The Edmonton Oilers have completed a great signing by locking up goaltender Stuart Skinner to a three-year, $2.6 million average annual value (AAV) contract that will kick in next season. Considering the great play he has shown in his time in the NHL this season and last, the Oilers got a steal here.
Skinner is tracking to be a full-time starter in the NHL and has already taken the reins from Jack Campbell this season while the veteran struggles (from ‘Stuart Skinner has been the Oilers’ saviour — and that’s not a good thing,’ The Athletic, Dec. 6, 2022). Skinner played a similar role when he was third in the organizational depth chart last season but started a handful of games. Excluding the one game he played in 2020-21, he has a 2.74 goals-against average (GAA) and .914 save percentage (SV%) in his NHL career. Those are starter numbers and with a team that can score as well as the Oilers do, it is more than sufficient. On the other hand, as poorly as the Oilers defend, it is also impressive.
Not only does it set the Oilers up for the next three years at minimum, the timing of the extension was perfect.
Oilers Know What They Have for Next 3 Years
As far as cap hits goes for the tandem of Skinner and Jack Campbell over the next three seasons, it’s solid. Campbell hasn’t had the start in an Oilers uniform that he wanted or anyone else thought would happen. However, now he has a capable partner that can and has been picking up the slack if he falters.
Campbell didn’t have that to fall back on last season with Petr Mrazek or Erik Kallgren on the Toronto Maple Leafs when he struggled. The Oilers have been able to get through the start of the season with a positive record and great play by the rookie Skinner while Campbell figures out his game. He eventually managed to in time for playoffs last year and his struggles started much later in the season. I don’t expect this level of troubles to haunt Campbell all season. Then the Oilers will have two very capable goaltenders down the stretch and into the playoffs.
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A cap hit of $7.6 million for a tandem is fine for today’s NHL, so over the next three seasons it will continue to look better and better.
Timing of Skinner’s Extension is Perfect
Locking Skinner up less than halfway through his rookie season was the best course of action. The Oilers will continue to be crunched for cap space and can’t afford to keep their young players around after they’ve broken out and continued to put up great numbers. Despite it being his rookie season, he got a nice trial run last season as well, which definitely added to the confidence the Oilers have in him to sustain his success.
By the time Skinner’s contract is up, Campbell will have one year remaining on his deal. Depending on how the veteran goalie is playing by that time, it will give the Oilers more options to move forward. Even if the Oilers had already lost hope in Campbell this season, it would be very costly to move him with four years remaining at $5 million AAV. If for some unlikely reason Campbell doesn’t figure it out in three and a half years, Skinner will for sure be the starter and the Oilers would have a much easier time dumping Campbell’s salary on a rebuilding team along with a draft pick.
Skinner would’ve been looking for more money per season if he remained the starter for Edmonton this season and his numbers continued to be good. He has started nine of the last 11 games for the Oilers and has given the team a fighting chance in each game. Starting over 80 percent of the games probably won’t last for the remainder of the season, but there is always that chance. Every start and win from here would have just upped the number Skinner would have likely signed for and made it more difficult for the Oilers to fit everyone under the cap.
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Though he is just 31 starts into his NHL career, sometimes it’s the best move to sign players before they have a chance to ask for more money. There are some similarities around the league over the past couple of seasons that include Pyotr Kochetkov (4 x $2 million AAV), Ville Husso (3 x $4.75 million AAV), and Alex Nedeljkovic (2 x $3 million AAV). All had just broken into the NHL and had great starts to their young careers in net on each team’s time of need. Skinner has done the same thing and the Oilers are on the better end of the contract in comparison.
This calm young goalie has worked hard to progress through four different leagues to get where he’s at. The Oilers had patience with him and it’s paying off. Skinner appears to be the goalie of the future, and the future has arrived early.