Olivier Rodrigue is having a fine season in the AHL with the Condors. Since taking over from Jack Campell as the main man between the pipes, he's proving himself to be a worthy number one.
Admittedly Rodrigue hasn't been quite as sharp in his past two games, giving up a combined nine goals. However, at the time of posting he's still tied for the second-best save percentage among all qualifying AHL goaltenders.
In this respect it's just a continuation of the 23-year-old's progress from last season, when he had a .912 save percentage and 2.77 GAA in 29 games. So far this season he's been better overall, with a .924 save percentage and 2.48 GAA in 12 appearances.
As a result of his form, there have been calls for Rodrigue to be called up and given a chance with the Oilers. While Stuart Skinner has rediscovered his own excellent form from last season, there are concerns about him playing too much. (With 25 starts in the Oilers' first 35 games, he's already more than halfway to last season's total.)
In this respect, Calvin Pickard has been more than acceptable when he's played. However, the overriding sentiment is the Oilers still need to strengthen the depth and reliability of the goalie position, so Skinner doesn't have to play as much.
This is where Rodrigue comes in, with him showing glimpses of why he was drafted in the second round in 2018. And certainly his athleticism combined with excellent lateral movement and confidence, alludes to his intriguing upside.
However, it's now emerged that part of the rationale behind the Oilers looking to call up the Chicoutimi, Quebec native, is to showcase what he can do in order to potentially trade him. As per Sean Panganiban of The Hockey Writers, The Athletic's Allan Mitchell writes:
"(Ken) Holland could recall Rodrigue to the NHL for a few games, to showcase him. It’s probably early for this young goalie to be a trade asset of real value, but the club dealt Mike Kesselring a year ago at the deadline and he was in a similar spot in his development path."
Now we appreciate why the Oilers would ideally like to bring in a more experienced option, to either backup Skinner or possibly even work in tandem. In this respect, the team has been linked to various candidates since early in the season, including the likes of Jake Allen, Elvis Merzlikins, Juuse Saros,and Linus Ullmark.
No longer as dire in goal
However, the reality is the Oilers' goalie situation is nowhere near as desperate as it was earlier in the season. At one point they had the worst team save percentage in the NHL and the second-worst GAA.
Now though, as the team has improved so has the goalie production, more than helping the Oilers win 14 of their past 17 games. Instead, it's more about just trying to get to a point where Skinner doesn't have to be played as much and risk running out of steam.
Also, as much as the Oilers are quite rightly focused on trying to reach their ultimate goal this season, they should have at least some thought about the future. In this respect, Rodrigue has all the potential to one day either play in tandem with Skinner for the Oilers, or outright become their number one goalie.
Further, it has to be acknowledged Rodrigue has exceeded expectations and developed quicker than anticipted. Why would you risk trading him and lose him as a long-term solution, especially at a position where the Oilers have had a lot of issues over the past decade?
Overall, we realise that a lot of this is about the Oilers considering all options and not leaving any stone unturned. However, in our humble opinion it would be a mistake to trade Rodrigue.