Though there was plenty of speculation that goaltender Mikko Koskinen had agreed to a two-year $5MM deal, the Edmonton Oilers today announced something different. The team revealed that Koskinen has signed on for just one year, meaning he’ll hit unrestricted free agency once again in the summer of 2019. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic adds that it will be a $2MM salary with $500K signing bonus, meaning the goaltender will carry a $2.5MM cap hit.
Koskinen, originally a draft pick (31st overall) of the New York Islanders, has been playing in the KHL for the past five seasons. This year the 29-year old put up some of the best numbers in his professional career, posting a .931 save percentage and 1.69 GAA in 31 games for SKA St. Petersburg. The monstrous goaltender went 24-4-1 in those games with five shutouts, and will now try his luck in the NHL. He also competed in the Olympics for Finland, posting a .932 in five games.
Interestingly, the Oilers also have Cam Talbot and Al Montoya heading into the final years of their current contracts, leaving some uncertainty about where the goaltending position is headed for Edmonton. Laurent Brossoit will be a Group VI unrestricted free agent this summer, and none of the other young goaltenders in the organization look ready to take on a starting role.
That would suggest that this season could be a proving ground for Koskinen, if he’s given the chance to battle Talbot for starts. The Oilers have relied on the 30-year old Talbot heavily over the last few years, giving him the most starts in the league each of the last two seasons. Though he was outstanding in 2016-17 and placed fourth in Vezina trophy voting, his play fell off dramatically this season as he posted the worst numbers of his career.
Talbot obviously has the talent to rebound and become an above average goaltender again, but the Oilers can’t take the chance that he struggles once again. They needed to find another goaltender who could take some of the load off his shoulders, and they believe Koskinen is it.
This deal may actually excite New York Rangers fans the most, as it now opens up the full-time starting job on St. Petersburg to young phenom Igor Shestyorkin. The 22-year old goaltender registered a .933 save percentage in 28 starts this season, but with Koskinen out of the picture should get even more work. They’ll try to bring him over to North America eventually, perhaps to be the successor to Henrik Lundqvist in a few years.
For Edmonton though, this is a worthwhile gamble on a goaltender who has long been considered one of the best playing outside of the NHL. If he can find his game, perhaps they’ll sign him to a longer deal next summer, or use him as trade bait come February. If not, a one-year deal provides little risk for the franchise as it looks to build a perennial contender behind Connor McDavid.