Amid the COVID-19 concern, there was Edmonton Oilers news in this week’s edition of ‘31 Thoughts‘ from Elliotte Friedman. The insider addressed the latest regarding pending UFA Mike Smith, along with forward Anton Slepyshev. Slepyshev’s two-year KHL contract expires after the season, and GM Ken Holland has seen him play in Russia this season.
Smith, who will start tonight against Winnipeg, is 19-11-6 this season with a .903 save percentage and a 2.94 GAA. Smith signed a one-year deal with the club on July 1st, earning a base salary of $2,000,000. Smith could earn an extra $1,750,000 in performance bonuses. He’ll hit at least a few of those as the Oilers appear bound for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As recently as last week, the conversation was that Smith and the Oilers were working on a new contract that would keep the netminder in Northern Alberta beyond this season. Smith, after starting hot in October, was terrible in November and December. In 2020? He’s been terrific for the most part.
Friedman had this to say regarding Smith and the Oilers on Wednesday.
I don’t think that’s the case for Edmonton’s Mike Smith, at least not yet. There were some rumblings the Oilers and their competitive goaltender were working on a one-year deal, but that appears to be bad info at this time.
Smith has been up and down for the Oilers this season. His good, which we saw from January until, well, now, has given the Oilers a chance to win and has provided them with a little swagger. His bad, which we saw in December, was crippling to the club’s chances each night.
Smith has proven to be a better goaltender this season than I expected for the Oilers. At his age, however, an extension comes with ample risk.
Should the Oilers not re-sign Smith, they’ll need to find someone to pair with Mikko Koskinen next season. Of course, the big Finn is a potential buyout candidate himself.
Braden Holtby and Corey Crawford are the big names in free agency, but Robin Lehner, Jimmy Howard, Jacob Markstrom, Thomas Greiss, Jaroslav Halak and Anton Khudobin will all be on the open market on July 1st.
Although Smith has provided more use than anticipated, the Oilers would be unwise to marry themselves to the veteran right now. This is going to be a strong summer to goalie shopping.
Slepyshev Not a Lock?
As recently as a few weeks ago, Anton Slepyshev seemed certain to rejoin the Oilers for the 2020-21 season. Now? Maybe not so fast.
Here’s what Friedman had to say on the matter.
Anton Slepyshev, who played 102 games for the Oilers before returning to Russia in 2018, is considering an NHL return. Edmonton has interest, but his price point may be more than what the team is willing to do. I think there’d be interest from other clubs if that happens.
Slepyshev, as I wrote last month, provides value in a depth role. That said, the Oilers are not going to be able to pay a premium to bring him back. If that is going to be the case, the Oilers could flip him for a mid-round pick before July 1st. The Oilers do retain his rights, after all.
With Josh Archibald re-signed to a new two-year deal and Joakim Nygard to a one-year deal, there might not be room for Slepyshev anyway. After all, the Oilers are eventually going to have Tyler Benson up full-time and will need to see what they have in Cooper Marody.