The Edmonton Oilers inked veteran goaltender Mike Smith to a two-year contract last Saturday afternoon. That locked in one half of the goaltending tandem that GM Ken Holland hopes to employ next season.
What the other half of that tandem looks like, however, remains to be seen. Holland has goalie Mikko Koskinen under contract for one more season with a cap hit of $4,500,000, but is looking to move him via trade. If he can’t, Holland would then buy Koskinen out during a second buyout window later this summer that can be opened if RFA F Cooper Marody goes to arbitration.
While many have focused on the free agent route, the Oilers could acquire their other goaltender via trade. On Sunday, the Oilers were first connected to Arizona Coyotes G Darcy Kuemper by David Pagnotta of ‘The Fourth Period‘.
TSN NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun had the latest report on Tuesday night regarding Kuemper. He talked about the situation on ‘Insider Trading‘.
“Darcy Kuemper trade talks have intensified,” LeBrun said on Tuesday night. “Ideally if you are Arizona, you want to move a guy who is signed for an asset before free agency opens because some of the opportunity will go out the window. Colorado, Edmonton, Toronto, Carolina and Philadelphia are among the teams that have been in touch with Arizona.”
Kuemper is coming off of a down season by his standards. He went 10-11-3 for a struggling Coyotes team, posting a .907 save percentage and a 2.56 GAA in 27 games. In 2019-20, Kuemper was outstanding with a 16-11-2 record, a .928 save percentage and a 2.22 GAA in 29 games. He also led the Coyotes to a surprising series victory over the Nashville Predators in the ‘Play-in’ round in the Edmonton bubble last August.
There is some risk in a trade for Kuemper. As I wrote on Sunday, he’s dealt with injuries in each of the last two seasons. There is also the contract, which is set to expire following the 2021-22 season. Kuemper carries an affordable $4,500,000 cap hit for 2021-22, but could walk next July. The Oilers haven’t been willing to move serious assets for a rental to this point in the Holland era.
Kuemper, however, presents a terrific option for the club. When on, he’s a surefire starting netminder and gives his team a chance to win every night. He’d be a clear upgrade on both Smith and Koskinen, and would give the Oilers their first true, undisputed number one goaltender since Cam Talbot in 2016-17.
As for the other teams involved, the Colorado Avalanche could be out of the running if they secure a new contract for Philipp Grubauer ahead of free agency opening tomorrow. The Carolina Hurricanes, meanwhile, are expected to also make a push for Frederik Andersen on the free agent market.