Oilers’ Goaltending Option if Skinner Passes Campbell as Starter

The Edmonton Oilers have started to find their game. They’ve started to clean things up a bit defensively while showing that every forward line can be effective. The team is now 4-3-0 after beating two very good clubs, the Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues, but it’s worth mentioning the play of Stuart Skinner so far.

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Skinner isn’t just off to a hot start like other goaltenders around the league. After fighting to make it to the NHL, his hard work and consistency are finally paying off. If he continues to play this well, he will take over the number-one job from Jack Campbell sooner than anticipated. Is that a good or bad thing?

Skinner’s Emergence Is Good

The Oilers finally have a backup goaltender that they can trust. Skinner has already made two starts and had a relief appearance in the first seven games of the season. He has handled it very well.

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The first we saw of him was in the second game of the season when the Oilers got off to a slow start and pulled Campbell after allowing four goals on 11 shots. Skinner came in and stopped all 31 shots, giving his team a chance to mount a comeback before falling just short. He may not have had the best start in the next game against the Buffalo Sabres, but he still made big saves despite not seeing a lot of action.

Stuart Skinner Edmonton Oilers
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The most impressive was his win against the Blues in his most recent start. Skinner made 37 saves and finished the game with a .974 save percentage. Many of those saves weren’t easy; the Blues had bursts of offensive pressure, but the rookie shut everything down. The only goal that got by him was a rebound batted out of the air on the power play. That’s an area of struggle for the Oilers this season, and the Blues had the second-best power play in the league in 2021-22.

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Skinner proved last season that he can man the net for a few games at a time. He did so when Mike Smith was injured and played better than Mikko Koskinen to earn his starts. With another season under his belt, Skinner is better able to tend the crease if something happens to Campbell – an injury or a rough stretch. It has happened before, and the Oilers have confidence in their young goaltender.

Campbell Being Surpassed Could Be an Issue

Having two solid options in net is an advantage for any team, especially if one has a small cap hit. Even if Skinner breaks out in a big way, he likely won’t take Campbell’s starting job this season as Ville Husso did in St. Louis last season. Skinner is four years younger and a restricted free agent. Just as the Oilers swindled their way into giving Ryan McLeod only $798,000 this season, Skinner won’t cost a ton to re-sign, but it might be tougher to sign him.

Jack Campbell Edmonton Oilers
Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Even if he earns $1-$2 million for two to three years, that would be great. Then the Oilers can run a tandem of Campbell and Skinner until Campbell has just one season left on his deal. If things look bad by then, and Skinner is the clear number one, management can either go the route of the Los Angeles Kings – re-sign Skinner for starter’s money while keeping Campbell around for one final season at $5 million – or replace Campbell with a cheaper backup and give Skinner the reins.

The only issue is that paying two goaltenders $5 million or so unnecessarily eats up a bunch of cap space if they aren’t among the best in the league. But, it might be worth it for one season, especially if the salary cap goes up. Right now, however, the Oilers have (and expect to have) a lot of their money tied up in their top players, and by then, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evan Bouchard, and more will need bigger contracts, so the money may be better allocated elsewhere.

Skinner is on track to becoming the Oilers’ starter down the line. It’s better for the team if he exceeds expectations and breaks out sooner than expected, but it’s still early. Hopefully, he will be around for many years and be an effective goaltender since the Oilers have needed solid netminding for a long time now.