The Edmonton Oilers seem to have missed their chance to upgrade in net through free agency after rumours swirled that they had their sights on Darcy Kuemper, Linus Ullmark, Frederik Andersen, Petr Mrazek, and Antii Raanta. These players were either signed or traded to different teams, but that doesn’t mean Edmonton is done trying to add skill and youth in goal. After the free agency rush is done and the dust has settled, general manager Ken Holland is left with the option to trade for a goalie, which will likely save them some cap space but will cost them more in assets.
With Mike Smith projected to be the Oilers’ starter for at least the upcoming season, Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock will try to prove they can be a good backup and make quality starts when called upon. The team also has Stuart Skinner waiting in the wing as the hopeful future in net. However, Holland will need to target teams with more than enough goaltending support and is looking to free up a spot to add another goalie via trade. Here are the three best options.
The top team that comes to mind is the Dallas Stars. After signing Braden Holtby this offseason, they now have four goalies who are all more than capable of playing starter or split minutes in the crease. This includes Ben Bishop, who has been very solid when healthy. Holtby, who just signed a one-year, $2 million deal, Anton Khudobin, a veteran who led the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, and a young goalie in Jake Oettinger, who earned a spot on the starting roster after his play last season.
In the case of Khudobin, given how well he performed as an older goalie on a very fair deal, he is a prime target to be moved after Holtby was signed cheaper. He has split time with whatever partner he has had to share the net with over the past three seasons and has good stats to go along with that. If the Oilers can acquire him and move on from Koskinen, it would save them $1.167 million for the 2021-22 season, and they would have a tandem in net for this season and next at a very reasonable $5.533 million. If both Smith and Khudobin were to play at a high level again, it would happily suit the Oilers.
With two solid netminders to call on on any given night, this tandem could give the Oilers that extra boost they need. At 39 and 35 years old, respectively, Smith and Khudobin may be more prone to injuries than earlier in their careers. However, Edmonton wasn’t afraid to run with Smith for a stretch when he returned from injury, and that could be an option. But, again, with a reliable tandem in net, age and exhaustion might not catch up to them by the time the playoffs come around.
Korpisalo had an up-and-down start to his career, but at only age 27 and with years of experience, he is just the type of young goalie Edmonton is looking for to fill that void long-term. On a Columbus Blue Jackets team that isn’t known for scoring and, under former head coach John Tortorella, was known for their play in the defensive zone, Korpisalo has shown flashes of brilliance and suffered through tough stretches. Sergei Bobrovsky was a great goaltender to learn from, and Korpisalo did just that for four seasons in a backup role.
In the first season after Bobrovsky left for Florida, Korpisalo seemed to shine, posting a 2.60 goals-against average (GAA), a .911 save percentage (SV%), and 19 wins in 38 games to help Columbus into the playoffs. Everybody remembers Korpisalo’s outstanding performance in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020. If you don’t, here’s a little refresher. Korpisalo stood on his head and made an NHL record 85 saves in a losing attempt against the Lightning in the fifth overtime.
Since the 2019-20 season, and through to this past season, Korpisalo has had to share the net with Elvis Merzlikins. In both seasons, Merzlikins put up better numbers while splitting time, which prompted rumours that one of them has to go, especially since the Blue Jackets won’t pay starter money for both. In that case, Korpisalo will likely be the man on the move, and the Oilers have been at the top of the list as far as rumours go since they missed their shot in free agency. It might cost them a little more than Khudobin because he’s younger, but it may be worth it. Korpisalo also has a very fair deal in place at only $2.8 million for this season.
Georgiev is the youngest goalie on this list. He is only 25 and has one year left on his contract (worth $2.425 million) before he becomes a restricted free agent. The New York Rangers appear to have chosen their starting netminder moving forward. Between Georgiev or Igor Shesterkin, they signed Shesterkin to a 4-year, $28.3 million extension this offseason. That comes out to a $5.6 million average annual value (AAV) which is starter money.
Through almost 100 games in the NHL, Georgiev has shown great promise with a .912 SV% through parts of four seasons. The Rangers have been a more offensive team lately and weaker on the back end, especially since losing Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal. A tandem of Smith and Georgiev could bode very well for the Oilers and would give the Bulgarian netminder at least another two seasons of learning under Smith. Considering his age, contract, and stats so far in his career, he may be worth a pretty significant haul going back to the Rangers if Edmonton doesn’t retain any salary for Koskinen.
Whichever goalie the Oilers decide to pull the trigger on, a deal would ideally be completed before the start of training camp so everyone can get acquainted, and regular-season games aren’t wasted on learning habits. A better route for the future would be to trade for a young goalie like Korpisalo or Georgiev, but a short-term solution would be to add another veteran presence like Khudobin to play alongside Smith. Goaltending is the only position the Oilers didn’t address this offseason thus far, and any of these options would go over nicely.
Longtime Edmonton Oilers fan with a background in hockey analytics. Have enjoyed following and writing about the Oilers and the NHL for some time now.