Oilers Should Pursue Anton Forsberg as Low-Cost Upgrade in Net

The Edmonton Oilers’ need for a new goaltender is the worst kept secret in the NHL, and there have been trade rumours circulating for months. With the trade deadline drawing near, the Oilers are hoping to land a big name that can provide consistency between the pipes. However, because every other team knows the Oilers are in desperate need of a goaltender, they don’t have leverage, and will certainly have to pay a premium.

Some of the big-name goaltenders in the Oilers’ rumour mill heading into the trade deadline are the New York Rangers’ Alexandar Georgiev, New York Islanders’ Semyon Valarmov, and Chicago Blackhawks netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, who are all rumoured to cost a first-round draft pick at minimum. As The Hockey Writers’ Rob Couch points out, it’s unlikely general manager Ken Holland is willing to move such a high asset at this time.

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If the Oilers aren’t willing to give up their first-round pick, they should consider a cheaper alternative, and kick tires on Ottawa Senators’ goaltender Anton Forsberg, who was technically an Oiler for a short time before last season. The goalie is flying under the radar this season with a .917 save percentage (SV%) on a rebuilding Senators team. He’s in the final year of his contract, and it should be a relatively low-cost to acquire him.

The Former Oiler is Having a Stellar Season

The Oilers signed Forsberg on the first day of free agency before last season. He was signed to be the team’s insurance goaltender if Mike Smith or Mikko Koskinen faltered. However, he was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Hurricanes before the season started, and never played a game in an Oilers uniform. He bounced around between the Winnipeg Jets and was finally claimed by the Ottawa Senators. He won three of eight games last season, posting a 3.21 goals-against average (GAA) with a .900 SV%, and the club signed him to a one-year extension. This season, the 29-year-old has been solid, posting an 11-8-2 record with a 2.79 GAA and a .917 SV%.

Forsberg is posting numbers better than his career average of 3.09 GAA and .907 SV%, and providing good goaltending on a Senators team with a goal differential of minus-26, which is ninth-worst in the league. Over his last nine starts, he’s posted a 5-2-1 record, with a 2.21 GAA and .933 SV% while Matt Murray was out with injury.

What Would It Take To Get a Deal Done for Forsberg?

Forsberg may not be the household name that Oil Country was looking for to solidify their goaltending, but let’s compare him to the rumoured Georgiev. TSN analyst Mike Johnson recently said that the Rangers goaltender may be the Oilers’ best option, both for now and in the future. Looking at the numbers, the 26-year-old Georgiev has a 7-8-2 record, 3.05 GAA and a .897 SV% on a far superior Rangers team that has a plus-26 goal differential.

Anton Forsberg Ottawa Senators
Anton Forsberg, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In comparison to Georgiev, the 29-year-old Forsberg looks like a better option. His $900,000 AAV is much less than the $2,425,000 AAV of the Rangers’ goaltender, and he would cost less to acquire. Again, Forsberg is flying under the radar, and he could be had for a mid-round draft pick, or a B-level prospect, say Dmitri Samorukov. Smith has been the most inconsistent out of the Oilers goaltenders, having given up 15 goals in his last five games, and the team should send him 3.53 GAA to Ottawa as part of the deal as well. Also, since the Oilers had previously signed Forsberg to a contract, they’re already familiar with him and his capabilities.

If the Oilers acquired Forsberg, they’d have him, Koskinen, and Stuart Skinner as goaltenders to choose from within the organization. Koskinen has been consistent in his last seven starts with a 6-0-1 record, 2.49 GAA, and .923 SV%. The scouting report on the Finnish netminder, who is coming off one of his best performances of his career against the Florida Panthers, is that he can win games when he’s not overworked. The 23-year-old Skinner has the best statistics out of the three goaltenders with a 2.62 GAA and .913 SV% in 13 games. Between the trio, if used correctly, the Oilers have three dependable options between the pipes and they can ride the hot hand into the playoffs.

Related: Oilers 5 Young Goaltending Trade Targets For Future Stability in Net

Truth be told, even if the Oilers acquire a dependable goaltender, they’re still not Stanley Cup contenders, yet. I felt heading into the season, a successful campaign for the team would be winning a playoff round or two, to prove to everyone that they’re moving the needle forward. Acquiring Forsberg and in combination with head coach Jay Woodcroft’s team structure, and their two offensive superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers would be capable enough to steal a playoff round.

Acquiring Forsberg is low-risk and he’s putting up solid numbers in a contract year. The Oilers can head into the playoffs with a 1A, 1B goaltending scenario and re-evaluate their situation in net in the off-season when there will be less of a premium to acquire a goaltender. The trade deadline is March 21, 2022— what moves would you make to solidify the Oilers goaltending situation?

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