The Edmonton Oilers were swept out of the first round of the playoffs, but it wasn’t because of goaltending. The 39-year-old Mike Smith posted a solid .912 save percentage in the four games, good enough to keep every game close between the Oilers and Winnipeg Jets. At his end-of-year media availability, Edmonton GM Ken Holland said plainly that he wants to re-sign Smith after the strong season he experienced.
Now 15 years into his NHL career, Smith posted an outstanding .923 save percentage during the regular season, essentially becoming the only netminder the Oilers could rely on. Despite costing just a third of the cap hit Mikko Koskinen carries, Smith was the unquestioned starter by the end of the season and played every minute of the team’s playoff series, including a back-to-back in games three and four.
Koskinen meanwhile could be on the chopping block after posting a brutal .899 save percentage in 26 games for the team. Holland explained that buyouts are very possible for his club this summer in order to free up additional cap space, and the 32-year-old Koskinen is a prime candidate. Not only was he signed by Holland’s predecessor, but he also would cost just $1.5MM against the cap for the next two seasons. If Smith can be brought back on a reasonable deal, that would free up a good chunk for the team to invest elsewhere.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Smith can recreate the season he just had. His two previous were poor, posting a .900 save percentage over 81 appearances for the Oilers and Calgary Flames, and he very well could be the oldest netminder in the league in 2021-22. The team does have veteran backup Alex Stalock in the organization now after claiming him in March, but there isn’t yet a prospect pushing for NHL playing time. If Smith is retained and Koskinen bought out, it could still be worthwhile to examine the rest of the goaltending market in case the veteran fails to repeat his excellent 2020-21 performance.