Even If Oilers Have the Assets, Acquiring Carey Price Would Be a Mistake

Our own D. Edward Bochon wrote an interesting article this week about the potential of Carey Price being moved by the Montreal Canadiens if the team undergoes a rebuild with all their organizational and executive changes. Bochon took a look at the Edmonton Oilers as a potential fit and wrote, “…if the team has the chance to pick up a future Hall of Famer like Carey Price they should look into it.”

He makes an interesting argument that assuming the Canadiens retain salary on Price, the netminder would be the playoff-proven starter the Oilers have been looking for. Bochon notes, “Price was the No. 1 reason the Habs went all the way to the Stanley Cup Final last season, and at the age of 34, he still might have a few good seasons ahead of him.” He adds that as a Western Canadian product, Price might have time for the Oilers and that Edmonton has the assets to make that deal.

Bochon’s arguments are valid, but out of interest in offering a different opinion, this article takes a look at why Price would not be the right fit for the Oilers and why adding him would be a mistake.

The Cost of Acquiring Price

Even if the Canadiens agree to retain salary, and unless a third team gets involved (which is possible, but unlikely), the best the Oilers can do is add Price at $5.25 million for the next four seasons. That’s a pretty hefty price tag to pay for a starter that may or may not be able to play in most of the games remaining on his current contract.

Carey Price Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Oilers already know what it feels like to sign an older veteran with health issues. In Mike Smith, Edmonton has a goalie who can be incredible when he’s on and playing his game. When he’s not, he’s either not very good or he’s out with an injury. Price isn’t much different in that respect, although his resume as one of the NHL’s best netminders in the last decade is admirable.

Related: Oilers’ Top Prospect Holloway Getting Closer to Return

It’s not only the money, but the assets needed to trade for Price that should be a cause for pause. Bochon referenced an interview on Edmonton’s TSN 1260, where Montreal reporter Brian Wilde talked with host Alan Mitchell about the idea of trading Price to the Oilers and mentioned a prospect like Dylan Holloway as part of Edmonton’s package. He also included names like Kailer Yamamoto or “Bison King” Jesse Puljujärvi, along with the Oilers’ first-round pick in 2022. It’s not clear what combination of these assets might be needed to land the goalie, but again, it’s a hefty price to pay.

The Oilers have something special in Puljujarvi. Moving him could be a monumental mistake. The first-round pick is available but has major value and it’s not clear what Holloway will become.

Oilers Netminders Are Getting It Done

Clearly, Edmonton would have to move Mikko Koskinen as part of the trade just to make the money work. And, for all of Koskinen’s faults, he’s been better than good this season. He stole another game on Wednesday when the Oilers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, keeping Edmonton in the contest until they could find their game and turned up the heat in the third period. Koskinen isn’t perfect, but he’s done that all season long.

Edmonton Oilers Mikko Koskinen
Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Stuart Skinner is coming along nicely and he’s potentially a goaltender the Oilers want to invest in long-term. Smith can provide great netminding and he’s only got one more season left on his deal.

As the season rolls along, the Oilers might be comfortable running with the three netminders they have in Smith, Koskinen, and Skinner and could see the net difference of adding Price, but losing Puljujarvi and Holloway as a gamble not worth taking. If Price returns but isn’t fully healthy, the Oilers are left with Smith and Skinner. It’s not ideal.

Oilers Need to Move Away From Age and Term

Adding an older netminder is fine if you don’t have to commit to him. Adding a goalie with term is fine if he’s not too old. Price is both older and has term left on his deal. That opens up a ton of questions about how effective he’ll be over the length of what’s left on his deal and the Oilers aren’t in a situation where taking poorly calculated salary cap risks is wise.

Edmonton’s window to win is now and every move, especially when it comes to money in versus money out counts. Price could be a fantastic addition. At the same time, that trade could turn out to be a total bust, especially if Edmonton moves a number of pieces to make the deal work. The uncertainty alone makes it a gamble the Oilers shouldn’t take.

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