The Edmonton Oilers’ goaltending problems won’t be solved with a rental, and recent years have shown that the team, and goaltending especially, need to get younger. Ideally, they would be able to draft and develop talent that would take over and become viable starters for them. With the talent they have on the rest of the team, they only need better than average to succeed, but have failed to even get that.
The Oilers do have a few young goaltenders in their system, but it remains to be seen whether any of them can live up to a starting role in the NHL. Stuart Skinner is the furthest along, but despite providing the best stats among the Oilers’ goaltenders, he’s still young, unproven, and needs time to break into the NHL instead of being tossed into the fire.
There are a number of young goaltenders stuck behind a more experienced or better netminder on other teams that will be looking to break out on their own and into the spotlight of a starter. Some of the teams won’t be able to keep them around, even though some may want to. This is the next wave of young and talented goaltenders that will be impactful on teams in the very near future, so the Oilers should take advantage of the possible availability and address their needs for the present and future.
The first of the five possible up-and-coming goaltenders the Oilers should have their sights set on is Ville Husso from the St. Louis Blues. The Blues are in an interesting spot as they have Jordan Binnington signed for $6 million AAV (average annual value) for five more seasons after this one. He has regressed each season since he entered the league in 2018-19 to take the Blues to the Stanley Cup. They are a very competitive team, but he’s started just 52 percent of the games.
That’s where Husso comes in. He’s started five of the past six games and has won four of them. He sports a 9-3-1 record with a 1.90 goals-against average (GAA), .941 save percentage (SV%), and two shutouts. Husso is on the last year of his deal that pays him $750k, very team-friendly for the numbers he’s put up this season. The thing is, the Blues don’t have much money to extend Husso after this season and have a starting goaltender locked up for five more years. Either they hang on to him in the hopes he is a big factor in pushing the team to competing for a Cup and lose him in free agency, or they trade him before the deadline and hope that Binnington can step his game up and take them all the way again.
Husso made a big jump from last season to this season, so it would be a gamble to bet he’s now capable of being a starting goaltender. But it’s better to bank on young players than it is to overpay veterans. Acquiring Husso mid-season could help the Oilers at least get into the playoffs and get a look at how he does in Edmonton. But if nothing can get done, he will be asking for a pay raise on his new contract and the Oilers should be the top team in on him in free agency.
The Oilers should continue to circle back on Jeremy Swayman, as he was the odd man out when Tuukka Rask signed a one-year deal with the Boston Bruins. The key here is that the Rask signing was only for one year, so the future still remains open for interpretation. Rask hasn’t looked the sharpest since his return, but that’s expected from someone who’s got little training in while recovering from surgery. It’s tough to be thrown right into game action, especially as a goaltender. There is a lot of confidence that their franchise goalie for the past 12-plus seasons will return to form soon.
On top of that, the Bruins have Linus Ullmark, who they signed to a four-year deal in free agency this past summer and has a 16-team no-trade list. He is a solid number one, and with the progression on Swayman, each of them will want the starting role. The question is if the Bruins will be able to afford both or are they willing to part with Swayman to bolster their forwards and defence who has been a larger problem this season?