Goaltending has been an issue for Edmonton over the past several seasons and new GM Ken Holland is certainly aware of that fact. In an interview with TSN 1260 (audio link), he indicated that he’s likely to dip into the free agent market to find a platoon partner for Mikko Koskinen:
“Many teams have two goalies now. Ideally I’d like a goalie who could play 30-35 games and they challenge and push each other. Ideally I’d like one who has pro experience. I will talk to teams, but right now we likely will find one in free agency.”
Koskinen’s first full NHL season was full of ups and downs. While he got off to a strong start, he wasn’t able to sustain it and in the end, he posted a 2.93 GAA with a .906 SV%, hardly the type of numbers that are worthy of a number one role. However, he signed a three-year, $13.5MM extension just before former GM Peter Chiarelli was let go so he will be part of the plans for the foreseeable future.
As more and more teams look towards giving their starters more rest during the regular season, the market for veteran free agents that can make 30 or more starts in a season has certainly gone up. Jonathan Bernier (three years, $9MM from Holland when he was in Detroit), Jaroslav Halak (two years, $5.5MM), Carter Hutton (three years, $8.25MM), Anton Khudobin (two years, $5MM), and Cam Ward (one year, $3MM) all signed contracts last summer that are well above what a typical backup gets paid and that’s the type of netminder that Holland appears to be coveting.
Unfortunately for him and the Oilers, their cap situation is rather restricted. They already have a little over $71MM committed to just 15 players for next season. While the Upper Limit is expected to go up this summer, they still will be in a situation where they can’t afford to spend too much to fill the various holes they have. That said, bolstering their goaltending is a big need so if there’s any one spot that they need to spend on, it’s this one.
The good news for Edmonton is that there shouldn’t be a ton of demand for free agent goalies this summer and there is a reasonably strong supply. While a starter like Sergei Bobrovsky is clearly out of the question, players like Petr Mrazek, Curtis McElhinney, Brian Elliott, Mike Smith, and Anders Nilsson all fit in the range of what they’re looking for – a capable veteran that can step in for a little bit as a starter if Koskinen is injured or struggles early on. They’re all stopgap options but with Shane Starrett showing some promise in his second full professional season, that might be all they really need.