According to TSN’s Frank Seravalli: “The Pittsburgh Penguins are believed to have one standing offer on the table for Matt Murray. The Maple Leafs, Oilers, Flames, Senators, Sabres and Avalanche are among the potential suitors for Murray’s services – a list that may soon grow.”
Rumors surrounding Matt Murray are not new. In fact, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has all but said his intentions are to move one goaltender and the most likely candidate is Murray because he’s older, more expensive and potentially has more value in a trade because of his Stanley Cup winning history.
What’s a bit interesting about Seravalli’s report is that the Edmonton Oilers are among the six teams specifically named to have kicked tires on the goaltender.
Why Is that Interesting?
Because Oilers GM Ken Holland basically confirmed the Oilers will be sticking with a goaltending tandem next season, the expectation was that Mikko Koskinen might be option 1A and the Oilers would need to make a decision on option 1B. Speculation was that Holland wasn’t going to want to spend much to solidify the backup position.
That meant either re-signing Mike Smith, or looking to free agency where a plethora of netminders will be available and potentially for cheap.
If Edmonton is seriously looking at Murray, you can throw all of that speculation out the window.
Is This a Smith Thing, or a Koskinen Thing?
Murray is not going to be an inexpensive goaltender when he re-signs with whichever teams lands him in a trade. Currently a $3.75 million player, as an RFA, he’s likely to get a decent a bump on his current salary. In other words, considering the investment that will be required, he’s potentially a starter on most of the teams that are probably considering trading for him.
That then leads to questions about why the Oilers are looking at him. Do they need a netminder who can take over for Koskinen, having determined he’s not an NHL starter? Or, is Holland worried that Smith is not a strong enough 1B and he’s willing to invest more money into a better tandem?
Murray’s potential as a starting stopper has to be more an indication that Holland has his doubts about Koskinen and that the GM is looking to answer the starting goaltender question once and for all.
Again, that’s interesting because Holland has never discussed real concerns when it came to Koskinen’s play last season. In fact, Holland called the Oilers goaltending a strength for the team last season.
Could Holland Flip Koskinen in Trade?
With such a flooded market for goalies, it’s difficult to imagine there would be a huge market for a relatively inexperience backstop like Koskinen. He’s making $4.5 million over the next two seasons and there will be less expensive options out there for teams. Really, no one will be lining up to acquire him should the Oilers make him available.
At the same time, it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Oilers invest between $9 and $10 million in their goaltenders for next season.
Edmonton has far too many other glaring holes in their lineup to throw away funds on a position that wasn’t necessarily a huge strength, but wasn’t an obvious weakness either. If Edmonton doesn’t plan to allocate that much salary to one position, logic dictates Koskinen could be on the way out.
A buy out seems incredibly irresponsible so it’s hard to imagine that scenario is on the table. Edmonton still owes for Benoit Pouliot ($1.3 million), Andrej Sekera ($2.5 million), Milan Lucic ($750K) and they just got dinged more than $300K on bonus overage penalties. Adding another $2.5 million in cap hit for Koskinen can’t be under consideration.
And, if there’s not an obvious market in trade for Koskinen, is there something going on most Oilers fans aren’t aware of? What does Holland have up his sleeve?
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Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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