Mike Smith was supposed to make his first start of the 2020-21 season for the Oilers on Thursday night. He didn’t even dress. Instead, Mikko Koskinen collected his first win and Stuart Skinner served as the backup for the first time against the Vancouver Canucks. Smith was absent again for Friday’s skate. He’ll be absent much longer than that.
According to TSN 1260’s Jason Gregor, Smith is expected to miss “weeks” with an undisclosed injury. The club officially placed him on LTIR on Friday night. As a result, rookie goaltender Olivier Rodrigue has been recalled on an emergency basis from the Austrian League, and will join the Oilers Taxi Squad once he clears quarantine protocols.
The news could not come at a worse time for the Oilers.
The team lost goalie Anton Forsberg on waivers to the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week. Forsberg was again waived on Thursday, but was claimed by the Winnipeg Jets before Edmonton could get him.
Now, the Oilers will have to use Skinner as their backup. He had an .892 save percentage and a 16-17-6 record with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors last season. Skinner was slated to be the starter for the Condors again this season. Their season begins on February 5th, with camp coming in roughly ten days. Ideally, the Oilers will want Skinner there.
The Oilers could claim goaltender Troy Grosenick off of waivers tomorrow. Grosenick was waived by the Kings on Friday and is a strong goalie at the AHL level. In 33 games with the Milwaukee Admirals last season, Grosenick went 20-9-3 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.29 GAA. He posted a .919 save percentage in 2018-19, also with Milwaukee.
While not a great NHL option, Grosenick could provide the Oilers with depth for the time being, and would be a logical replacement for Forsberg on the taxi squad when Smith returns. He’s certainly an upgrade on what Skinner currently is.
Trade wise, there are a lot of teams that could offer the Oilers something of value. The Arizona Coyotes have Darcy Kuemper, Antti Raanta and Aidan Hill on their roster, while Raanta is a pending free agent that many expect will be moved by the deadline. He’d not only be an upgrade on Skinner, but would be an upgrade on Smith and would challenge Koskinen nicely.
In Detroit, the Red Wings have Thomas Greiss and Jonathan Bernier on the active roster. Both are veterans on a rebuilding team, and could be had. The Red Wings also carry a strong option on their taxi squad in Calvin Pickard. Kevin Boyle, a serviceable third goalie, is also on Detroit’s taxi squad.
Holland has made two trades, acquiring Mike Green and then Andreas Athanasiou, with his former team since coming to Edmonton.
Lastly, the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs could be of interest. The Capitals have Craig Anderson and Pheonix Copley on the taxi squad, and both are quality backup options. The Leafs, meanwhile, are carrying Aaron Dell as a third goalie on their active roster.
Sources do confirm that Holland is working on the goaltending situation currently, and that he has been looking at the trade market for an option. The hope is to make a deal sooner rather than later, so that said goaltender can get through quarantine procedures and take the ice.