Drama has been overly abundant through the early portion of the Oilers 2023–24 regular season. Nearly all of the Oilers aspects were called into question, even Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Despite the stormy skies of a horrid start, a coaching change, and widespread speculations of further change left unmade, the team has started to battle back.
While there were many positive signs in the early going, suggesting that the Oilers would even out regardless, there is a spark of confidence waiting to catch flame. While the panic that set upon the various aspects might be warranted in some areas more than others, our eyes cannot unsee the uncertainty that befell other aspects.
Perhaps, most of all, this uncertainty has pronounced itself in the Oilers crease. While Stuart Skinner has managed to gain the Oilers some crucial standings points, with Jack Campbell struggling in the AHL and the Oilers facing a deep deficit, there is a lot of smoke surrounding the Oilers future in net.
With that in mind we polled our fans on some veteran goalies in the Western Conference who might be available, and which one might fit the Oilers best.
Want to take part in Sunday Census polls? We send them out every week on our Twitter at @oilrigEDM. Follow along or send in ideas for the next poll!
Gibson would be a good fit
Finishing in first by a wide margin, John Gibson is clearly coveted across Oil Country. Although Gibson has come under some criticism in recent years, particularly from certain goalie gurus, the general public has not forgotten the pedigree of his early 20s. Once on track to be a perennial Vezina candidate, Gibson has withered in recent years due to a combination of an injuries, a heavy workload, and playing behind an Anaheim Ducks team stumbling through a rebuild.
That being said the tide has turned for the Anaheim Ducks under new GM Pat Verbeek and new Coach Greg Cronin. The team’s identity is quickly taking shape as a competitive spirit emerges from the Ducks new core. Among the bright storylines is young goalie Lukas Dostal, who is coming into his own.
The Ducks themselves seem to be turning the corner, out of a true rebuild and into a phase of pushing for a playoff spot. At face value, the Ducks might choose to keep Gibson to aid in both these quests, insulating the team and the goaltending position as a whole, yet trade rumours have surrounded this situation for years now. Are the Ducks still looking to move Gibson? Is Gibson still looking to move on?
With the new regime having success it might all be water under the bridge. This isn’t great news for the Oilers faithful hoping for a Gibson trade, and the Ducks might be on the fast track to cementing themselves as a legitimate Pacific Division rival once more.
Fans don’t want Binnington
In last place is Jordan Binnington. The St. Louis Blues seem to have rebounded from a disappointing 2022–23 season, at least to an extent. Much like the team itself, Binnington has rebounded as well, though perhaps neither one has come close to their heights achieved in their Stanley Cup winning 2018–19 season. From this perspective it is no guarantee that the Blues are willing to move off their top goalie.
While most would quantify Binnington as an upgrade on Campbell at this point, their cap hits are quite similar. This is to say, the contract isn’t necessarily desirable, and the term involved might be too significant a move to make with a lame duck GM in Holland at the helm, and a new president in Jeff Jackson looking to stabilise the vortex of negativity that has consumed his first season at the helm.
On top of it all, there have been some well documented off ice issues regarding Binnington, in personality, actions, and opinions. While some on ice issues, such as trying to fight opponents, are charming, Binnington has more than earned his fair share of haters across the hockey world.
Though his name has been linked to the Oilers in many reports, when we add it all up Binnington is clearly not that popular among our voters.
There is potential with Markstrom
While trades between bitter rivals are more rare, the Oilers have made deals with the Calgary Flames in the past. Jacob Markstrom is still an elite goalie, and would be a meaningful upgrade for the Oilers. As a bonus, Markstrom’s contract aligns with Skinner’s, keeping the duo affordable, in a vacuum, with something of a succession plan.
As for the Flames, with new GM Craig Conroy at the helm the team is at a crossroads. An expensive, veteran-laden team that is underperforming, the Flames are a proud group that still believe they can push for a playoff spot. On the bright side, the Flames have kept their prospect pool in decent shape, and have a wave of youth that is ready to make an impact.
No matter the course of action the Flames take, Markstrom will be a vital part of it. While truly going for a rebuild would net a package of useful futures in return for Markstrom, any hopes of contending this season, or even over the next two or three seasons, might well hinge on Markstrom remaining in the fold. Though Dustin Wolf is on the horizon for the Flames, the prospect’s timeline aligns well with Markstrom’s. In the end the Flames might elect to move on from Dan Vladar, though the return there would be minimal.
Still, Oilers fans clearly acknowledge Markstrom’s ability, tying for second in this poll.
Fleury could be an excellent addition
Personality wise, there might be no greater foil to Binnington than Marc-Andre Fleury. While Fleury’s performance is no longer at its peak, all the other aspects of his game align more closely to the Oilers current needs. Fleury has pedigree, experience, Stanley Cups, and a history of being a great teammate, even amidst contentious tandem situations.
To top it off, Fleury is in the last year of his current contract, retaining future flexibility for his team. Throw in the fact that the Minnesota Wild have Jesper Wallstedt performing well in the AHL, and are currently outside of a playoff spot, and it isn’t too difficult to imagine the team moving on from Fleury, who is essentially their backup goalie, for the right price.
On the other hand, Fleury has a no-trade clause, and will likely hold the power in deciding when, where, and if he is traded. This means the Oilers might be best served negotiating such a move through Fleury’s agent if the opportunity presents itself.
If the Oilers are able to pull themselves back onto a stronger path and the Wild continue to underperform, it might be in the best interest of all involved to make a change.
While there are goalies who are currently playing better than Fleury, he will always possess a flair for the dramatic and a competitive spirit that make him a threat to make saves that he shouldn’t. This style of play might pair well with an Oilers team that will provide Fleury with a lot of goal support and their opponents with a lot of golden opportunities, especially off of the rush.
Juuse Saros has been a popular name in the rumour mill, and might be the best choice of all listed. In the second last year of his deal, and with an ascending Yaroslavl Askarov dominating the AHL, there are circumstances that make his potential availability an easy target.
What’s more is that the Nashville Predators are in a new era, with Barry Trotz now serving as the franchise’s second ever general manager. The uncertainty surrounding a middling team is amplified by the fact that Trotz might choose a different path than former GM David Poile did. This line of thinking might undervalue the Preds resilience.
This is a team that has routinely made their way into the playoffs with strong performances in the second half of seasons. The Preds also have a lot of assets tied up in the here and now, including several players, like Saros and Filip Forsberg, in the height of their primes, as well as older veterans, such as captain Roman Josi and the newly signed Ryan O’Reilly.
On one hand Saros is a uniquely talented goalie, able to overcome his lack of height thanks to terrific skating ability, and a perennial contender for the Vezina Trophy. On the other hand, Saros will command the greatest price of all the goalies we will be discussing today, and has not been off to the greatest start to the season. While the expectation is that Saros will turn things around, his doing so is far from a given. The inherent volatility of goaltending might dictate that a swing-for-the-fence style move is doomed to fall short.
In truth, the main reason not to list Saros as an option might be because he is a cut above the rest on this list. Too obvious an answer might muddy the waters of the true exercise here; accepting that the Oilers might not be able to acquire a true perennial Vezina candidate, and instead weighing the shades of grey along the way.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire