Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith turns 40 on Tuesday, March 22, just one day after the NHL trade deadline passes. Barring the highly unlikely event of the veteran netminder being dealt before the deadline passes, Smith is poised to become only the third 40-year-old to play in a game for the Oilers. That could, in fact, happen on his birthday, when Edmonton visits the Dallas Stars for a key contest in the Western Conference playoff race at 6:30 p.m. MST Tuesday.
Smith’s age is mentioned often by frustrated Edmonton fans, as the former All-Star has battled a series of injuries and struggled with his play this season after he was re-signed by the Oilers to a two-year, $4.4M contract in July. He’s appeared in just 16 games, going 6-8-1 with a 3.39 goals-against average (GAA) and a .895 save percentage (SV%).
If Smith can rediscover his past form that was seen as recently as last season, when he was 21-6-2 with a 2.31 GAA and .923 SV%, and help the Edmonton make a postseason run, he would become the eldest Oiler to have a significant impact. Here’s a look at the four other oldest players in franchise history:
Kevin Lowe (Age in Last Game With Oilers: 39 Years, 0 Months, 9 Days)
Lowe was the Oilers’ first-ever NHL Entry Draft selection at 21st overall in 1979. He went on play the next 13 seasons in Edmonton, winning five Stanley Cups. In 1992, the defenceman was traded to the New York Rangers, with whom he won his sixth Stanley Cup, in 1994.
After four seasons on Broadway, a 37-year-old Lowe returned to his original team, signing with the Oilers as a free agent during the 1996 offseason. Edmonton had not made the playoffs since his departure, and Lowe’s veteran leadership was key to the Oilers returning to the postseason in 1997.
Injuries limited Lowe to just seven games in the 1997-1998 regular season. On April 24, 1998, barely a week after turning 39, he suited up for what turned out to be his NHL appearance in Game 2 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche. Lowe retired on July 30, 1998, as Edmonton’s all-time leader in games played (1037 in the regular season, 178 in the playoffs), a distinction he still holds more than two decades later.
Dwayne Roloson (39 Years, 5 Months, 26 Days)
Roloson keyed Edmonton’s run through the Western Conference playoffs to reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 after the veteran goalie was acquired just prior to the trade deadline. He re-signed with Edmonton during the 2006 offseason, agreeing to a three-year, $11M deal that ensured Roloson would be well compensated until he was nearly 40.
Over the duration of the contract, Roloson largely maintained a role as Edmonton’s starter. He had some of his best numbers as an Oiler at age 39 in 2008-09, when he posted a career-high 28 wins. The Oilers, however, missed the playoffs, in all three seasons.
Roloson departed Edmonton via free agency in 2009, signing with the New York Islanders. He would go on to play until age 42, retiring after the 2011-12 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Nikolai Khabibulin (40 Years, 3 Months, 13 Days)
The Oilers went from one aging goalie to another in 2009, signing the 36-year-old Khabibulin to a four-year, $15M contract. Khabibulin, a former Stanley Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist, was coming off a 25-8-7 season with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Khabibulin never really got on track in Edmonton. In four seasons with the Oilers, he played just 116 games, the most being 46 in 2010-11. He compiled a record of 33-67-13. On Feb. 9, 2013, he became the first goalie to appear in a game for the Oilers at age 40.
After four playoff-less years in Edmonton, Khabibulin signed with Chicago. He would play only four games with the Blackhawks in 2013-14 before retiring.
Adam Oates (41 Years, 7 Months, 7 Days)
Oates was already 41 and a veteran of nearly 1,300 NHL games when he inked a one-year, $1.95 million contract with the Oilers on Nov. 17, 2003, several weeks into the season. The Oilers needed a centre with his skillset, and Oates was simply looking for a place to play, having gone unsigned after the Anaheim Ducks declined to pick up the option year on his contract.
In 60 games with the Oilers, Oates managed just two goals and 16 assists for a career-low 18 points in 2003-04. Edmonton finished two points out of a playoff spot, missing the postseason for only the second time since 1996. Oates retired following the season, ending his NHL career with 1,420 points in 1,337 games. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2012.
Next on the List
Interestingly, the sixth oldest player in Oilers history is also currently on the team: 38-year-old defenseman Duncan Keith, who was born on July 16, 1983.
With one more year remaining on his contract following this season, Keith will become a free agent before turning 40, meaning it could be quite a while before the Oilers have another quadragenarian in their lineup after Smith.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.