Oilers Free Agency Preview: Holland's work starts in net, but doesn't stop there

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell. (Paul Sancya/AP)

EDMONTON  — Goalie, goalie, goalie, goalie. 

There. That’s what it sounds like to be inside of general manager Ken Holland’s head as Wednesday’s free agency season opens. 

Holland has scratched a lot of bothersome itches since arriving in Edmonton three seasons ago, deepening his forward ranks, adding a few defencemen and finally winning two playoff rounds last season. The one position on which he has swung and missed however is in goal. 

Now, he has no choice. 

That inherited yoke that was the Mikko Koskinen contract has finally expired, and Mike Smith is (we understand) willing to ride out the final year of his deal on Long Term Injury. Stuart Skinner, now waiver eligible, is going to the affordable backup with upside. 

But the time has come — after futile attempts to land both Jacob Markstrom and Darcy Kuemper the past two summers — to acquire the goalie who can open the Edmonton Oilers' Stanley Cup window.

We’ll dig in on the goaltending position later, but with more than $20 million in cap space projected when Mike Smith joins Oscar Klefbom on LTI — and sans the traded Zack Kassian and retiring Duncan Keith — Holland has a rare chance to shape his roster for a Cup run. 

He needs some size on defence, preferably on the right side, and UFA lefty Brett Kulak likely won't be back either. Holland needs another Top 6 winger and he has flexibility because of Zach Hyman’s ability to play on either wing. 

Also, Edmonton requires some heft on its fourth line, when one considers that Evander Kane, Kassian and the unlikely-to-sign Josh Archibald were Edmonton’s most physical forwards — and may all not be back. 

It will start with a goalie on Wednesday, and then likely move to a high-profile forward. After that, we see Holland nibbling around the edges for at least two more players. But he’ll be watching his pennies at that point. 

Salary cap space: $9,068,665 (With all projected LTI used Oilers are projected to exceed $20 million in cap space)
Roster size: 14/23
Salary committed to forwards: $37.4 million (45.3 per cent of cap)
Salary committed to defence: $22.9 million (27.7 per cent of cap)
Salary committed to goalies: $2.95 million (3.6 per cent of cap)

Potential UFA targets 

G Jack Campbell 

Do you want Jack Campbell as your starter for the next five years? Not really. 

Is he the best goalie on the market that isn’t named Darcy Kuemper, isn’t 32, and reportedly wants term and $6 million a year? Yes, Campbell is that. 

Barring something unforeseen, the Oilers will sign Campbell to be their No. 1. He has played under the red-hot microscope that is Toronto, he put up excellent numbers behind a relatively loose Leafs team — a 2.64 GAA and .914 save percentage last season, and 2.15 and .921 the season before. 

For Holland it’s not about picking the best goalie in hockey. It’s about getting the best one available this summer, and not striking out again and leaving his team lacking between the pipes.

C/RW Claude Giroux 

Duncan Keith out. Claude Giroux in? 

This one is a bit of a longer shot, but it is a situation where both player and team could use each other. 

At 34, Giroux could be had on a two-year deal, and come to a team where he would fit in nicely as a Top 6 right wing while helping in the faceoff circle. The Oilers loved what Keith brought to the table last season. Giroux, still a 20-25 goal scorer on a bad Flyers team, might be a nice add in Edmonton. 

LW Nicolas Deslauriers 

Many have moved on from the idea of team toughness. Then the playoffs start, and every year we find examples of bigger teams with requisite physicality moving on, while the “pure skill” teams fall by the wayside. 

See the Tampa Bay Lightning third line, or a Colorado team that had Kurtis MacDermid, who was useful all season though didn’t play in playoffs, but replaced him with tough Josh Manson. 

With Kassian out, Holland needs a new Kassian. He is Nic Deslauriers, if not another player who — at $950,000 — can keep the flies off of the Oilers' star players.

Understand the off-season stakes for Canadian teams
Signing season is here. Day by day, hour by hour, NHL general managers are making choices that will shape the future of their teams. Here's what you need to know.

Calgary: It's getting harder to envision Johnny Gaudreau in a Flames uniform this season. If he leaves, Plan B will include swinging for the fences.

Winnipeg: Historically, the Jets have spent more time searching for value than getting into a bidding war. This year, there may be money to spend, but there are large holes to fill.

Ottawa: Instead of building for tomorrow, on an endless loop, the Senators are telling their fans and their young core they are all about today.

Toronto: Kyle Dubas appears ready to play moneyball again, in search of those second-tier (third-tier?) UFA diamonds in the rough.

Vancouver:The Canucks have needs. But, with little salary-cap space to fulfill them, their focus will shift to depth building instead of star chasing.

Edmonton: The time has come, after futile attempts the past two summers, to acquire the goalie who can open the Oilers' Stanley Cup window.

Montreal: If you’re expecting fireworks from the Canadiens, the birthday sparklers that are likely on their way might disappoint you — and you may not even get those.

When submitting content, please abide by our  submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.
We use cookies to improve your experience. Learn More or change your cookie preferences. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies.