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Kicking Tires On John Gibson

Oilers are again in need of an upgrade in goal. John Gibson is a big name, but is he a big improvement?

Anaheim Ducks v Florida Panthers Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images

The story hasn’t changed: the Oilers begin the 2022 offseason needing an upgrade in net. If Mike Smith comes back for the final year of his contract, it could lighten Edmonton’s load a bit, but running Mike Smith and Stuart Skinner for an entire year should be a giant red flag. Mikko Koskinen’s departure limits Edmonton’s depth in goal even further.

By nearly any means possible, the Oilers need to bring a goaltender to Edmonton this offseason. With just over seven million in cap space, the Oilers will need to do it on a tight budget as well.

Anaheim’s John Gibson started to get some traction in trade talks yesterday. Gibson hasn’t asked for a trade, he says he wants to win in Anaheim. Unfortunately for Gibson, winning isn’t something Anaheim hasn’t done a whole lot of in recent history. The Oilers made the third round this season, and they’d love to go a bit further in 2023.

Gibson is a second round pick from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and he’s spent his entire career in the Ducks’ organization. He played a few NHL games in 2013-14 and was nearly an instant hit. In a three year span between 2015-16 and 2017-18, Gibson won 87 games and finished with no worse than a .920 SV%. He was voted to the All-Rookie team in 2015-16 while winning the Jennings Trophy with crease-mate Frederik Andersen. Gibson would finish seventh in Vezina voting in his rookie campaign, he’d pick up All-Star votes in each of the next three seasons. Everything good so far.

Since then? It hasn’t been great.

As good as he was over a three year stretch, he’s struggled mightily over his last three year. Over the last three seasons, he’s -18, -7.4, and -14.3 in GSAE. That’s not encouraging, especially for a goaltender who looked like a sure thing not long ago. In 56 games played, Gibson’s .904 SV% puts him at 43rd in SV% for qualified goaltenders in 2021-22. That’s right next to Mikko Koskinen (.903 SV%, 44th).

It’s a real difficult pill to swallow if you’re seriously considering pushing to acquire John Gibson at this point in his career. Maybe he’s just had a few bad years and needs a change of scenery, but that’s pretty big “if”. Gibson will be 29 years of age prior to next season, and that’s not old in goalie years. Is there shine on Gibson past 30 years of age?

DOLLARS AND SENSE

If John Gibson is on the market, whichever team acquires him will be taking on a substantial cap hit. Gibson has five years remaining on a 51MM deal he signed back in 2018. Averaging 6.4MM a season for the next five is a pretty big ask for a goaltender that hasn’t been good in his last three years. Still, a club could be rewarded if Gibson finds his game. Again, a big “if”.

COST CUTTING MEASURES

Even though Gibson has struggled for his last three years, he’s still expected to make the lion’s share of the starts in Anaheim in 2022-23. Anthony Stolarz (28) played exactly half as many games as Gibson (56) in 2021-22, though Stolarz’ numbers were quite a bit more impressive than Gibson’s. At this time, it’s unrealistic to think that Stolarz would play more than Gibson in 22-23, but I don’t know what Gibson’s value is on the market if he puts in similar numbers to what we’ve seen over the last three. Gibson’s got a 10 team NTC which could wipe Edmonton off the radar if he ever hits trade talk.

OK, HOW MUCH

The Oilers are already up against the cap this offseason needing to re-sign three players and UFA Brett Kulak. How they can fit a full value Gibson under the cap ceiling without at least some help from the Ducks via retention or otherwise is anyone’s guess. The Hockey News’ Lyle Richardson reports that it would cost a first round pick and either a good young player or a good prospect to start any conversation about acquiring the services of Gibson. For the Oilers to make this even remotely work, they’d need to send a contract (like Tyson Barrie) back to the Ducks in order to free up some space. The Oilers don’t have much to spare in this year’s draft (they’ve got a first, a fourth, a fifth and a sixth), so getting a deal done would require some creative avenues from Ken Holland.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Depends on how much you like to gamble. If you get 2017 John Gibson on a deal that sees you send a first round selection along with a top prospect, it might work out. It’s a giant contract coming back from Anaheim, and the Oilers just don’t have a whole lot of cap space to make things work right now. I could see Ken Holland signing a guy like Jaroslav Halak or Martin Jones to a one or two year deal when free agency comes and letting it rip. For my money, Gibson’s a pricey option that hasn’t shown well in some time. Things could always change (and sometimes do), but it’s five years of Gibson at over six million a year. If I’m Ken Holland, I’m looking elsewhere first.