Edmonton Oilers should explore free agent goalie market this summer

The Edmonton Oilers have their goaltending tandem for this season, but beyond that, the team needs to look to make some changes. The 2021 season has seen the Edmonton Oilers‘ goaltending situation go through a number of changes, thanks largely to the waiver wire and the wait for a long-term injured returnee.

With Mike Smith‘s return from injury, his partnership with Mikko Koskinen gives the Oilers their tandem for the 2021 campaign, but it’s one that shouldn’t last beyond this season. The situation between the pipes is one that general manager Ken Holland needs to address if he hopes to keep the team heading in the right direction beyond this current season.

Edmonton Oilers Need A Long-Term Solution

The Oilers’ current tandem is solid, with Smith putting in some stellar efforts since his recent return from injury, helping to alleviate the pressure that had been placed on Koskinen’s shoulders. At the time of writing, Koskinen has played the joint-most number of games in the NHL alongside the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frederik Andersen, something that unsurprisingly has not helped him to put up good numbers so far this season.

Koskinen is a solid goaltender but is probably best suited to a 1A/1B situation where he can share ice time and is not expected to play almost every night without a break. So far this season, when he has been forced into that situation, he has a 6-8-0 record with a 3.43 goals against average and a .894 save percentage – far below his usual standards since joining the Oilers back in 2018.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, that situation was forced upon them with Anton Forsberg being claimed by the Carolina Hurricanes and Troy Grosenick being reclaimed by the LA Kings on waivers, leaving the situation behind Koskinen one of the weakest in the league.

Now that the veteran Smith is back, and looking good right out of the gate, things should be far more stable for the Oilers moving forward, but it is not a situation that can continue in the long-term.

The most obvious reason for this being Smith’s age. The Kingston, Ontario native will turn 39 before the end of the current season and the Oilers need to have a longer-term solution between the pipes to provide stability, and quality, as they continue to hunt for regular playoff appearances.

Koskinen is on the books for another year at $4.5 million, so the team will need to address who will partner him in that final year, whether that be a backup/1B option or a player that could potentially take over as the team’s outright number one.

The free agency market for goaltenders is looking fairly deep this year, with some big-name players such as the aforementioned Andersen, St. Louis’ Jordan Binnington and Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer all becoming available.

A strong tandem can make a huge difference for any team in the league, and the Edmonton Oilers are no different. They have the superstar offensive talents to take them forward, but it is on the back end and between the pipes that they need to address in the long-term.

Even if Holland decides to roll with Koskinen as ‘the guy’ for his contract year, a number of solid backup options are available, such as Peter Mrazek, James Reimer or even Linus Ullmark. Whatever the Oilers decide to do, this may be the final run for the Smith/Koskinen partnership, with a lengthy option targeted in the offseason and a look to the future being a top priority.