As we approach free agency, it is becoming very apparent the Edmonton Oilers are searching for a starting goaltender for the 2022-23 season.
While a decision has yet to be made on Mike Smith, it sounds as though he may be placed on long-term injured reserve for the remainder of his contract, while his partner the last few years in Mikko Koskinen recently signed a deal overseas.
This means 23-year-old Stuart Skinner will likely secure a spot on the Oilers this coming season, but with just 14 NHL games under his belt he would be best suited to a backup role.
There isn’t a ton out there in the goaltending department this summer, and the ones who are available all have some risk. With that said, here are the top options the Oilers are likely considering.
Perhaps the most obvious candidate is Jack Campbell. He is reportedly far apart with the Toronto Maple Leafs when it comes to an extension, meaning free agency is very likely. The Oilers are considered one of the favourites to land the 30-year-old, who recorded a respectable 2.64 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .914 save percentage (SV%) in 49 appearances last season.
While Campbell is an intriguing option, there are some red flags when it comes to signing him. According to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug, Campbell could command as much as a five-year deal with an average annual value of $5 million. Given his inexperience with just 142 career NHL games under his belt, paired with the fact he was quite inconsistent in his first real season as a starting netminder in 2021-22, there are still plenty of questions as to how good he truly is.
Another goaltender who has been discussed by Oilers fans and media quite often is Ville Husso. After a disappointing rookie season in 2020-21 with the St. Louis Blues, Husso excelled in a big way throughout 2021-22, supplanting Jordan Binnington as their starting netminder for a good chunk of the year.
By all accounts, the Blues would love to have Husso back, but with Binnington earning $6 million per year, it simply isn’t possible.
Similar to Campbell, inexperience is a concern. He has just 64 career games under his belt, and was average at best in his two most recent American Hockey League seasons from 2018-20. Was his 2021-22 campaign in which he recorded a 2.56 GAA along with a .919 SV% a sign of things to come, or is he just a one-year wonder?
If Darcy Kuemper, who is set to become a UFA this offseason, goes unsigned by the Colorado Avalanche, he will almost undoubtedly become the Oilers' No. 1 target. The 32-year-old was good enough to lead the Avs to a Stanley Cup this year, and had some very strong seasons with the Arizona Coyotes in years prior.
The issue here is that the Avalanche are likely to re-sign Kuemper, even with their potentially troubling cap situation in the upcoming years. Their backup in Pavel Francouz has the makings of a very solid NHL goaltender, but is simply too inexperienced for a Cup contending team like the Avalanche to bank on.
That said, if Kuemper does end up a free agent, Holland needs to do everything in his power to make a deal happen.
Though Mackenzie Blackwood still has one year remaining on his contract, he appears to be available if the Oilers wish to acquire him. Like the Oilers, the New Jersey Devils are considered to be frontrunners in the Campbell sweepstakes. If the Devils land him via free agency, Blackwood would almost certainly be on the move, and could be an intriguing add for Holland.
Blackwood has struggled with consistency to this point in his career. However, he is still just 25 years old, and not long ago was one of six goalies put on a long list for Team Canada in anticipation for the 2022 Winter Olympics. While he was certainly a long shot to make the club, it goes to show he still had plenty of value at the time.
Perhaps a change of scenery, along with playing behind a much-improved team, could be what it takes for him to become the top-end goalie many believed he would be.
Like Blackwood, Cam Talbot has one more season remaining on his contract. That said, he may be on the move from the Minnesota Wild ahead of the 2022-23 season. A big factor in this is whether or not Marc-Andre Fleury chooses to re-sign.
Many were surprised when the Wild chose to acquire Fleury from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline last season. That in itself had to have been frustrating for Talbot, but what had to get under his skin even more was that Dean Evason chose to start Fleury over him in the playoffs, despite Talbot being significantly better down the stretch of the regular season. Though he handled the situation like a professional, a return to the Wild may be quite awkward for the 35-year-old, especially if Fleury does indeed re-sign.
Slim Pickings This Offseason
Unfortunately for Holland and the Oilers, this isn’t exactly the best summer when it comes to acquiring a goalie. There aren’t a ton of quality netminders hitting free agency, and even less appear available for trade. That said, something has to happen here.
Don’t be surprised if one of the names on this list does indeed end up in Edmonton in hopes of helping Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl win a Stanley Cup.
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