It’s been no secret for a very long time that the Edmonton Oilers need an improvement in the net. Mike Smith was not cutting it as the Oilers goalie and was one of the big reasons the team struggled at times in the playoffs. Mikko Koskinen was sometimes solid, but he was inconsistent and unable to regularly put up numbers expected of the high-level starting goalie that the team needs. Stuart Skinner is next in line in the organization and was probably the best of the bunch through the regular season in 2021-22, but he didn’t get much of a chance above the previous two goalies mentioned.
But looking ahead to this offseason, Ken Holland has some big decisions to make regarding the Oilers goalie tandem of the future. Koskinen will not be returning to the organization as he has signed with HC Lugano. Smith may not be able to play anymore, as it is rumoured he is dealing with significant wear-and-tear to his body and could end up on the LTIR for the final year of his contract.
That leaves Skinner as the most senior and experienced goalie in the organization. The 24-year-old has a grand total of 14 NHL games under his belt. It is not ideal for the organization as it is seemingly ready to break out into a competitive window. You’d hope for a higher level, more proven starting goalie. Or even someone to split time with him as a 1A/1B type scenario. But these are just some of the decisions that Holland will have to make this coming offseason.
The pressure’s on as he needs to get it right this time or else he might miss the window. So, looking ahead, here are some potential starting goalies for the Edmonton Oilers to look to for next season.
The easiest (and cheapest) option is to take a wild chance and let Skinner be the starter. He only has one more year on his contract so he will need a new one after the 2022-23 season, but only costs $750k, which is quite appealing for a cap-crunched team.
In his 13 games as the Oilers goalie last season, he had a .913 SV%, a 2.62 GAA, and a 2.1 GSAA. His numbers were fairly close to Smith’s and much better than Koskinen.
Personally, I don’t think this is a very appealing option. Skinner should be a 1B, just to give him a season of regular NHL action. For an Oilers team that is supposed to be entering their Cup window right about now, they need a goalie who can fit the part.
Even though Gibson himself denies the rumours, there was talk that he had requested a trade from the Anaheim Ducks. Those were false, but it would not be overly surprising to see the Ducks begin shopping their long-tenured star goalie while his value is still high.
Gibson’s performance seems to align very closely with that of his team, as he peaked between 2015 and 2018, then sorta fell off as the Ducks began rebuilding. So his falling numbers at least have some explanation.
The other part of the explanation is that Gibson has been dealing with major injury issues the past few seasons. He has been frequently hurt and missing time. As nice as it would be for the Oilers to have a goalie of his calibre because he is a few years removed from his best seasons and is frequently injured, he might not be a very reliable option for the Oilers goalie situation. Especially when it would require the team to give up quite a few valuable assets to acquire him.
During Jordan Binnington’s slump, the St. Louis Blues needed a hero. And they found one in Husso. He stepped in and helped get the Blues into a playoff berth. In 40 games during the 2021-22 season, he recorded a 2.56 GAA, a .919 SV%, and a 15.0 GSAA. Impressive numbers for the second-year goalie.
That brings up an important point. Husso has 57 career NHL games. Very similar to Skinner, he is extremely unproven and we don’t really know what to expect of him long-term.
Would Husso and Skinner work in a 1A/1B situation? Maybe, but that’s still two goalies who, combined, don’t even have a full season’s worth of games to their name. The Oilers are a defensively weak team, they need a reliable goalie who is a proven game-changer, big save goalie. This particular tandem would be a huge risk.
With the rise of Ilya Sorokin as the New York Islanders goalie of the future, Varlamov finds himself in trade rumours. The Oilers are, of course, interested.
At 34 years of age, Varlamov is hitting the tail end of his career. Possibly the perfect situation for the Oilers goalie situation, as they may only need someone for a season or two until they find or finish developing their goalie of the future.
Varlamov has had a wildly inconsistent career with stat fluctuations putting his performance all over the place. For example, in his 2020-21 season he was one of the best in the league. A .929 SV%, 2.04 GAA, and a league leading 22.0 GSAA. Leading into 2021-22 where he posted a .912 SV%, 2.88 GAA, and a 4.7 GSAA. Now, team performance is huge in this discrepancy, but Sorokin’s stats were better by a wide margin.
The biggest question facing Holland here is, does Varlamov have another rebound season left in him? I’d hate for the Oilers to give up assets only for him to struggle again and leave Skinner as the starter anyways.
There are definitely others on the goalie market right now, like Darcy Kuemper and Marc-Andre Fleury, so there are plenty of options to fix the Oilers goalie situation. Who do you think will be the next starter in Edmonton? Drop a comment down below with your pick!
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