Plenty has been said, not just this season, but for almost the entire Connor McDavid era, that the Edmonton Oilers goaltending has not been good enough. While Mike Smith did put together a very solid season in 2020-21, it seemed wise for general manager Ken Holland to look elsewhere this past summer.
As we now know, that didn’t happen, as Holland instead chose to give Smith a two-year deal. To this point, that decision has been a major disaster as the 39-year-old has struggled to stay healthy and hasn’t been very good in the few games he’s managed to suit up for. His counterpart in Mikko Koskinen has been no better, struggling for the second straight season. As a result, the talk around the league for months now has been that the Oilers need to upgrade their goaltending, with names like Marc-Andre Fleury, Semyon Varlamov, Alexandar Georgiev and even Joonas Korpisalo floating around. However, a highly credible insider recently suggested a name that hasn’t garnered much consideration, but may be the best option available.
Chris Johnston of TSN recently spoke with Bryan Hayes and Jonas Siegel to discuss the Oilers’ goaltending, and agreed that it isn’t good enough. One name, that he discussed as a possibility for Holland to land was Braden Holtby of the Dallas Stars.
The 32-year-old has had somewhat of a fall from grace since a number of outstanding seasons with the Washington Capitals, which included both a Stanley Cup and Vezina Trophy, but has had a relatively nice bounce back year in Dallas. In 23 games played, he has accumulated a 2.78 goals-against average (GAA) along with a .912 save percentage (SV%).
Those numbers aren’t outstanding by any means, but are far better than both Smith’s (3.61 GAA, .895 SV%) as well as Koskinen’s (3.13 GAA, .899 SV%). What makes him so intriguing, however, aren’t just his past accolades or the fact that he’s thrown together a solid 2021-22 season, but the fact that he’s on a one-year deal with a cap hit of just $2 million.
Holtby Works Better Than Other Available Options
A few of the other names Johnston discussed were Korpisalo and Fleury. He mentioned that with Korpisalo, the Oilers were hesitant to give up much of anything as they aren’t convinced he would be an upgrade. Based on his 3.82 GAA along with his .887 SV% on the season, that seems a fair assumption to make. In fact, he has failed to record a SV% above .900 in three of his past four seasons.
The other option in Fleury, which Johnston also brought up, is that he simply makes too much money for the Oilers to make it work. On top of that, he also has a 10-team no trade list, which the Oilers may very well be on.
The only reason this deal may have a bit of hesitancy from some is the fact the Stars are very well still in the playoff race. Ironically enough, the main team they are chasing right now is the Oilers, who hold just a one-point lead over them for the final wild card position in the Western Conference.
One thing to note, however, is that the Stars have been giving the bulk of starts as of late to Jake Oettinger, who is the goalie of their future. Given how well he has been playing this season may just make Holtby moveable for the right price, especially given the fact that they have Anton Khudobin, an experienced NHL backup, currently playing for their American Hockey League affiliate in the Texas Stars.
Goaltending Help Needed to Save the Season
If the Oilers’ current goaltending situation remains the same, they have no chance of going on a playoff run and could risk missing the postseason all together. Some may believe Holtby isn’t the answer, and that’s fair on their part, but there is no denying he is better than what they currently have. Not only that, but he has winning experience and is capable of getting hot and going on runs, as he has proven in the past. Holland needs to do everything he possibly can to acquire a goaltender in order to keep his job past this season, and Holtby may very well be the most suitable fit.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.