The Edmonton Oilers look to be getting consistent goaltending as long as they continue to start Mikko Koskinen. As soon as they decide to give Mike Smith more chances, it’s likely to be a huge topic of conversation again. Every team needs more than one goaltender to be able to come in and contribute, and the Oilers don’t have that.
They refuse to keep Stuart Skinner up longer than short stretches and haven’t played him much despite the best overall stats of the three Oilers’ goalies. Smith can’t be an option next year for the team and Koskinen’s contract is ending with no indication the Oilers are going to bring him back. The recent play suggests they could consider bringing Koskinen back for another year at a cheaper price, but he wouldn’t be considered a starter. That’s the position the Oilers need to address if they are to become real Stanley Cup contenders.
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The New Jersey Devils are a team that is out of the race this year but have big plans for next year and beyond. With the injuries to their starting tandem of Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier, the opportunity to take on the starting role fell upon 21-year old Nico Daws. He has taken the reins and had himself a solid rookie season thus far, bringing up the question for management, what is to be done in net for the future?
Emergence of Daws Opens Door to Sell Goalie
Daws’ early emergence has given the Devils options moving forward in net, seeing as they now have three serviceable NHL goaltenders on their team. Both Bernier and Blackwood have one year remaining on their contracts and the team could look to take advantage of the value either of them holds and trade them with a year remaining.
It will be much more difficult to move a 33-year-old goaltender that makes $4.125 million than it would be to move a 25-year-old goaltender who is set to make just $2.8 million next season. There may be a reason to keep two young netminders around and on the team, but eventually one will have to be paid a nice sum of money and it will likely force the other one out of town.
The other option is to make the choice between the two young goaltenders and keep a veteran around to help with the development at the NHL level. Bernier is a solid split starter option who can take on more starts when the other goalie is struggling, while also having been around the league a long time and can be a mentor to Daws.
Blackwood was once looked at as the future in goal for the Devils, but Daws has challenged that after only being drafted in 2020. Sometimes opportunities for some can bring on surprising results and allow teams to alter their plans.
We’ve established that the better decision would be to shop Blackwood around and hold onto Bernier and Daws as the tandem, whether it is by this year’s trade deadline or in the offseason. The money saved and the assets the Devils should be able to bring back in return would benefit them greatly in the turnaround that they are expecting by next season.
Oilers Looking for Their No. 1 Goaltender
The Oilers have their eyes and ears all around the league in an attempt to find their next starting goaltender. I don’t believe Skinner is set to take on the full-time duties as the starter in Edmonton, similar to how I don’t think Daws is set for that role in New Jersey. But having a young option who still gets in games and can develop without as much pressure is beneficial for them.
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There will be a few options out there for the Oilers to pursue, even before the deadline. But the main focus for Edmonton should be to get younger in the crease. They can’t continue to sign old goaltenders when they could blow up at any moment. They also need stability in net for many years, and that would only come from a goalie either looking to be a full-time starter or someone who is younger than 30 years old and has had the experience starting already.
A number of names come to mind, but one of the most promising of the bunch would have to be Blackwood. Frank Seravalli says there are significant question marks about Blackwood’s future in New Jersey and that they are unsure if Blackwood can return to form. He states that “you’re rolling the dice a little bit in terms of immediate impact, but if they worked with him longer term they could get their game back to where it needed to be.”
It would be a roll of the dice but maybe a necessary one as Blackwood may even be back from injury by the trade deadline. Even if the workload is lighter and Koskinen continues to get more starts, not much could be worse than the stats that Smith has put up for the Oilers. In a tight race for a playoff spot, the goaltending has to be able to give the team a chance to win.
Blackwood isn’t fully to blame for his two most recent seasons after his great start to his career. His first two seasons saw him post a .918 and .915 save percentage (SV%), having it drop to .902 and .894 last year and this one. The team hasn’t been very good around him and the Devils really struggled at the beginning of the season when he was getting the starts, as they were a little banged up. They have since figured it out and Daws has been benefiting from that along with his play.
At 25 and a very affordable cap hit next season as well, Blackwood could be the solution in net the Oilers have been searching for. He has proven he can put up great numbers behind a sub-par defensive team and steal games in any of his four seasons in the league. A change of scenery is likely on the horizon as he just switched agents last week.
Edmonton is the perfect opportunity for Blackwood, and would likely cost a first-round pick and a prospect which the Oilers should be willing to give up for a non-rental goaltender who could help them in the long run. There’s not a ton of great options out there this summer in the way of free agents the Oilers could sign, and they will all likely be overpaid due to the need around the league.