The goaltending situation is a conversation worth revisiting for the Edmonton Oilers, given Mike Smith’s age and questionable health as well as the efficiency of Mikko Koskinen. This season hasn’t exactly mirrored the start of 2020-21, but it’s been pretty close as far as the goalies are concerned, an indication of how important solid goaltending is in the NHL (from, “Injury scare at practice reinforces Mike Smith’s importance to Edmonton Oilers”, Edmonton Journal, April 24, 2021).
At least Smith was able to get into a few games of action before landing on injured reserve (IR). But the big difference this season is that he will be returning a lot sooner. He got into two and a half games and is now considered day-to-day. His status was up in the air until Saturday evening whether he would get the start against the Vancouver Canucks.
Like last season, Stuart Skinner was recalled from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League (AHL) to serve as backup. But the team doesn’t seem to trust him yet. He only played one game last season, his only NHL appearance. With back-to-back games in the fourth and fifth games of the season, the Oilers elected to play Koskinen in both.
Koskinen has pretty good numbers but has yet to face the most difficult opponents. The Anaheim Ducks have lost six in a row, the Arizona Coyotes are winless through eight games with 12 total goals, and the Vegas Golden Knights were missing some of their top players. The Oilers should be looking towards the playoffs and the future as they search for a goalie this season. Koskinen has held it down to this point, but if things go off the rails, general manager Ken Holland should act swiftly.
Columbus Should Move Joonas Korpisalo
Elvis Merzlikins’ solid play for the Columbus Blue Jackets, in just his third season in the NHL, has been difficult to ignore. The better he plays, the less opportunity Joonas Korpisalo gets. Merzlikins’ four-game win streak was just snapped by the New York Rangers, also the first time he has allowed more than two goals against in a game this season. Career-wise, his numbers are great and worthy of a starting position in Columbus.
Despite a mediocre regular-season career, Korpisalo was excellent in the one playoffs he took part in. He was integral in knocking off the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2020 qualifying round and kept the Blue Jackets in every game in their 4-1 series loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. His goals-against average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%) were astronomically better than any regular-season, recording a 1.90 GAA and .941 SV%. The Blue Jackets will be able to get assets back for Korpisalo, so they should consider trading him as soon as the opportunity arises.
With a stronger team in front of him, I think Korpisalo could flourish in Edmonton. His confidence level should increase because the Oilers can outscore opponents even if their goaltender isn’t having the best night. When Korpisalo is on like he’s known to be at times, he will make the big saves. That’s exactly what the Oilers are looking for in those tight games when the offence can’t break through like it normally does. In a tougher and more competitive postseason, the big save is important, and Koskinen has shown he can’t do that.
Khudobin Should Be Traded from Logjammed Stars
Anton Khudobin has been a point of discussion since before the Dallas Stars signed Braden Holtby. Ben Bishop will return at some point, and Jake Oettinger is waiting patiently in the minors, so a goalie will certainly be traded out of Dallas. Holtby has come in and taken the No. 1 job from Khudobin, starting six of eight games so far. Holtby also has a .926 SV% this season, while Khudobin has a .889. We’ve seen regression from Khudobin since the Stars’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, which marked his first playoff start in his career at age 33.
Khudobin has very respectable career numbers, with a 2.47 GAA and a .917 SV%. He has never been a team’s first choice, but he can fill the no. 1 role very effectively if the starter is injured or not performing. This would play perfectly alongside Smith with the Oilers, as injuries seem to happen more often in Smith’s career. From a decently small sample size, Khudobin is a clutch performer in the postseason, and the Oilers will need help from everyone to do damage.
If a trade opportunity arises for a fair price, the Oilers should be all over that, but they shouldn’t just make a trade to make one. At the very least, their goaltending has been able to hold the team in games so far, but they need to be thinking about winning now that their Cup window is open.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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