It’s looking more and more like the Edmonton Oilers aren’t going to make big changes when it comes to their goaltending ahead of this season’s NHL Trade Deadline. GM Ken Holland has said he’s not planning to part with high-end prospects or his first-round draft pick to upgrade an area where he believes the true showcase of what his tandem can do remains unclear.
But, what if the tandem the Oilers go with isn’t the tandem most expected would be the 1 and 1A that started the season? While Mikko Koskinen has played better of late, so have the other two netminders in the Oilers’ organization and all seem to be finally healthy. If the Oilers are going to make a move ahead of the deadline, they’ll need to clear salary cap space. With the progression of Stuart Skinner at the NHL level, could that make Koskinen expendable?
Considering the netminder is likely to leave during the summer for no return — or the Oilers move on, depending on how you look at things — the Oilers would be well suited to move Koskinen to a team that is open to taking on salary in exchange for a sweetener. Here are four teams that could be an option for Holland if he wants to move Koskinen and focus on other team needs.
The team with the most salary cap space to work with this season is the Buffalo Sabres. They are also historically the team prepared to make the biggest trades and take the biggest chances. Without a goaltender on their roster that looks to be their future netminder, perhaps a backstop with a strong upside and the potential to be a starter better than what they have is a good bet? Right now, the Sabres have Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski both on cheap deals and both are pending UFAs.
The Sabres have all the room in the world to take on Koskinen’s $4.5 million salary. He also has a shot to be the starter there if the Sabres don’t land a bigger name in free agency this summer. The opportunity at a starting role could be important for Koskinen and he might elect to include the Sabres on his list of teams he’d accept a trade to.
Could a tandem of Malcolm Subban and Koskinen be something the Sabres feel comfortable moving forward with? It’s certainly not ideal, but the Sabres might figure they’re a couple of years away from being a true contender.
The Anaheim Ducks
If the Ducks fall farther and farther out of playoff contention, there could be insiders speculating at the future of Ducks’ goaltender John Gibson. A player locked into a long-term deal at a cost of $6.4 million, he’d be a solid get for the Oilers who wouldn’t need to worry about their goaltending moving forward. Koskinen going to Anaheim to play in tandem with whoever becomes their 1A could work. It saves the Ducks nearly $2 million per season and it will earn the Ducks a pick or a prospect.
This is one of those deals where Holland might actually consider moving a high-end draft choice to solidify their netminding. If Gibson doesn’t want to go through the lengthy process that could be the Ducks becoming a legit contender again, he might be open to a move. This is the only deal in our list where a goalie is swapped for a goalie. The salary cap savings and the accent pieces are what might give this trade some life.
New York Rangers
If the Rangers move Igor Shesterkin, the Rangers might be in the market for a backup. Shesterkin isn’t likely part of the Rangers’ future and Koskinen would essentially be a rental for New York who is being painted as one of the teams to watch heading into the NHL Trade Deadline.
This type of deal wouldn’t be a move made where New York was targeting Koskinen, but more a move that comes as a result of the Rangers having plenty of cap space. If they’re a busy deadline team, move their backup, and need to take some salary in a deal that lands them a player they could use in their playoff run, there could be a fit there. The question would be what else the Oilers would give to move Koskinen and who the Rangers think would help them. Could a depth defenseman fit?
The Coyotes like Karel Vejmelka, but this is a goaltender who is inexperienced and a current backup that can act as a goaltending partner could be on the docket for Arizona, a team that has a ton of cap space. Scott Wedgewood is a pending UFA and Koskinen could sign an extension with the team if he agrees to be traded there. Again, any situation where Koskinen has the potential to be a starter is probably a good situation for him.
The Coyotes are a team that is open to adding picks and prospects in exchange for taking on salary. The Oilers might be able to move Koskinen and shake $4.5 million, promote Stuart Skinner and bring in another piece to round out their roster. The Coyotes get a partner that provides a bit of insurance for a very young Vejmelka and they should be able to save money over Koskinen’s current salary if they sign him to a multi-year deal.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”