Oilers’ Top 3 Goalie Trade Targets if They Can’t Upgrade in Free Agency

Recent offseasons have not been kind to the Edmonton Oilers as they’ve failed to adequately upgrade their goaltending. They first missed out on signing Jacob Markstrom to a big contract and he ended up in Calgary, to the Oilers luck in the end, but then the Oilers were outbid on elite goaltender Darcy Kuemper by the Colorado Avalanche.

Related: Oilers: 4 Free-Agent Targets to Replace Mike Smith in Net

With the likely retirement of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen reportedly heading to Switzerland to play, the Oilers would be left with a hole to fill, some extra money, and a huge need to finally properly upgrade in net to obtain a starting goaltender. If they fail to upgrade in free agency despite there being a few decent options, they could very well go the trade route and try to move money out while bringing in a starter all at once. Here are three good options to help the team fix their issue in net for next season.

John Gibson

John Gibson appeared on Frank Seravalli’s first Daily Faceoff Trade Targets of the offseason at No. 7. It was known back at the trade deadline of 2021-22 that Pat Verbeek, the general manager, was trying to shop Gibson as they were selling off assets quickly. The team already moved on from Josh Manson and Hampus Lindholm as their defence gets somewhat of a reset, but their once-elite netminder may very well join them in being shipped out this summer.

John Gibson Anaheim Ducks
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Gibson’s numbers have taken a big hit the past three seasons with the regression of the Anaheim Ducks, but a change in scenery could make all the difference in the world for him. He’s just 28 years old and is locked up for five more seasons at $6.4 million average annual value (AAV), so the Oilers wouldn’t have to worry about goaltending for a while and allow for their three young prospects to develop and see what they have in them. Gibson’s contract would look a lot better if he could get back to how he played prior to 2019-20 as he was consistently recording around a .920 save percentage (SV%) and even won the William M. Jennings Trophy in 2015-16 for being the netminder for the team that allowed the fewest goals against in the season.

Seravalli stated, “his body language in Anaheim indicates frustration, so perhaps a change of scenery will energize him.” It’s understandable that he’s frustrated, so heading to a contending team could completely change his outlook and energy. The Oilers would be wise to also target Gibson when his value is lower rather than allowing him to possibly have a turnaround season in Anaheim despite playing on a rebuilding team (from ‘John Gibson and his frank talk about the Ducks and rebuilding: ‘We need more from everybody,’ The Athletic, Sept. 24, 2021). Of course he would have to leave the Oilers off of his 10-team no trade list, but I figure that list will consist of teams not likely to make the playoffs and not the Oilers who are on the rise. He may be the best option for the team through free agency or via trade this offseason.

Ilya Samsonov/Vitek Vanecek

A question that has come up for over a year now is who are the Washington Capitals going to choose as their starting goaltender moving forward? At first, all signs pointed to Ilya Samsonov after he was protected in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft despite Vitek Vanecek breaking out that season. Then, after the Capitals elected to acquire Vanecek back immediately, their decision became very clouded again.

Vitek Vanecek Washington Capitals
Vitek Vanecek, Washington Capitals (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Both goaltenders played very well and struggled at times last season and they ultimately met the end of their season in six games in Round 1 to the Florida Panthers. The Capitals chose Vanecek as their Game 1 starter where he won and played well, but after being pulled in Game 2, the team went with Samsonov for the remaining four games. Samsonov finished the playoffs with a .912 SV% against the most prolific offence in the NHL, though the Panthers did struggle in the postseason to score as much.

Both options in Samsonov and Vanecek are volatile and streaky, but they are young and have shown they can both be starters. It is more likely that the Oilers will have to rely on Stuart Skinner to come in and take over more games to have more of a 1A, 1B tandem with the inconsistency each have shown at times. However, under Jay Woodcroft the Oilers have a better defensive system to protect their netminders. It will be interesting to see who the Capitals elect to go with this offseason since both are restricted free agents (RFA). I think the Capitals have once again made up their minds and have chosen Samsonov, but the Oilers have some players who they are trying to trade as well, which could come into effect in grabbing their choice on the two if a deal is struck.

James Reimer

James Reimer would be the one of the last options for the Oilers this offseason and a short-term one. He has just one year remaining on his contract at $2.25 million and the San Jose Sharks will be looking for a trade partner since they have two young goaltenders in Adin Hill and Kaapo Kahkonen. The Oilers would be able to also get Reimer cheaper because of the need for the Sharks to trade him and the goalie market out there.

James Reimer San Jose Sharks
James Reimer, San Jose Sharks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Reimer finished the season on a rebuilding Sharks with a 19-17-10 record, a .911 SV%, 5.9 goals saved above average, and one shutout. He’s not old but the Oilers would only be acquiring him as an option for next season if nothing else falls in front of them. The last time he finished with a negative win/loss record was 2014-15 and can consistently give his team 40 starts with a respectable SV% year after year.

The Oilers will have a number of options to upgrade their goaltending this offseason, so Ken Holland must find which will be the best option for the team moving forward and who will give them an even better chance of winning in the future.

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