Oilers Dodged a Bullet Missing Out on Markstrom

It has been confirmed by multiple sources now that the Edmonton Oilers were heavily in on Jacob Markstrom in free agency. Looking to fill a starting goaltender void, the top goalie of the 2020 NHL free agency market started getting calls, the Oilers among those to pick up the phone.

Speculation is that Oilers general manager Ken Holland went as far as to offer seven years at $5 million per season. That kind of offer hints that he was looking to secure his goaltender for the next many seasons but ultimately, Markstrom chose the Calgary Flames, leaving Edmonton to go another direction.

While there’s doubt in Oilers Nation that Mike Smith was the right choice when the dust settled, it’s still fair to argue the Oilers may have dodged a big time bullet not landing their primary goaltending target. Here are a few reasons why:

Long-Term Deals are Disappearing

In today’s NHL, long-term UFA deals look to be a thing of the past. Perhaps it’s just the post-COVID NHL that has caused GMs around the league to go shorter-term on many free agents, but only the Montreal Canadiens, Calgary Flames, Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues committed to UFAs for more than three seasons, Markstrom’s deal among them. In other words, only five teams out of 31 handed out lengthy contract terms which represents a huge shift in the way of thinking.

Jacob Markstrom, Alexander Edler, Milan Lucic
Vancouver Canucks’ Alexander Edler keeps Calgary Flames’ Milan Lucic away from goalie Jacob Markstrom (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

For the most part, long-term deals have proven to be risky bets. In fact, more often than not, deals tend to be bought out near the end of the term because players simply aren’t worth the value of said deal as the contracts come to a close. GMs did so anyways because, in the past, that was the cost of doing business to keep the AAV down.

The Oilers History of Long-Term Deals Isn’t Good

In particular, the Oilers have a terrible legacy of bad long-term deals when it comes to signing free agents. If you think back to players like Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon, Benoit Pouliot, Andrej Sekera and Milan Lucic, the Oilers have struck out a number of times. In fact, almost every long-term unrestricted free agent the team has added in the first few days of the last few years has been a flop.

While a lot of this can be blamed on the old regime and bad pro scouting, had the Oilers landed Markstrom, there’s no telling what type of goaltender he’d be in two years, nonetheless six or seven. There’s every chance Edmonton would have looked back on this deal in 2024 or 2025 and said ‘Why?’ It would have then dawned on them they’d be stuck for two more seasons.

Related: Oilers’ Acquisition of Turris Fills Major Void on Third Line

The Goaltending Market Is Always There

This year’s free agency market for goaltenders was massive. It will be decent next season as well. Every season, a new group of goalies come on strong and another group becomes available. Dipping into that market isn’t hard and as the NHL moves away from the full-time starter who plays 65 or 70 games, heavily investing in a netminder who will play all of your games seems like money not well spent.

Frederik Andersen Toronto Maple Leafs
Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Holland said so himself when he labeled the NHL a league where good tandems rule the day. In a condensed season where goalies will only be able to play so much without hitting the point of exhaustion, it’s wise to have a good 1A and 1B.

Next offseason, just a few of the names available will include: Tuukka Rask, Frederik Andersen, Pekka Rinne, Jordan Binnington, Annti Raanta, Philipp Grubauer, Petr Mrazek, and others. The Golden Knights will likely look to move Marc-Andre Fleury again and teams will be clearing cap space just as feverishly as they did this offseason. At that time, the Oilers can take another look.

Not to mention, Edmonton still doesn’t really know what they have in Mikko Koskinen yet. What if he proves to be a tremendous goaltender? That’s just as likely to happen as him proving he’s not got the goods.

No Markstrom Meant Adding Tyson Barrie

Finally, had the Oilers landed on Markstrom, Tyson Barrie to Edmonton wouldn’t have happened. Holland said he made adding the goaltender his priority. When he spoke with Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now, he said missing out in that market and going back to Mike Smith allowed the Oilers the opportunity to talk to Barrie about a one-year deal.

Barrie said he wanted to come to Edmonton from the start of free agency but understood it was all about whether or not the Oilers could fit him in under the cap. With Markstrom’s contract on the books, Barrie’s $3.75 million simply doesn’t fit.

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