If the Edmonton Oilers are going to make a significant trade, they are going to have to send back a larger contract to free up the cap space. All signs point to Mikko Koskinen as the most likely candidate to move, especially if the Oilers are going to get a No. 1 goalie before the trade deadline.
Koskinen makes $4.5 million this season in the final year of his deal, so it wouldn’t be too much of an ask for a seller to take on his contract for the remainder of the season while gaining another asset. A trade involving Koskinen doesn’t necessarily have to be to the team where they want to target an impactful player from, it could also be a team with cap space looking for an extra pick or prospect to take on the contract.
There are a couple of teams that fall into different categories but would all make sense if the Oilers could find a trade partner in them this season.
The Arizona Coyotes are a team that is brought up a lot when it comes to teams that could be interested in trading. This is due to the ton of cap space they have, almost no chance in competing this season, and trade assets they hold and are willing to move by the deadline.
In this case, we aren’t going to look at Jakob Chychrun because those rumours have been put to rest, as well as Phil Kessel since the Oilers will want to free up cap space for a player that may be able to stick around for more than this season.
That being said, the Coyotes are no stranger to taking on an unwanted contract to gain picks and prospects. Just this past offseason, we saw the Philadelphia Flyers trade Shayne Gostisbehere to them along with a second and a seventh-round pick in the 2022 draft. That means that may be the price to trade Koskinen to the Coyotes to take on the exact same amount of cap space.
I envision it will come cheaper than a second and a seventh though, possibly just a third or fourth-round pick in 2022, seeing as Gostisbehere had two years remaining when that deal was made and the Coyotes would only have Koskinen for less than half a season. That is a price I’d be willing to pay to allow the space in order to upgrade the Oilers.
With the implementation of the taxi squad and the injury to Carter Hutton, Koskinen can easily serve as a backup to Karel Vejmelka or split time with him and send Scott Wedgewood to the taxi squad. Right now, the team has David Tendeck on the taxi squad, a sixth-round pick in 2018, and a goaltender who hasn’t even played a game in the American Hockey League (AHL).
There is still a general uncertainty around Carey Price’s return and if it is even going to happen this season (“Stu Cowan: Carey Price’s return to the Canadiens remains uncertain”, Montreal Gazette, Dec. 28, 2021). With all the COVID and injury-related problems that the Montreal Canadiens have had, they need to look towards a rebuild. That means selling off assets and getting picks and prospects that they can hopefully build around.
The same kind of deal could be in place for them as it is for the Coyotes, a mid-round pick to take on Koskinen’s contract for the remainder of the season, even if the Oilers don’t take any significant player back in return. Though Ben Chiarot should be available, if the Oilers are going to compete with a number of other teams and send back the contract of Koskinen, it would be a hefty price.
Koskinen would be able to go in and provide support to Jake Allen, who’s played a ton this year and generally thrives when playing less, much like Koskinen. That complementary pairing could hold down the fort in Montreal while they sell off other pieces and look towards next season.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks are an interesting option. They may not be a team you’d think of when looking at a team to take on a contract at first glance. They have stuck around just out of the playoff race to this point but are an old team that has been known to get their fair share of injuries. They don’t have a real starting goalie despite James Reimer playing very well this season.
That being said, they have Reimer and Adin Hill each with two years remaining on their contracts. Hill is eight years younger and looks to be the goalie of the future for the Sharks. The team also seems to be holding on as long as they can before starting a rebuild.
The assumption is that Tomas Hertl will find himself on a new team by the trade deadline, so other pieces might follow and the rebuild may have to finally start. If the Sharks start to lose ground, Reimer is a good option to be moved to a contender who may also be looking for security in the backup position for next year at a fair price. A number of teams come to mind, including the likes of Winnipeg, Colorado, Nashville, and the NY Rangers.
If the Sharks want to get a good return for a goalie while his stock is high, they would look to move Reimer and get an asset along with Koskinen in a separate deal before the trade deadline.
The Oilers have to make a move sooner rather than later, especially with the injury concerns of Mike Smith once again arising. Koskinen can not be the starter going forward if the Oilers expect to win low-scoring games and compete against tough opponents if they make the playoffs. To upgrade and fill that need this season, he will have to be moved.
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 the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.
You can find more of his work here.