see the Oilers acquire Darcy Kuemper, the Colorado Avalanche pickup Fleury and the Chicago Blackhawks getting some futures. It does make some sense but not sure why the Avs would make that move, unless they are really unhappy with Kuemper and his numbers suggest they should not be.
Alex: I think he needs to try and upgrade the goaltending room in Edmonton, but only if it’s actually an upgrade. A Martin Jones or Joonas Korpisalo is not going to be an upgrade over anything they have now. Put Mike Smith on LTIR, have Koskinen as 2G and Skinner as 3G, and then pull the trigger on an option like Holtby, Samsonov, Varlamov or Georgiev.
Matt: Honestly, I’m having a hard time caring.
QUESTION: Evan Bouchard has shown in a limited sample that he’s capable of replacing Tyson Barrie on the power play. What should Tyson Barrie’s role on the Oilers be going forward?
Sunil: Because Barrie isn’t an all-situations defenceman like Bouchard, you almost have to have him play with the top end guys at even-strength and the powerplay when he’s healthy again. Barrie doesn’t kill penalties, he’s a liability in his own zone, and the team tends to get outshot at even-strength when he’s on the ice – and that’s regardless of who he’s on the ice with (even McDavid). Hiding his deficiencies is going to be important to maintain his market value; something to consider heading into the trade deadline and off-season where the Oilers should be trying to improve their defence core.
Shona: Not on the Oilers. Barrie is the perfect example of what the Oilers should be using as trade bait. They need to move some people and get some legitimate defenders that don’t all do the same thing or are like awful at their jobs. Barrie going to a team with a need for a offensive defender and cap space and the Oilers getting something solid but less expensive back would be ideal.
Czechboy: Tyson Barrie is our best trade chip (eg. has value and I don’t think anyone is that devastated if we lose him). I think he should be used to acquire a goalie. Or part of a package to get one. He is good at what he does. Someone must need an offensive D who is good on the PP. Not sure who. Arizona has Ghost so they don’t for instance.
Rob: Don’t see it happening but Barrie should be trade bait. While inking him to a one-year deal prior to the 2020-21 campaign was a reasonable shot to take, giving Barrie a three-year $13.5M extension was downright asinine. Anyone paying attention knew Bouchard was ready to take on the role he now has on the power play and that in itself makes a player like Barrie redundant.
Alex: Trade chip in a move for a goalie or defenceman, especially if said player has money and/or term on their contract.
Matt: Tyson Barrie shouldn’t be on the roster going forward. He should have been dealt at last year’s deadline.
Thanks go to all of our contributors. We wrap up our roundtable tomorrow with a look at the playoffs, plus a bit on going “all-in” prior to this year’s trade deadline. Talk soon!