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What Do Oilers Do About Smith/Koskinen Goaltending Dilemma?

The Oilers are facing a good problem in that they have two viable goaltenders. The problem might be that they’ve moved away from rotating them which means questions about long-term stability.

Sometimes, having two viable options is a good problem to have. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a potential problem. For example, the goaltending situation in Edmonton is something the Oilers will need to address. And, when they choose to address it will be an intriguing story worth keeping an eye on.

As it stands right now, head coach Dave Tippett has gone with the hot hand. Mike Smith has gotten a number of starts, the latest of which was against Arizona where Smith stopped 25 of 28 shots for his fifth-straight victory. Tippett’s decision to run with Smith is a vast variation from the first half of the season where he’d rotate between Mikko Koskinen and Smith regardless of their success or failures in net.

This is not to say Smith hasn’t deserved to be in goal for the Oilers, as he certainly has. But, what happens with Koskinen who wasn’t playing terribly before Smith was given an opportunity he’s taken advantage of? Ironically, that opportunity came after Smith had performed poorly in a number of games.

2020 isn’t that far along but Koskinen hasn’t seen much of the crease in this calendar year. And, now that the Oilers are on a bye week and headed into the All-Star break, there are short-term questions about who gets the next to kick things back into gear for Edmonton, where staying hot after a 6-1-1 run is key to their potential birth in the postseason. Does Koskinen get a look after a lengthy rest? Or, do the Oilers continue to give Smith the starts since the veteran will be well-rested?

Related: Will Canadiens Trade or Re-Sign Ilya Kovalchuk?

An Unhappy or Uncertain Koskinen?

All the while, as Edmonton tries to manage starts in net, in the back of their minds, they should be aware longer-term decisions have to come as Smith is a free agent and Koskinen the previously designated starter.

If Smith runs most of the games to the end of the campaign, Edmonton might re-sign him on a less-expensive deal, but he’s on the last legs of his career which means possibly asking what has to be a long-term backup to play more than the netminder you showed confidence in with a longer-term contract. Should Koskinen not play much, they won’t really know what they have and whether or not another backup is needed (remember, Koskinen has only played in 86 total games over his NHL career).

Do contract extension talks come into play when it comes to determining what Edmonton does with Koskinen? If he doesn’t play, will he want another opportunity elsewhere? If Smith does, will the cost of his next deal rise? How much does Edmonton designate to the goaltending tandem?

The Oilers would be wise to remember that while Smith is on a hot streak, he’s got a tendency to be hot, then cold. This run and his consistency in net might falter. If it does, how cold will a sitting and still relatively inexperienced Koskinen be?

Smith has been great. Koskinen has been pretty good too. Like was pointed out to start this article, it’s a good problem to have. The Oilers still need to be thinking about it.

Related: What Will David Backes Do After Being Waived By Bruins?



  1. Mark

    January 20, 2020 at 2:35 pm

    Um Jim, Koskinen signed a 4 yr deal, last year.
    3 more years at 4.5 million.

    • NHL Trade Talk

      January 20, 2020 at 3:15 pm

      Thank you Mark, Huge brain fart on my part. Updated.

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