The Edmonton Oilers have been nothing short of spectacular since Jay Woodcroft took over as head coach. They are a perfect 5-0-0 and have outscored opponents 22-8. The eight goals are the key here, as the defensive play by the entire team in front of the goaltenders has gotten significantly better, resulting in the number we’ve seen.
The Oilers still have options and a decision they need to make before the fast-approaching trade deadline. Do they stick it out with Mikko Koskinen in a 1B role behind a hopefully healthy Mike Smith the rest of the season, do they trade him to free up space, or do they trade him to upgrade? There are questions we will have to wait and see on, but one thing is for sure, Koskinen has played well as of late. The Oilers will need him to continue that for his sake and theirs.
Koskinen Has Performed Well Lately
Before having to sit out due to COVID, Koskinen was on a roll and in the middle of one of his highs this season. It was unfortunate that it had to be interrupted, but he returned in the first game of the Oilers’ back-to-back this weekend against the lesser of the two teams. The Winnipeg Jets have still been dangerous as of late, but they are no Minnesota Wild.
With the little bit of rest, Koskinen helped the Oilers earn nine of 10 points in his starts and finally kick the losing streak they were on. As Bob Stauffer tweeted, Koskinen has posted solid numbers with a .920 save percentage since the break and allowed two or three goals in each of the games.
The win in his return to action against the Jets was no different, allowing two goals, but it definitely should have been less if the Oilers didn’t start taking penalties and faltering a bit. The big difference going forward is that Koskinen will have Woodcroft and Dave Manson implementing the system that has worked to win the Oilers five in a row.
Rest for Mike Smith
The Oilers have 13 games left before the trade deadline and only one more back-to-back after their game against the Wild. Despite the more favorable schedule, Woodcroft should still elect to give Koskinen some starts, even if it’s against lesser teams.
Despite spending a lot of time on the injured reserve, Smith is still almost 40 years old and shouldn’t have to be relied on to start every game and carry the workload. Every team needs a backup that can come in when needed to play on one of the back-to-back games and give the starter a much-needed break. Last year down the stretch this tandem for the Oilers did just that. Smith carried the workload and got himself into the Vezina Trophy conversation, while Koskinen’s numbers improved in a lesser role.
If the Oilers are going to run with these two in net for the remainder of the season, the workload and timing of starts will be key. Woodcroft has had no problems spreading out the ice time with the forwards and defence. He has gotten wins from Smith (three), Koskinen (one), and Stuart Skinner (one) in his short tenure (from “McDavid and Koskinen pace Oilers to fifth consecutive win”, Edmonton Sun, Feb. 19, 2022).
Allows Koskinen to Raise Stock
Either way, because of the $4.5 million cap hit Koskinen carries for the rest of the season, it will cost the Oilers something extra if they want to move his contract before the trade deadline. His recent showing in net has only been positive, but Koskinen has also been very inconsistent throughout the season, going on hot streaks and then seemingly letting a ton of bad goals in.
If he raises his stock to a certain point, contenders may even be calling the Oilers to see if they can add Koskinen for the remainder of the season as a backup at a reduced price. He is a veteran and may do very well with a different goaltending coach or environment.
The other option is for a team that is at the bottom of the league to take him on where he could even push for a starter role for the rest of the season and beyond. The Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, and Montreal Canadiens come to mind if that is the case. These teams are looking for any picks and prospects they can get their hands on to help successfully and quickly rebuild. So a sweetener is likely all they would need. It just depends how much of a sweetener it is.
In the event of electing to trade Koskinen, he would be able to give 15 teams he doesn’t want to be traded to. If he wants the best chance to be a starter, a rebuilding team without much competition standing in the way of a starting job would likely be at the top of the list as a destination. It could also earn him more money since there would be much more cap space.
I’m sure Woodcroft and Ken Holland have discussed some sort of plan and how they intend to move forward with Koskinen this season. Whatever the outcome, the hope is that it turns out in favor of the Oilers.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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