The Oilers are rumored to be heavily interested in KHL goalie Mikko Koskinen, in fact it is even being reported that the club is going to sign him to a two-year contract. Nothing is official yet, and the Oilers should be considering all options for the vacant backup goaltending position.
Another KHL goalie, 27-year old Pavel Francouz, may represent the best option from Europe’s best league. The veteran of three KHL seasons and the starting goaltender for the Czech Republic at the 2018 Olympic Games is seeking an NHL contract this summer and is coming off of a great season in Russia.
He’s achieved success in Europe, made a name for himself at the Olympics, and now will try his luck across the pond in North America next season if he has his way.
Why Is He Out There?:
A little known goalie out of the Czech Republic who was never drafted, Francouz has been an afterthought his entire professional career to NHL teams. Not anymore. Francouz has posted sensational numbers in three straight KHL seasons as an unquestioned starting goalie, and played well on the big stage in the Olympics for a weaker Czech group this past February.
His shootout victory over Team USA, which knocked the American side out, grabbed everyone’s attention and got people to take a deeper look at him. Once they did that, they saw what he can do, and it’s impressive. He’s earned a chance to come to the NHL, and he is seeking that out this summer according to reports.
What Does He Do Well?:
This man can stop pucks, plain and simple. Francouz led the KHL with a .946 SV% this past season in 37 games, edging out Alexei Krasikov of Sibir. He posted a 17-11-5 record with Chelyabinsk Traktor in the regular season, and followed that up by leading his club to the KHL’s Eastern Conference Final.
Francouz is no stranger to strong save percentage totals in the KHL. In fact all three of his seasons, all spent with Traktor, have seen him finish over .920. His worst season came back in 2015-16, when he posted a .924 mark in 18 games for the club.
His best season? 2016-17, where he played in 30 games and went 14-9-3 with a .953 SV% and a 1.43 GAA. Bottom line is, Francouz has been an elite goaltender at the KHL-level the last two seasons and has never had a bad season in the league.
This successful run came after a solid three year stretch in the Czech League, where his save percentage never dipped below the .920 mark in three full seasons with Litvinov HC. He’s handled big workloads in Europe since 2012-13 and he’s performed well at every stop.
Where Will He Play/Where Should He Play?:
I’m bullish on Francouz, and think he has the ability to be a starting goaltender in the NHL. That said, he’s not going to come right over and take that job, and should start his career as the backup in North America.
In Edmonton, that’s exactly the role he would play, getting between 20-25 games and pushing Cam Talbot in a contract year. Edmonton is one of a few places that appears to be an ideal landing spot for Francouz, with long-term questions in net.
What Will He Cost?:
If Koskinen is going to cost Edmonton $2.5 million per season, as is rumored, then Francouz could get more. He’s been a better goalie in each of the last three seasons and is younger than Koskinen. Would a two-year deal at $3 million per get it done? That’s quite a steep price for an unproven (in the NHL) goaltender who likely isn’t the starter his first season.
I’d be comfortable signing Francouz if the price was between $1.5-$2 million a season.
To me, Pavel Francouz is the best goalie in the KHL and he is well worth the risk of a contract. If the Oilers really are going to search in Europe for their next backup goaltender, which appears to be the case, then Francouz should be near the top of the list.
Who knows, maybe he was but wasn’t interested in Edmonton, hence the Koskinen rumors. Regardless, the Oilers should at least investigate, if they haven’t already, this possibility.