Could the Edmonton Oilers roll with 3 goalies next season?

May 15, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Alex Stalock (32) makes a save during warmup against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
May 15, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Alex Stalock (32) makes a save during warmup against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

In this day and age of NHL hockey, it’s worth asking one question – does a three-headed goaltending hydra work better in the tandem era of today than it would’ve in the traditional starter-backup model?

I can’t say for sure, but it’s entirely possible. Next season could potentially be such a season for the Oilers. It may not be very likely, but let’s be honest – anything’s possible. Let’s start with the dominoes that have to fall:

  1.  Mikko Koskinen has to be either picked by Seattle in the expansion draft or bought out, both of whom are possibilities this offseason. 

Either one is possible. After all, Koskinen has several strikes against him at this point. He’s overpaid – not to the point of being a boat anchor but overpaid nonetheless. He took a step back this year – now granted, a lot of that had to do with Mike Smith being injured to start the year and Koski having to start 10 games in a row due to the lack of anyone else available other than an untested minor league #3, but still.

He’ll be 33 by the time training camp starts and thus is unlikely to be a solution in net over the long term. Most of all, he was a Peter Chiarelli recruit, not a Ken Holland one, and GMs like to bring in players they’re familiar with.

The only reason the Oilers haven’t moved Koskinen yet is because there was too much term on his contract and the Oilers had too much of a cap crunch to retain cap space – both of those problems have been solved organically since then. Would Koskinen be more attractive as a trade target if the Oilers, say, kept 50% of his cap hit next season ($2.25 million)? I’d say so. Thus, the trade route is a possibility too.

Not to mention, there wouldn’t be nearly as much pressure on Koskinen in Seattle as there would be here in Edmonton. After all, we’re trying to win now. Seattle is trying to accumulate assets for a future when they could win. Koskinen fits much better on Seattle’s timeline than Edmonton’s. If Seattle picks him, they could even acquire more assets at the 2022 draft by flipping him to a team looking for depth between the pipes at next season’s trade deadline.

2.  Stuart Skinner makes the NHL full time

In the 1 game he got last year, he did pretty decently for his 1st NHL start. He let in a couple of bad goals to start, likely due to nerves, but showed great potential after he settled down and looked like his normal self. Hey, a win is a win for your goalie even if the score is 8-5.

The rest of the year, he ended up leading the AHL in wins in the regular season and was 6th in the league in both sv% and GAA. Truly a runaway career season for the ages, and a huge step forward.

But was it enough to make the NHL? Probably not, but stranger things have happened. Personally, I’d like to see him do a repeat performance next season in the minors before we talk about him being in the NHL full time, but the NHL is a meritocracy, and you can bet if his training camp is good enough, Dave Tippett will give him a spot.

Assuming no other Oiler goaltender gets taken in the expansion draft, in this scenario here’s how I see the games going down at least on paper, notwithstanding performance and injuries:

Mike Smith – 40 games

Alex Stalock – 22 games

Stuart Skinner – 20 games

This is also assuming the NHL moves back to a full 82 game season next year, which at this point we don’t know will happen either. Since the Oilers don’t really employ the traditional starter-backup structure in their goalies – like Winnipeg, Anaheim, or Tampa Bay do – Skinner would need to be insulated by a veteran as IMO he wouldn’t be ready for a full half season load if he does make the team next season. You also can’t rely on Mike Smith to play 60 games, because he’s not that kind of a workhorse and at his age you want to conserve all the energy you can. So, for the Oilers this might work better.

Granted, there are lots of alternatives to go on, so this is just 1 possibility for Holland to consider.  Not saying he’d go for it, just saying it’s a possibility.

Could another of the Oilers’ goalies be taken in the expansion draft? 

Maybe, but I tend to think probably not.

Mike Smith, I guarantee you will be the guy the Oilers protect. Both the coach and the GM are in his corner, and he’s a Holland recruit. Alex Stalock might be taken, but he’s no better than a backup caliber guy, and in this day and age of 1 and 1A tandems, Seattle is unlikely to go in that direction.

He’s more suited to the #3 position he’s at with the Oilers now. Stuart Skinner at this point is still too unproven, there are better options for Seattle to pick from at other positions. #4 man Olivier Rodrigue just finished his rookie season and only played a whopping 11 games, so he’s not eligible for the expansion draft.

Dylan Wells could be signed as a free agent, which would be doing the Oilers a huge favor as then Seattle wouldn’t be able to pick from the Oilers in the actual draft, but considering how mediocre his career has been that’s unlikely.

That’s pretty much it for goaltenders. If anyone’s going to be taken in the goaltending position, Koskinen is the overwhelming favorite. He’s the guy most possible to go as he’s the top option to be exposed.

Bonus material

If you haven’t seen this article in the Journal, I highly recommend the read. Advanced stats gobbledygook notwithstanding, this would be a huge relief to the Oilers if Seattle would sign Tyson Barrie as a free agent and make them exempt from the main draft. Probably a pipe dream, though.

Although Seattle would obviously be interested in Barrie as a free agent player, it’s unlikely Barrie would be interested in playing for an expansion team. Few free agents would be, unless they’re a project looking to revitalize their careers or to play a higher role on another team.

If they could pull it off, though, they would have a marquee player to market and the Oilers would avoid losing a player in the expansion draft, a win-win for both franchises. That would even be worth another season of Mikko Koskinen, although again if they ate some of his cap hit…..


Remember what I said about Gaetan Haas here? It looks like the odds have come true, as Haas signed a 5 year contract to go back to the Swiss league. It’s no surprise to me, he caught onto the defensive side of the game and the PK well enough but his hands never really translated from the Swiss league to the NHL and one of Holland’s top priorities is another makeover of the bottom six to equip it with personnel more capable of helping out the McDrai duo to score goals. Prior to joining the Oilers his last two seasons he had 15 goals and 41 and 38 points respectively in 47 and 50 games (also respectively).

His hands went cold here as he never did establish himself as a scorer like he did in the Swiss league. I can’t blame him for going back to Switzerland, he was unlikely to get another contract in the NHL as a free agent, and if he did it would be for close to league minimum. He can probably make more in the Swiss league because he can score more and play a greater role there.

No shame in that. He wasn’t the first European to come to the NHL and be a bust and he won’t be the last.