Oilers reportedly still looking for goalie help but won’t panic

Nov 18, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) (not pictured) scored a goal on Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 18, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) (not pictured) scored a goal on Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports /

While the Oilers won’t jump into anything, they know they still need to strengthen the goaltender position to improve their playoff chances.

So much for the good vibes emanating from a three-game winning streak. It all came crashing back down to earth on Saturday afternoon in Tampa Bay, as the Oilers lost 6-4 to the Lightening.

It was a game which the Oilers really should have won, but all of their issues from this season were on display. They outshot the hosts 43-24 and three times held a lead, including a 4-3 advantage after 8:04 of the final period.

Despite four goals however, the final stats sheet was noticeable for not a single point by either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. Worst of all however, the defensive side of the game was again left wanting.

Following Saturday afternoon’s disaster in Florida, the Oilers have the worst goalie save percentage in the league. They are also tied third-worst, for the most average goals allowed per game.

Along these lines, Stuart Skinner saw the goodwill created from three straight excellent games ruined, as he allowed five of the six goals versus the Lightening. As much as a lot of it wasn’t his fault, he still played his part in the poor overall effort.

All this does, is highlight the Oilers’ need to still strengthen their goaltender position. Even an in-form Skinner would be unable to carry the load on a full time basis.

Still in need of goalie support

In this respect, it will come as no surprise that the Oilers are indeed still looking for help between the pipes. As much has been confirmed by Sportsnet‘s Elliotte Friedman, one of the more highly regarded and respected reporters in the hockey media world.

Friedman shared the latest speculation during Hockey Night in Canada. As per Sportsnet, he said:

"“The Oilers do continue to look at the goaltender market. A number of teams who were in Montreal said that Edmonton was there looking at all three of Montreal’s goaltenders. I don’t believe there’s anything imminent there, I just think it’s the Oilers continuing to do their due diligence.”"

The Oilers have already been linked to a number of goaltenders, including the Canadiens’ Jake Allen. Now, it seems general manager Ken Holland and company are open to any one of the goalies currently plying their trade in Montreal.

Now it should be noted the Oilers weren’t the only team in attendance at the Bell Centre recently. However, it does stand to reason they would be more interested than most, in their desire to find help in goal.

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In respect of the Canadiens specifically, alongside Allen this would include Sam Montembeault and Cayden Primeau. Given the Oilers’ current precarious salary cap situation, the latter two options would make more sense from a financial perspective.

Montembeault is in the final year of a deal which carries a $1 million cap hit, while Primeau’s contract has two years remaining, with an annual cap hit of $890,000. By comparison, Allen has an annual cap hit of $3.85 million over the final two years of his contract.

In an ideal world, the Oilers would prefer to include Jack Campbell and his five-year, $25 million contract in any return package. However, let’s assume this isn’t going to happen, especially when you consider just how terribly he’s performing right now in the AHL.

As such, if we were to combine the factors of age, talent and salary, Montembeault would seem to be the best option in Montreal. Certainly he’s off to a final start so far this season for the Canadiens.

In fact, even though it’s still early, the 27-year-old is projected to have single-season bests for save percentage, goals against average and quality start percentage.

There is the question of what the Canadiens would be prepared to accept in return for Montembeault, combined with whether they consider themselves a genuine playoff contender this season. On the flip side, he is in the final year of his contract, so it might be a case of making sure to get something for him, if he does walk at the end of the season.

Overall approach

This alludes’ to the Oilers’ overall philosophy when it comes to finding goalie help. As Friedman added on Saturday night:

"“(Edmonton) is determined not to make a panic trade that they’ll regret, but there’s no question that with every loss — like the one they had this afternoon — the focus continues more on them.”"

In other words, the Oilers don’t want to complete a trade which compromises them unfairly. However, with every defensive disaster, the pressure and desperation only intensifies.

It still seems crazy on some levels that the Oilers are in this position. How could a roster which is largely the same as last season, go from 50 regular season wins and the second round of the playoffs, to already being seven points out of a wild card spot just 16 games into the 2023-24 campaign?

There is still hope when considering the talent in Edmonton, but they collectively need to start performing better on a more consistent basis. And this includes in goal, even though the blue line and the overall team defensive effort is letting them down far too frequently.

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At the moment, the combination of Skinner and Calvin Pickard is not conducive to continued stability and success between the pipes. Who — if anyone — the Oilers are able to trade for, will be key to the fortunes of the team as they progress through the 2023-24 season.