The Edmonton Oilers may have just gotten the opportunity they needed to land a goaltender of interest this offseason as Darcy Kuemper is now slated to hit free agency. Reports yesterday were that general manager of the Colorado Avalanche Joe Sakic was meeting with Kuemper’s agent Ben Hankinson about a possible contract extension. Today a trade was pulled off that saw the Avalanche acquire goaltender Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers.
The Avalanche seem committed to Georgiev considering the price they paid to bring him in (2022 third and fifth-round pick, 2023 third-round pick) to be a part of a tandem with Pavel Francouz. The trigger was pulled very quickly, and talks must not have gone well at all.
Multiple sources confirmed Kuemper will not be the starting goalie next season for the Avalanche after winning the Stanley Cup. He is going to require a bigger raise than Colorado has cap space for as they have to budget with key players’ contracts ending over the next few seasons.
This is where the Oilers should get their shot. Colorado is one less team to worry about now with their goaltending situation being cleared up already for next season. Edmonton was very high on Kuemper last season before the Avalanche offered a bit more to the Arizona Coyotes to acquire him, but if he wants to win again, the Oilers are one of his best shots at doing so.
Oilers Need for a Starting Goaltender While in Cup Window
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are in their primes on great deals, and those won’t last forever. Ken Holland has brought in most of the necessary pieces to make the Oilers a Cup contender and it took them to the Western Conference Final last season, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup winners. The Oilers have a fair shot at bringing in the Avalanche’s former starting goaltender that helped get them there.
Mike Smith‘s future is still up in the air after a season where he battled multiple injuries and got beat up by the end of the Oilers’ run. He has been the starter for the last two seasons and has had his ups and downs for sure in 2021-22. Not very many opportunities come along where the Stanley Cup-winning goaltender hits the open market that season, and just in the Oilers’ time of need.
Regardless of the decision of Smith whether he plans on retiring or the Oilers put him on LTIR (long-term injured reserve) to have the roster spot and cap space available, the Oilers need to be pushing hard for a goaltender that can give them a legitimate shot at winning for the next number of years and Smith isn’t it at age 40.
Kuemper is 32 years old and has had a stellar career that has flown under the radar until now. In seven of his 10 seasons, he posted a .915 save percentage (SV%) or higher. But three of his past four seasons have been the best in his career, finally getting Vezina Trophy recognition and posting SV% of .921, .925, and .928. His goals saved above expected (GSAA) is also spectacular, as he has 66.3 GSAA over the past four seasons. The Oilers haven’t gotten anything near that, and this means Kuemper is able to stop shots that probably should be goals rather than the other way around.
Options in Net Scarce for Oilers this Offseason
The Oilers should be looking for a starting goaltender in his prime or just getting there, and there are very few options available in free agency or via trade. There’s talk about Jack Campbell since he’s also without a contract in Toronto, but the Oilers are going to have to cough up the bag in order to give themselves a chance to win. If they do, it should be worth it as that’s the main missing piece they’ve been searching for over the past number of years and they’ve been stuck with Mikko Koskinen’s bad contract and a veteran past his prime.
Stuart Skinner will be the backup for the Oilers next season, and I’m not certain he is ready for even split time yet. The Oilers shouldn’t rush him and allow him to experience a full season at the very least in a backup role with less pressure since he had enough on him last season. With Kuemper’s career health, that could make a signing risky, but as it could go either way, Skinner could have gotten a positive learning experience from playing under high pressure and be up to the challenge if Kuemper were to miss time.
With Georgiev off the market, there’s the aforementioned Campbell, Braden Holtby, Ville Husso, and the less likely options of Marc-Andre Fleury and John Gibson. The Oilers still have work to do to move out money, so things should start to heat up right away.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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