This in from NHL insider Brian Lawton on Oilers Now, his opinion that it’s time for the Edmonton Oilers to move on from Mikko Koskinen.
Asked by show host Bob Stauffer if he would bring back goalie Mike Smith, Lawton said he would but asked if he would bring back both Smith and Koskinen, Lawton said, “No, I wouldn’t. It just wasn’t a tandem that I felt good in.”
1. The Oilers have a challenging and complicated offseason ahead of them. GM Ken Holland needs to figure out which free agents to sign, which to let go, which players to protect in the expansion draft, and how to stay under the salary cap. Lawton here voices an opinion shared by many Oilers fans, though early indications are that most of us think bringing in a left-winger to team up with Connor McDavid is a top priority. That’s certainly what I think. Finding that left winger is crucial to the team’s chemistry and its prospects of winning in the playoffs.
2. I’m less certain about the need to replace Koskinen, who is in the final year of a deal that pays him $4.5 million next season. For one thing, as mediocre as he was this year, he was good in 2019-20, when he had a .917 save percentage. This year he was at only .899, which saw him ranked 51st out of 67 NHL goalies who played more than 10 games. That’s not good. But it will be costly to buy him out and the Oilers might not be able to find a trading partner, even if the team were to retain salary.
3. As mediocre as Koskinen was this season, who is to say he won’t have a bounce back year? Remember one summer ago most Oilers fans were dead set against the team bringing back Mike Smith, but he had an astonishing comeback season? I can’t forget how wrong almost every single one of us got it. That should temper any certainty we have about what’s best to do with Kosk, correct?
4. Many fans and pundits, including me, had a list of goalies they preferred over Smith last summer, but not one of those goalies played better than Smith this year. For example many fans wanted Edmonton to bring in Aaron Dell, but he was one of the worst goalies in the NHL this year with an .857 save percentage in seven games.
5. Other names often mentioned as potential goalies for the Oilers last summer included Braden Holtby, .889 save percentage this year, Matt Murray, .893, Joonas Korpisalo, .894, Jacob Markstrom, .904, Antti Raanta, .905, Alexander Georgiev, .905, James Reimer, .906 and Darcy Kuemper, .907.
6, The Oilers let Anton Fosrberg slip through their fingers in the waiver draft. He had a .909 save percentage this year in eight games. Anthony Stolarz, whom the Oilers let go last summer, had a .926 save percentage in eight games.
7. My point? Good luck picking a goalie who will be better than Koskinen next year. The decision is so fraught that unless the upside of a buy-out is overwhelming, it should not be done.