The Edmonton Oilers signed rookie goaltender, Stuart Skinner, to a three-year extension with a cap hit of $2.6M per season. Kicking in next season, the deal will take Skinner to unrestricted free agency in the offseason of 2026. Having the freedom to choose his next destination will give Skinner a much stronger negotiating position than he had during this recent extension.
Skinner’s star has continued to rise over the past few seasons, going from strong AHL starter, to emergency call up duties over the past years, to his emergence as a strong option as a starter through the first half of this season. By his play this season, this contract extension looks to be quite a steal for the Oilers, a welcome negotiating win for the cap-strapped team.
Over the past three or four seasons, Skinner has done nothing but exceed the expectations placed upon him, including this season. How high his game can go is something that only time can reveal – a Calder trophy win? An All Star appearance? An invite to a best-on-best team Canada roster? Surely, imaginations across Oil Country are running rampant with positive thinking regarding the Edmonton-born netminder.
The deal should afford Skinner some leeway, at least from fans. As things are going well for Skinner so far, there are very little negative sentiments around him, but it is important to have patience. Development is usually not a straight line, except for perhaps Connor McDavid who can continuously defy expectations, but especially for goalies, a most curious and mercurial position by nature. Players will not have career seasons every year. There might be some growing pains for Skinner in the future, but this extension keeps his cap hit low enough that the scrutiny on him will be muted.
Taking a look at Skinner’s tandem
More important than a players given cap hit is how that fits in with the rest of the team. Although there are no rules or guidelines around cap hit allotted per position, it is impossible not to look at this deal in tandem with that of fellow netminder Jack Campbell.
An early season cold streak has many across Oil Country writing off the Campbell contract as egregious already. While there are few who would say the Campbell contract looks better now than it did this summer, it is aggressive to claim so plainly that Campbell can’t be part of the solution. Contracts can seem bad, but how can we really measure RFAs and UFAs against each other when the manner that they are allowed to negotiate their deals is so vastly different?
On top of player performance being a nebulous and contentious issue, near impossible to quantify, factors such as geography and personal relationships can be huge influences on who makes what and where they make it. It is an entirely reductive argument to say that player X is overpaid because player Y is better and makes less.
Take for example Tyson Barrie. For more than a few years now his reputation has been one of porous defence as he went from Colorado, to Toronto, and now in Edmonton. Many would see his cap hit and simply say that he is overpaid, that even years ago he was bound to be a burden on the Oilers for the remainder of his deal. Yet, here we are, with Barrie playing a crucial role on a team coming off a Conference Finals appearance playing what might be his best hockey in years.
This is all a long winded way of saying that now, with Skinner locked in for four years (this season plus the three over his extension), and Campbell locked in for five years, the Oilers will have an affordable and capable situation at the sports most important position when the time comes to re-sign both McDavid and Draisaitl, a crucial piece of convincing them to stay.
Campbell and Skinner echo the past
In a way it is funny to observe the parallels between this Campbell-Skinner tandem and it’s predecessor, Mike Smith-Mikko Koskinen. Maligned, if not outright disrespected, the Smith-Koskinen tandem was an easy target for armchair analysts each summer, an alleged weak point or fatal flaw that would ultimately sink the team. Yet in each of the three seasons that the Oilers rolled out the duo, they provided above average save percentage as a unit, behind a decidedly mediocre defensive group, and were quite frankly never the reason the Oilers fell short of their goals in the end.
Was Koskinen overpaid and Smith underpaid? Can the same be said for Campbell and Skinner? A rising cap might see this new tandem perform even more efficiently on a cap percentage basis.
In all, the Oilers should be quite content to have the duo in tow, perhaps some anxieties around the Campbell contract might be eased as well. In general, the path towards balancing the cap might lie in the simple truths regarding the lack of leverage that younger players have, as in other costly contracts, such as Darnell Nurse, might be similarly buoyed by discounted deals on young players such as Evan Bouchard or Philip Broberg, even if it means walking them to the strongest bargaining position for the subsequent contract. Doing so involves giving term to players that are not quite proven yet, such as Skinner, but in the goalie’s case it seems a fairly worthwhile gamble.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire