It’s no secret that the Edmonton Oilers are in pursuit of a goaltender. While the team possesses some truly elite offensive talent, their severe struggle with preventing goals has overshadowed their ability to score. The result is a 26th-ranked 3.42 goals against per game that has directly contributed to the team’s 2-11-2 record in their past 15 games, including a seven-game winless streak. While this does not fall entirely on the netminders, the Oilers have not received much help from the group. Current starter Mikko Koskinen has an .895 save percentage and 3.33 GAA. The current backup, young Stuart Skinner, has outplayed Koskinen but not to a level that has forced the Oilers’ hand. For now, they seem hesitant to place any more responsibility on the 23-year-old. Expected starter Mike Smith has missed all but six games this season due to injuries that have kept his health status in flux all year. Even when healthy, Smith has not performed; he has an .898 save percentage and 3.76 GAA in his handful of outings. Yet, if there was any internal solution to the Oilers’ net woes, it was a return for Smith. So with the report today out of Edmonton that Smith is back on the injured reserve (with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins moving to LTIR), the situation has become even more dire. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported on Thursday that the Oilers were exploring all options, including Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo. However, with the news of Smith remaining sidelined combined with a current four-game losing streak adding to their nearly two-month long slump, “exploring” might just not be enough any more.
- Discussing Edmonton’s other trade options in net, LeBrun mentioned the Dallas Stars as a potential partner – namely with third-string Anton Khudobin as the likely target. The veteran keeper cleared waivers earlier this season amidst struggles that even surpass those of Koskinen and Smith. However, Khudobin is just two years removed from leading the league with a .930 save percentage and taking the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019-20, which briefly made him a hero in Dallas. While his numbers dropped off last season, they were well ahead of his current pace. Performance does not seem to actually be the main concern the Oilers have when it comes to Khudobin. Instead, his $3.33MM cap hit and additional year of term makes Edmonton hesitant to pull the trigger, especially considering their current cap crunch and the legitimate question of whether Khudobin is an upgrade to Koskinen. As LeBrun puts it, Khudobin is “less appealing” than other options. However, with Smith seeming less and less likely to be a dependable option this season and desperately in need of points, can the Oilers afford to be picky? If they can acquire Khudobin cheaply and quickly, they may have to do so. LeBrun points out that impending free agent Braden Holtby, who is enjoying a strong campaign, is the superior option on the Stars, but the team may not be willing to move him and will be much more costly to acquire, especially with the Oilers in such obvious need.
- One potential target mentioned by LeBrun but considered unlikely for the Oilers has all but confirmed that he will not be moving. Star veteran Marc-Andre Fleury of the Chicago Blackhawks is in the final year of his contract and having yet another solid season. This should have made him a prime rental target for any team with a need in net, especially considering that Fleury only has limited trade protection. However, the Blackhawks have stated that they will only move the respected vet if that is what he desired and it seems as though Fleury is happy where he is for now. Fleury told NHL.com’s Tracey Meyers that he is only interested in getting Chicago to the playoffs this season and is not looking to move. This might not be a realistic goal with the Blackhawks .094 percentage points back of the final wild card spot in the West with five teams ahead of them in the race. However, Fleury has earned the right to make that call. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner was just traded this summer and may not be keen to go through that process again so soon, especially at 37 years old and possibly at the end of his career. If the three-time Stanley Cup winner wants to stay loyal to his team rather than make another run, so be it.
- Another option off the table for the Oilers is Montreal’s Jake Allen. Edmonton needs immediate help and Allen can’t provide it. After leaving a game last week due to injury, the Canadiens have announced that Allen is out approximately eight weeks with an undisclosed lower-body ailment. The Oilers’ struggles this season pale in comparison to the Habs’, who find themselves with the worst record in the NHL after playing in the Stanley Cup Final just last year. Everyone is available for the right price in Montreal, including Allen even though he has performed admirably in Carey Price’s absence over the past two seasons. Allen is signed at a reasonable $2.875MM through next season and maybe another team will still be interested despite the substantial injury. The Oilers, however, will have to look elsewhere.