New Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland isn’t quite undoing the Mikko Koskinen contract, which was the final move of the Peter Chiarelli regime. But, by inking goaltender Mike Smith for one year at $2 million, Holland is insuring that contract for a year.
Koskinen was outstanding in his five-year KHL tenure before signing with the Oilers last summer, but Chiarelli inked him to a three-year extension after he played 27 games in Edmonton and 31 NHL games in his entire career, marking one of the biggest commitments ever for a player with so little big-league experience. In the 28 games after he signed, he posted a .901 save percentage. Among the 56 goalies who logged 1,000 or more minutes at 5-on-5 this season, he ranked 39th and 42nd in goals saved above average. That rated him as a below-average netminder, though he also ranked 15th in expected goals against and 20th in high-danger shots against per 60, implying he had a fairly tough workload with a defensively leaky Oilers team in front of him.
Regardless, it’s safe to say Koskinen was not a $4.5-million goalie this past season. Insurance is a smart idea and, even at 37, Mike Smith can help. He posted a career-worst .898 SP this past season with the Calgary Flames, ceding the No. 1 goalie job to David Rittich for much of the year, but took the crease back during the playoffs, flashing brilliance at times in a defeat to the Colorado Avalanche. Smith isn’t built to be a workhorse starter anymore, but he’s still a superb puckhandler capable of getting hot for stretches. He’s just good enough to keep Koskinen honest and create healthy competition in Edmonton’s net. Given there’s pretty much no risk on a one-year contract, it’s hardly a bad thing.
In today’s UFA game, term is killer, so it doesn’t hurt to bring in Smith for just one season on a contract loaded with performance bonuses that trigger if he hits various games-played benchmarks. More so than ever, teams treat their goaltending as the sum of multiple parts, with the 60-game workload slowly trending toward extinction. The only question is whether the Oilers could’ve aimed higher with a UFA in the Robin Lehner/Petr Mrazek/Semyon Varlamov tier, but that simply might not have been an option for a team with so little cap space at the moment.
Want more in-depth features, analysis and an All-Access pass to the latest content? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.