It seems evident that the next three to four years are the window in which the Edmonton Oilers have the best chance to win the Stanley Cup. Both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are signed for the next three years (Draisaitl for three, McDavid for four) and after tasting some playoff success in the 2021-22 season, you have to believe the superstar duo and the whole organization are focused on winning now more than ever. If the Oilers truly desire to win now, though, it’s time to look at getting a really good starting goaltender as a possible replacement for Mike Smith.
There has been a whirlwind of rumors surrounding Smith since the Oilers bowed out against the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final as they have asked both Smith and defenseman Duncan Keith to inform them by July 1 what their intentions are for the future.
If Smith does retire, the Oilers will be saving $2.2 million on his salary. When you combine Smith’s salary with what Oilers general manager Ken Holland has in free cap space this offseason, there isn’t a lot of free-agent shopping money to deal with. However, if he and assistant general manager Keith Gretzky were to get creative, maybe there’s a trade possibility such as Tyson Barrie at $4.5 million, Zack Kassian at $3.2 million or Warren Foegele at $2.75 million that can be moved in a package deal to clear space for a starting goalie. So who could the Oilers bring in to replace him and share the workload with up-and-coming goaltending prospect Stuart Skinner?
Here are ten goaltending suggestions for the Oilers going into the 2022-23 season.
1. Carter Hart
Hart is currently signed with the Philadelphia Flyers for the next two seasons at $3.9 million. When you compare that to Mikko Koskinen’s $4.5 million, it seems pretty reasonable.
Hart is a local Edmonton product who hasn’t always been given the best treatment by the Flyers’ carousel of coaches, and with newly signed head coach John Tortorella coming in with a sometimes volatile reputation, he may want to look for a change of scenery.
2. Braden Holtby
The Dallas Stars veteran is an unrestricted free agent, who at 32 years old still has miles left in the tank. Braden Holtby also might have lots to prove after being unseated in the Stars’ crease by Jake Oettinger and you always want to sign someone who may have extra motivation. He is a Stanley Cup winner and could provide the Oilers with veteran leadership and be a good mentor for Skinner.
3. Alexandar Georgiev
It’s become evidently clear that Alexandar Georgiev is the odd man out with the New York Rangers after backing up superstar Igor Shesterkin last season. Georgiev, who is an unrestricted free agent this season, needs a fresh start to prove he can be a solid No. 1 goalie and the Oilers might just fit the bill.
4. Mackenzie Blackwood
Mackenzie Blackwood spent most of the 2021-22 NHL season on the injured reserve list recovering from heel surgery, a neck injury, and being placed in COVID health and safety protocols. When healthy, he was a solid starter for the New Jersey Devils and was once on Team Canada’s radar as the third goalie going into the recent Olympic Winter Games. At 25 years old and with a cap hit of just $2.8 million, he would be an option worth looking at by Holland and the Oilers’ brass.
5. Marc Andre Fleury
The 37-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury finished the season with the Minnesota Wild and played the first four games in the Wild’s series loss to the St. Louis Blues in the 2022 NHL Playoffs. After being moved around, and frankly disrespected by both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vegas Golden Knights, Fleury at 37 might still have something to prove.
Fleury is an unrestricted free agent and could come at a reasonable price tag for the Oilers…but only if he’s interested in playing for a Canadian-based team for the first time in his career.
6. John Gibson
John Gibson’s name has been thrown around a lot as a potential goaltending target for the Oilers, and other teams for that matter. The 28-year-old was a solid goaltender on a rebuilding team in Anaheim and may want a shot at winning the Stanley Cup. Edmonton might be one of his best bets for winning, however, he comes with a $6.4 million cap hit for the next five seasons, and bringing him to the Oilers would require Edmonton moving salary.
7. Ville Husso
Ville Husso is one of the most talked-about goaltenders on this offseason’s free-agent list finishing with a .919 save percentage in 40 games with the St. Louis Blues this past season. He outplayed veteran Jordan Binnington in the regular season and was the Blues’ starter in their first-round playoff series against the Wild. However, he was replaced by Binnington in their series victory over the Wild and put into the fire against the Colorado Avalanche (after Binnington’s injury) in their second-round playoff loss. He looked great for most of the 2021-22 season but might be too much of a gamble for the Oilers to take a chance on.
8. Darcy Kuemper
Currently in the midst of the Stanley Cup Final with the Avalanche, if Darcy Kuemper and the Avs win the Cup, there’s a good chance the UFA could re-sign with Colorado. His play during the Avalanche’s playoff run hasn’t been consistent, and in the series against Edmonton, he looked shaky before he left with an injury. Holland and the Oilers tried to acquire Kuemper last offseason. Do they go back to the well a second time? Only time will tell.
9. Daniel Vladar
This one might be coming out of left field, but the Calgary Flames’ backup put together a solid 2021-22 season and could have the potential to be a starter. The Flames will be relying on starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom again in the 2022-23 season, however, young Dustin Wolf had an outstanding season in the American Hockey League with the Stockton Heat and looks ready to join the Flames’ roster. This could mean that (Darth) Vladar might be available and with a cap hit under $1 million, he might be worth the risk. “Might” being the operative word.
10. Carey Price
The fate of Carey Price seems very much up in the air after the veteran Montreal Canadiens netminder missed most of the 2021-22 NHL season with an injury. That means he’s rested. However, with a $10.5 million cap hit for the next four seasons, dreams of him wearing an Oilers uniform might be totally out of the question.
Could Holland and Gretzky pull a rabbit out of the hat with some creative cap moves to land Price? Based on recent history, the answer is no, but it’s nice to daydream once in a while if you’re an Oilers fan.
Who Should Ken Holland Choose?
If you were Oilers’ GM Ken Holland, what would you do if you knew for certain that Smith was retiring? Who would you bring in? Would you look outside the NHL and take a chance on Evgeny Alikin or Nikita Serebryakov, who both put up respectable numbers in the Kontinental Hockey League? Let us know in the comment section below.
D. Edward Bochon covers the Edmonton Oilers. His background is in marketing writing where he worked with the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Football Club (now known as the Elks), and the Edmonton Rush of the NLL.