The Oilers’ crease is a volatile situation right now. With Mikko Koskinen heading to Switzerland next season (and Mike Smith’s return is a question mark as of this writing), that leaves Stuart Skinner as the only sure thing for the Oilers as they enter the 2022 offseason. Especially if Mike Smith doesn’t return for the 2022-23 season, the Oilers will need to add a veteran to the crease.
With cap space not exactly growing on trees for the Oilers right now, they’ll need to do it on the cheap. There are a couple goaltenders who may potentially get bought out over the next two weeks. A buyout would pay a player a percentage of their salary, but they’d be free to sign as a UFA with a new club. Is there any chance one of these potential buyouts could be an Oiler in the fall?
A list of potential buyout candidates:
Do you believe the Leafs are going to run it back in 2022-23? How about their goaltending?
Toronto was a killer club this year. Like most seasons dating back to 2004, they can’t get out of the first round. They had 54 wins, 115 points in the standings, and one of exactly five teams in the league to score more than 300 goals over the course of the regular season. Anyone might look at those numbers and decide that the Leafs ought to give it another try with the same group in 2022-23, but the pressure will be on Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe to do better than a first round exodus next year.
Petr Mrazek played in just 20 games for the Leafs, backing up Jack Campbell. Campbell is set to become UFA barring a new contract, but Petr Mrazek put up a less-than-alluring .888 SV% in the 20 games he appeared in (along with a -1.94 WAR). He’s got a 3.8MM cap hit until the conclusion of the 2023-24 season, the Leafs would save nearly three million in cap space in 2022-23 if they bought him out. The Leafs are light on cap space this offseason, with just about six million in reserve. Adding nearly three million to that number might make absorbing a potential new Jack Campbell deal a bit easier Toronto would be taking a leap of faith if they decide to roll with Mrazek as the number one next season.
With Mrazek being a Holland draft choice in 2010 while in Detroit, I think Mrazek’s number would be on speed dial if he found himself a buyout recipient this offseason.
Matt Murray’s deal was rich before the ink dried. When his deal was signed, the idea was that he’d take the reins on a young Senators club and run with them. He signed a four year deal with the Ottawa Senators in October of 2020 valued at 25MM, or 6.25MM a year. After a very good year from Anton Forsberg (remember him?), Murray’s the number two goaltender heading into training camp. A .906 SV% in 20 games might have Murray pining for his days in Pittsburgh; it might give the Senators the idea to unload him at a fraction of the cost in the form of a buyout. The Senators would get substantial cap relief in the first two years after the buyout (they’d save 4.5MM and 5.5MM in years one and two respectively). The Oilers (and the rest of the NHL) could have a shot at Murray on the cheap if Ottawa decides to go in a different direction.
FREE AGENTS, ETC
The Oilers aren’t necessarily left to picking up other teams buyouts if they want to add a goaltender, though Ken Holland will need to be shrewd if he’s going to pick up a goaltender at full value. Goaltenders who have been bought out might be willing to take an unusually low number as they’re already getting a portion of their first contract on a buyout. Braden Holtby and Martin Jones are two names which may be available to the Oilers come mid-July when free agency begins, along with names like Thomas Greiss and Casey deSmith.
Whether Holland picks up a goaltender that’s been bought out, one that’s a free agent, or he makes a trade, the Oilers will likely need at least one goaltender in 2022-23. Ken Holland’s got to make it happen on a shoestring budget, or he’ll need to move some cap space before making a move. Improving the goaltender position has been a tough ask for Holland - he’ll need to make it happen no matter how this offseason.