Edmonton Oilers

Should the Edmonton Oilers make a change in net?

After a strong regular season, the Oilers ultimately came up short against the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round. 109 points and a trip to the second round before falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champions would normally mark a successful season, but the team with prime Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is left looking for answers.

One of those major points of emphasis if the aftermath of the loss has been the Oilers’ goaltending in the playoffs. The coaching staff decided that they could not trust Jack Campbell after his regular season despite a .961 SV% in 3 relief appearances, while Stuart Skinner struggled with a heavy workload, finishing with a .883 SV% in 12 games. There’s no doubt that Skinner struggled overall, but he had a .925 SV% at 5 on 5 against L.A. while the Kings’ 4th ranked powerplay from the regular season converted at a 33% against the Oilers’ kill. With the dust now settling on the Golden Knights’ run, they wreaked havoc on every goalie they faced. That group wasn’t substandard either, with an elite Connor Hellebuyck, young star Jake Oettinger and a Sergei Bobrovsky that was the Conn Smythe leader entering the final all struggling in their series. It’s clear that the waves that Vegas attacked in off the rush with elite shooters was a major problem for any opponent.

With 2 years left in Draisaitl’s contract and 3 years in McDavid’s, the Oilers should be pushing all their chips in to capitalize on this window. Goaltending can have the most impact on a given game, as we saw with Bobrovsky’s run to the final. However, the Oilers have Skinner locked in for 3 more years at 2.6 million per season, while Jack Campbell’s 5M AAV contract runs for another 4 years. GM Ken Holland said “[the team] is set in goal” during a recent interview with The Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman. But should they be? Here are the options:

Tier 1: Acquire an Elite Goalie (Hellebuyck or Saros)

The 2023 NHL offseason is going to be unlike few others when it comes to the goaltending position. Based on the current state of their teams, there will be not 1 but 2 truly elite goalies available on the trade market in Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck and Nashville’s Jusse Saros. Regardless what your opinion of Skinner and Campbell are, the two are massive upgrades on what Edmonton already has.

If the Oilers were to pursue this course of action, I’d prefer Saros. The Finnish netminder has 2 years left at 5 million per season, which will expire when he turns 29. This will also match the expiration of the Draisaitl contract, allowing the Oilers to optimize their roster for that window and deal with a potential extension once the cap goes up. Saros would have an immediate impact, having finished the 2022-23 season with 45.49 goals saved above expected according to Evolving Hockey compared to Skinner’s +18.4 and Campbell’s -18.87.

Hellebuyck would still be a massive upgrade. The 30-year-old American has 1 year left at 6.167 M and posted 33.62 GSAx in the 2022-23 season. With workload considered, Hellebuyck might have the most cumulative impact out of any player not named Connor McDavid, as he’s been an absolute work horse for the Jets. One thing to note with Hellebuyck is that his relative weakness is on lateral plays, which is something the Oilers’ man-on-man defence scheme can leak when it breaks down. However, put Hellebuyck in chances that are coming in straight lines and there might not be anybody better.

To make either of these options work, the Oilers would have to dump Campbell’s contract, and possibly might have to part ways with Skinner as well. The price tag is likely high, but would probably be worth it. Netminders in this echeleon simply aren’t available on regular basis, typically only able to be aquired through the draft (which is why I wanted the Oilers to draft Jesper Wallstedt). Goalies of this caliber can carry weaker teams, and with the Oilers potent offence, an elite back stop could put Edmonton over the edge.

Tier 2: Acquire a complimentary goalie to Skinner

Skinner was very good during the regular season, but fell off during the playoffs due to the workload without having a reliable option behind him. One solution would be to acquire a new complimentary option to Edmonton’s Calder candidate. Any option in this scenario would require moving the remainder of Campbell’s contract

Carter Hart’s name has been in rumours. The Edmonton area product has trained with Oilers’ goalie coach Dustin Schwartz since minor hockey so there would be some familiarity there. Hart has one year left at just under 4 million, after which he will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Hart posted his best NHL season in 2022-23, finishing with 12.93 GSAx. The Flyers have not had a strong defence over recent years, so he would likely show better behind a better squad. Hart is likely marginally better than Skinner in the same environment.

What the Oilers could do in the case of Hart is make the trade, run a Hart-Skinner tandem for the 2023-24 season, then decide which of the young goalies they want to keep long term and deal the other for assets to recoup some of Hart’s acquisition cost. Not only would this provide Edmonton with quality goaltending, but it would provide cap flexibility by moving the 20 million left of Campbell’s current deal.

Free agents like Adin Hill, Anti Raanta and Fredrik Andersen could also fall into this tier, but would require more roster gymnastics to make it work as they’d have a higher immediate cap hit and wouldn’t have the same flexibility due to contract term.

Tier 3: Add a 3rd Option to push up

Right now, the Bakesfield Condors appear to be running back the same group of goalies as last year, with Calvin Pickard and Ryan Fanti continuing to be under contract while Holland has said the team will qualify restricted free agent Olivier Rodrigue. The issue with this group is that no one appears ready to make a difference at the NHL.

Pickard is a seasoned pro, but has never made an impact at the NHL level and shows no signs of suddenly making a difference. Rodrigue showed progression in his 3rd pro season, but is still likely a couple seasons away from being NHL ready. The Oilers’ new ECHL affiliate, the Fort Wayne Komets, struggled this year, as did Fanti in his first pro season.

The Oilers should look at bringing in a new 3rd goalie on the organizational depth chart to help out the NHl team if needed. Vegas would have never won the cup had it not been for their beavy of options in goal, using 5 goalies during the regular season and starting 2 different goalies en route to their championship. A similar thing happened for the Blues in 2018-19, where Jordan Binnington was thrust into action as the 4th man on the totem pole due to injuries and ended up turning their season around. Other recent examples of AHL call ups making an impact include Pheonix Copley, Arvid Schmid and Pyotr Kotchekov. The Oilers don’t have the caliber of goaltender in their system like the latter 2, but they should be searching for an option like Copley who shows promise but hasn’t broke through yet. There’s also been goalies like Connor Ingram, Scott Wedgewood and Sam Montembault that have been put on waivers then gone on to show they are quality NHL options

Some potential targets could include Zach Fucale, Joey Daccord and Alex Nedeljkovic, who all played the majority of their seasons in the AHL last year but have showed potential in brief stints at the NHL level. Some more up and coming options that could be considered are Erik Kallgren and Zach Sawchenko and might be more willing to accept a lesser role.


The Oilers goaltending did not go as expected during the 2022-23 season. The bet on Jack Campbell did not pan out at all during the first year of his 5 year deal, but Stuart Skinner’s emergence stabilized the crease during the regular season. Come playoff time, the increased workload he had been given in addition to increased quality of competition led to a decrease in results.

The Oilers should be looking to improve the sport’s more important position to avoid the same downfalls that came during this year’s playoffs. They could acquire an elite goaltender like Jusse Saros or Connor Hellebuyck, completely resetting the position. A more reasonable option may to find a complimentary partner to Skinner like Carter Hart, but that would require moving Jack Campbell’s contract. The lowest impact move would be to acquire a 3rd string goalie with the ability to push the current NHL tandem while burying the existing minor league options the club possesses.

It will be tough for Ken Holland to make moves under the flat salary cap to improve his goaltending position and the remainder of his options, but it’s almost a necessity at this point. The current tandem is locked in for 3 more seasons. Stuart Skinner shows promise, but the organization will need a second option to support him as he doesn’t ever project to be an elite option at the NHL option. With 3 years remaining on Connor McDavid’s deal, any improvements to the skating group without stronger contributions from the crease may be futile.

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