The Edmonton Oilers got some bad, and likely a bit unexpected news on Tuesday. After placing goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers, the Carolina Hurricanes have claimed the netminder and the Oilers third-string option in net is not ideal.
The Oilers already had questions about their goaltending trio. What’s ironic is that the third-string option was probably the least of their concerns. Forsberg was signed on the first day of free agency by general manager Ken Holland and the widespread belief was that it was a pretty astute signing. It certainly was more well received than the fact Holland didn’t do anything to improve his starter and backups, leaving Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith as the main guys.
Forsberg Was Likely to Play This Season
For fans who didn’t know Forsberg well, the 28-year-old NHL veteran has moved around the league and been up and down between the NHL and the AHL over the past six seasons. He’s only got 48 total games of NHL experience but his signing with the Oilers on a one-year contract was likely going to equal an opportunity.
The 6-foot-3 and 192-pound backstop, Allan Mitchell of The Athletic called him a “fairly durable” bet, noting he’d produced some decent numbers outside the NHL.
While he wasn’t necessarily going to overtake Smith as the backup in Edmonton, there was some chatter it wasn’t an impossibility. Forsberg would be part of the Oilers taxi squad and just a stone’s throw away from duty, should Smith falter. Now, he’s about as far away as one can imagine, being picked up by the Hurricanes.
What’s Edmonton’s Back-Up Plan?
For now, Stuart Skinner will join the team as the Oilers third string goalie. That is, unless Holland does something else between now and today’s 5pm deadline to submit the team’s official roster to the NHL.
His options might include making a phone call to free agent goalie Jimmy Howard. Howard hasn’t signed with an NHL club yet, he’s looking for work and there’s a history there with Holland from their days in Detroit. Based on his final season with the Red Wings, the veteran netminder may no longer have the goods, but Skinner is unproven and Howard is potentially an upgrade.
Or, the Oilers could do what Carolina did to them and claim a goalie of their own. The Hurricanes placed goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic on waivers today. Edmonton could claim him, essentially making the waiver claims and one-for-one trade. The cap hits are nearly identical, so it wouldn’t affect things financially.
Edmonton Can’t Stand Pat, Can They?
With so many questions in goal, but so little time in which to do something. Can the Oilers afford to stand pat? Jason Gregor correctly points out that Bakersfield camp will be opening later this month, around 24th or 25th. He says, “No need to panic just yet.”
Still, trades are going to be more difficult to pull off this season, especially if two teams across the border are talking shop. In fact, any player moving (including waivers) means quarantining and possible delays. As such, how imperative is it that Holland hop on the phone today and try to find a solution?
Yes, this is the third string goalie position we’re talking about and Edmonton does have the required player to satisfy the league’s need for three netminders. But, is what the Oilers have going to be enough?
Or, will it even matter? Sure, there’s an importance being placed on the goaltending in such a condensed season. But, will a better third-string netminder really make the big of a difference? It could. especially if option 1A or 1B don’t play well for the Oilers, or heaven forbid, suffer an injury.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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