Holland Trips At Finish Line, Signs Mike Smith
Prior to a certain event which we will sadly get into in a moment, the Edmonton Oilers were having a fantastic off-season, and arguably the most exciting one since drafting Connor McDavid.
Sign an offensive minded right shot third line centre. Check and welcome Kyle Turris.
Sign a top 9 winger who can play almost anywhere in the lineup. Check, hello Tyler Ennis.
Brought Jesse Puljujarvi back into the fold, instead of trading him at his lowest value who had a strong campaign last season and currently has 5 goals and 7 points in 4 games playing for Karpat this year - Check.
Signed one of the better point producers in the league on the backend, both at evens and on the powerplay in Tyson Barrie - Check.
Signed and brought in all of these players for a total of less than 8 million dollars for the 20/21 season - Check Check Check and Check.
Certainly there were areas that still needed to be addressed, but after tiptoeing around the roster last season, bringing in cheap Europeans like Haas and Nygard, and depth players like Archibald and Sheahan, fans have been pleasantly surprised by the work done by Holland thus far.
That is, until the news broke that the team had signed Mike Smith to another one year deal.
After spending much of the time prior to free agency, discussing how critical it was for the Oilers to fix their goaltending, the 20/21 Edmonton Oilers will run the same tandem in net.
So, how bad is Mike Smith?
Over the past two seasons, 50 goalies have played at least 2000 minutes at 5 on 5. Mike Smith sits 48th with a SV% of 0.903 having played 3665 minutes. Smith will also be turning 39 years old in March this year and I don't know of too many goalies in NHL history who have had a big turn around at that age.
The other concern for the Edmonton Oilers is as of right now, there is a fair argument to be made that their defense hasn't improved in terms of preventing goals.
Tyson Barrie is a great add and will alleviate many of the holes that exist in Klefbom's absence but not in terms of limiting chances against. Barrie is also a right shot, not a left shot. As of right now, the defensive group looks like this:
I have great confidence in Jones but it may be asking too much of him too early to fully take on a top 4 role for the season. A Russell and Larsson pair may be able to take on more minutes than your typical third pairing, but still this group won't suddenly put up a wall in front of Smith.
IF (and it's a big if) Dave Tippett utilizes Mike Smith as a backup instead of a 1A netminder, and allows Koskinen to play 75% of the games than this could end up being less of an issue. However we have seen Tippett favour his old friend, most notably in Game 1 of the playoffs when Smith was given the start, despite being outplayed by Koskinen. Another 50-50 split of these two could be disasterous.
The most frustrating part of this is the timing. I cannot imagine there was a bidding war for Mike Smith's services. Holland could have bidded his time and circled back to teams like the Coyotes with Kuemper or Raanta or the Blue Jackets with Korpisalo or Merzlikins; teams that may want to trade one of these goalies before Expansion. Other names such as Georgiev in New York or Francouz with the Avalanche also come to mind.
Coming back to Mike Smith on a one year one million dollar deal in December after pursuing all other options still wouldn't be ideal, but it would at least be understandable. Signing Smith to a 2 million dollar deal on Day 2 of Free Agency is a rash decision.
Right now the Edmonton Oilers are right up against the cap, meaning any further moves will have to happen by trade or moving out players like Chiasson, Neal, and Russell to make space. For now we wait.