Even as the Edmonton Oilers prepare for their date with destiny on Tuesday night in Vegas, they have one eye on the future. More specifically, the upcoming Mar. 8 trade deadline.
As good as the Oilers have been during their 16-game winning streak, the implication is they still need to improve the roster if they are to make a genuine run at the Stanley Cup come playoff time. Opinions have them needing to add a top six forward, a bottom six forward and a blue-liner; in other words, essentially every unit on the roster.
As such, it should come as no surprise that suggestions also have the Oilers requiring another goalie. As per Matt Larkin of Daily Faceoff, this includes being an good destination for the Montreal Canadiens' Jake Allen.
As good as Stuart Skinner has been in 2023-24 after a horrific start, Larkin made reference to his implosion during last season's playoffs. Certainly you can't deny this, with him playing so poorly to the point that he was replaced four times in 12 starts.
In addition, Larkin claims Calvin Pickard can't be entirely trusted despite looking good in relief for Skinner, in part due to having zero playoff experience. The suggestion is that Allen would be a more reliable and experienced backup once the playoffs begin.
Now this isn't the first time Allen has been associated with the Oilers this season, with Oil on Whyte linking the two parties as far back as November. Then towards the end of December, a report on the NHL Network indicated the Oilers had been in contact with the Canadiens regarding the goalie.
However, while we understand why the Oilers would be linked to Allen, we don't believe they need to be going down this road anymore. He just isn't the same goalie he used to be anymore.
The argument against adding Allen
For a start, no matter how tremendous the 33-year-old's playoff history is, he hasn't been there since the 2019-20 season. Experience only matters so much, if your skill level is no longer what it used to be.
In this respect, consider that last season saw Allen set career-worsts with a .891 save percentage and 3.55 Goals Against Average (GAA). Even allowing for playing behind a deficient Canadiens defence, his decline was evident.
There was some hope of a renaissance early on this season, as the 2019 Stanley Cup champion began 3-1-1 through five starts. Along the way, he produced a .927 save percentage and 2.72 GAA.
Since then however Allen's form has dipped, with him going 2-8-2 in his 12 subsequent starts. As a result, his .901 save percentage and 3.43 GAA are projected to be the second-worst of his 11 seasons in the NHL.
Finding the right return package to make it work
Another reason the Oilers should stay away from the 2008 34th overall draft pick, is actually acknowledged by Larkin, despite describing them as an obvious fit. And it relates to the financial implications of such a union.
Allen is in the first season of a two-year deal, which has an annual cap hit of $3.85 million. From the Oilers' perspective, Cap Friendly has them with a projected deadline cap space of $2,373,102 at the time of posting.
The Oilers can certainly find a way to make a fit work, pending who they would be prepared to offer as part of any potential return package. Of course the ideal scenario would be sending Jack Campbell to Montreal, but it's tough to envision the Canadiens taking him on, given the combination of his erratic form and annual cap hit of $5 million which still has three seasons remaining after this one.
In theory the Oilers can sweeten the offer of Campbell, by including a first round draft pick and/or someone such as Philip Broberg. However, we really don't think it's worth it, to justify acquiring Allen.
The Oilers are just fine
The final reason we believe the Oilers should stay away from Allen, does come down to the current form of their goalies and the defensive effort in general. After at one point having the NHL's worst team save percentage and allowing the second-most goals, the team is now 13th and tied-second respectively entering Tuesday's action.
We do appreciate Larkin's perspective of Skinner's playoff woes last season and Pickard's lack of experience on the big stage. At the same time however, you can make a case for the duo deserving the opportunity to prove themselves when it matters most.
Skinner in particular has been sensational for the Oilers, setting a new team record with wins in 12 consecutive starts. He is now within two victories of the NHL's all-time mark and was deservedly named Second Star of the Month for January.
As for Pickard, he's been excellent since being called up from Bakersfield. He's gone 5-2-0 in seven starts, producing a .915 save percentage and projected career-low 2.34 GAA in eight overall appearances.
The Oilers are just playing better defensively now overall. There is no doubt they have been galvanised since Kris Knoblauch took over, with his calm and cerebral leadership resulting in a ridiculous 26-6-0 record.
Statistically speaking, this is highlighted by allowing the third-fewest shots on goal per game, as well as having the NHL's sixth-best penalty kill unit. Overall, if the Oilers do really still want to add another goalie, Allen is not the answer.