Every week there’s at least one tidbit about the Edmonton Oilers and their off-season plan. We know both Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli will resume their roles next season. We also know that forward Ty Rattie is back for another year at $800,000 to play on the right wing.
With everything else in between, we also now know the Oilers have locked in what looks to be their future starter in nets. Stuart Skinner, 19, just signed a three-year entry-level contract (ELC) with a $784,166 cap hit. He’ll be a restricted free agent (RFA) in the summer of 2021.
Skinner has been sensational in the WHL playoffs and has backstopped the Swift Current Broncos to the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup that’ll be held in Regina. Through 26 playoff games this spring, Skinner holds a sparkling 2.20 goals against average (GAA) and a .932 save percentage.
Skinner also had six shutouts en route to the WHL Championship and outdueled Carter Hart who’s believed to be the top goaltending prospect in the world. It’s an interesting narrative that saw Hart and Michael DiPietro beat out both Skinner and fellow Oilers prospect Dylan Wells for both spots on Team Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championships.
Skinner’s come a long way since that Summer Showcase, and the 2017 third-round pick is tracking nicely as a prospect for Edmonton. Now chasing a Memorial Cup win, is there much else left for him to prove in junior?
Here are five questions about the Oilers goaltenders heading into the 2018-19 season.
Where Does Stuart Skinner Play Next Season?
With nothing left to prove, Skinner would be spinning his wheels as an over-age player in junior next season. He turns 20 in November, making him eligible to play with the Oilers’ AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors.
With Skinner signed, this is what the Oilers’ goaltending depth chart looks like. Some dominos will fall, but whoever ends up in Bakersfield next season will split starts with Skinner.
Edmonton Oilers Organizational Goaltending Depth Chart
Edmonton Oilers (NHL)
|Bakersfield Condors (AHL)||Wichita Thunder (ECHL)|
|Mikko Koskinen||Nick Ellis||
|Al Montoya||Stuart Skinner|
Laurent Brossoit, 25, is a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA), and there’s a possibility Nick Ellis will be tendered a qualifying offer (more on both later). There’s also the uncertainty about where Al Montoya will be next season. It’ll likely be one of Montoya or Ellis that ends up platooning with Skinner next season.
One thing is clear, after striking out on goaltending prospects for years, the Oilers might have something with Skinner. Is it too bold to suggest he is the heir apparent to Cam Talbot?
Is Mikko Koskinen the Guy for the No. 2 Job?
As we continue a deep dive into the Oilers goaltending situation, we’ll sidebar with Mikko Koskinen. The 29-year-old got an expensive deal to be Talbot’s backup next season at $2.5 million. In his defense, he’s put up six outstanding seasons in the KHL and is a bit of a late bloomer.
His numbers are eerily similar to Edmonton’s last acquisition from the KHL in Anders Nilsson back in July 2015. Nilsson posted nearly identical numbers and has been the easy comparable. If you remember, Edmonton acquired his NHL rights from the Chicago Blackhawks that summer.
The difference? Nilsson signed a one-year deal worth $1 million. Koskinen is a high-risk high-reward-type signing. There’s a lot to like, and it’s intriguing to have a 6-foot-6, 205-pound specimen in net.
If Koskinen can play the way he did in the KHL, McLellan might have someone he can finally trust to play at least 20-25 games behind Talbot. But if he can’t, the Oilers might need an insurance policy in case the signing doesn’t work out. If you look at other KHL signings, especially those on one-year deals, you wouldn’t be wrong to suspect that Koskinen’s contract has a KHL out-clause in case things don’t pan out.
What Do the Oilers Do with Al Montoya?
Montoya’s future is up in the air. He didn’t have a very good 2017-18 season after coming over in a January trade with the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, of the eight games he started, he only had a .900 SV% or better in two of those games.
He also allowed three or more goals in five of the nine games he played for the Oilers. After Brossoit faltered in the No. 2 job, Montoya was essentially the same. With Edmonton’s need for stability behind Talbot, they entered the bid for Koskinen.
Al Montoya Stats
The question now is what becomes of Montoya? He’s signed for another year at $1.06 million (a digestible cap hit for a backup) and he turns 34 midseason. If the goal is to get rid of his contract, a trade is unlikely especially with such a saturated field of backup goalies available this summer.
A buy out would only cost Chiarelli and the Oilers $375,000 in each of the next two seasons. Another possible scenario would be to send him down to the AHL after camp to see if someone tries to pick him up off waivers to address an injury or depth issue in goal.
The more likely scenario (and one I’m starting to believe will be the case) is that Montoya is kept as a No. 3 option, an insurance policy, in case the Koskinen signing doesn’t pan out. If the experiment fails, and Montoya has another bad year, Talbot will once again have to play the most games in the NHL.
Is Laurent Brossoit Leaving Oilers This Summer?
As mentioned above, it’s highly unlikely Brossoit returns to the Oilers organization for the 2018-19 season. Looking at the depth chart without moves, Brossoit is essentially ranked No. 4 and won’t factor into the main club’s plans, so why not look for an opportunity elsewhere?
Laurent Brossoit Stats
Re-signing with the Oilers doesn’t make sense for Brossoit. The 25-year-old is a Group VI UFA this summer and is coming off a cheap deal that paid him $750,000. The ideal situation is to find a spot behind another workhorse and team that’s in a cap pinch that would be priced out of some of the other more costly or proven backups this summer.
If he can get into a situation that allows him to play in a No. 2/3 role next season, that might be what saves his career best. Teams that fit those scenarios include the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and Detroit Red Wings.
If all else fails, there could be more lucrative offers in Europe. But if the goal is to stay in the NHL, one of those teams might allow Brossoit the possibility of playing minutes in North America’s best league. At 25, he’s still young enough to turn things around.
Will Nick Ellis Be Tendered a Qualifying Offer?
We know Talbot and Koskinen are at the top of the depth chart. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Shane Starrett and Dylan Wells (as seen above) will likely be the tandem in the ECHL. It’s everything in the middle that’s funky. There’s a lot of what-if scenarios.
If Montoya comes back as the third-string option, do they qualify Ellis and maybe push Skinner down to start the year in Wichita? If Montoya is bought out, it makes sense to re-sign Ellis and have him split the starts in the AHL with Skinner.
Ellis, 24, had a rough sophomore season after an impressive rookie campaign. He’s a restricted free agent (RFA) this summer who was signed out of Providence College in April 2016. After posting a 2.69 GAA and .918 SV% in 34 games in 2016-17, Ellis regressed a bit in year two with a 3.21 GAA and a .898 SV% in 22 games.
He started well but cooled off as the year went on. As things started picking up for him, Brossoit was re-assigned to Bakersfield and the club gave the lion’s share of games to Brossoit in hopes of kick-starting his game and helping the lesser used asset gain some confidence. So Ellis was shelved temporarily.
Ellis also ended up in the ECHL for two games between all the shuffling in the crease. It’s hard to say what the Oilers have in him. The jury is still out on whether or not he can be an NHL option. The more likely scenario is that Ellis is an organizational third-string. With all the balls in the air, Ellis might get a one-year deal to cement his spot.
Regardless, we know eventually Skinner and Wells will be challenging for big minutes in Bakersfield. In the meantime, Ellis might be a good placeholder and an AHL player that can easily be moved midseason.
Do you agree or disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.