Things We Know: Could Campbell be close to another shot with Oilers?

Elliotte Friedman gives the latest on the biggest stories around the NHL, including the Maple Leafs ongoing search for defensive help, Jack Campbell potential return to the Oilers and Patrik Alviin and Elias Pettersson meet on Canucks road trip.

EDMONTON — Things We (Think We) Know. Series 2, Volume 3. 

Things We Know 

It was an absolute mystery, the depths to which the Edmonton Oilers’ overall game plunged during their first 17 games. They weren’t even structured enough to hang on for a few loser points they likely deserved, their goaltending not sound enough to cover for poor defensive play, nor lock down a game in which the team play was actually not so bad. 

One four-game winning streak later, punctuated by a very professional 3-1 win at Winnipeg on Thursday, and the Oilers head into a five-day break between games with their overall game very much intact. 

It was “a very mature win,” said Leon Draisaitl, whose power-play winner came after the Oilers had gone 53 minutes deep into a 1-0 game without frustration or panic. 

[brightcove videoID=6342131967112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Things We (Think We) Know 

In Winnipeg, the proper way to play was on full display. 

• Don’t take ridiculous chances or make low-percentage pinches looking for the tying goal. Check. 

• Don’t let the usual otherworldly game of Connor Hellebuyck get under your skin. Keep on coming until he breaks. Check. 

• Have some faith in your structure and believe that, eventually, good defensive work will provide the offensive chance you’re waiting for. Check. 

• Just because Adam Lowry absolutely crushed Connor McDavid with a clean check — from which McDavid popped right up — don’t sacrifice the war to get even for that battle. Check. 

[brightcove videoID=6342183291112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

All of that was borne out when Darnell Nurse’s long-ish wrist shot caromed of Hellebuyck’s glove and in to tie the game 1-1 with 6:49 to play. It was the type of luck you must earn in hockey; a break you never seem to get if you’re taking shortcuts or cheating on the game. 

Then the power play got its chance and delivered the winner. That, folks is the manifest for success in Edmonton. 

And we should add, after spending much of the season having the second-best goalie on the ice, it wasn’t Stuart Skinner who cracked in Winnipeg. He was very, very good, and his recent play is shining a new light on what Edmonton needs out of its backup role. 

Things We Know 

Edmonton is/was deep into exploring the goalie market, with three scouts at both games in Columbus this past week. The Jackets played two goalie rich clubs, Boston and Montreal, and Friday the Habs announced a new 3-x-$3.15-million deal for Samuel Montembeault. 

Of course, Columbus has Elvis Merzlikins, but not much else should the Blue Jackets opt to deal the Latvian goaler. 

Things We (Think We) Know 

So, which goalies were the Oilers scouting? 

Well, the Oilers have a new goaltending scout named Jeff Salajko (pronounced Sa-LAY-ko) who lives in Columbus, worked several years for Ohio State University, and applied for the Jackets’ goaltending coach position this past summer. He has been spotted in the Columbus press box for years. 

In short, Salajko knows Merzlikins’ game perhaps better than any goalie scout/coach in the NHL. So we would deduce, if the Oilers were thinking about trading for Merzlikins, they probably wouldn’t be watching him two more times this week before making a deal. 

Now, we are told the Bruins are not moving Linus Ullmark. Not now, anyhow. If a weakness closer to the trade deadline forces their hand, things may change. 

As for Montreal, the Montembeault deal is not sign and trade. Of course, a young, promising Francophone goalie is perfect for the Habs, who are currently carrying three goalies because young Cayden Primeau — .886 save percentage, 3.72 GAA in five starts this season — is waiver eligible. 

We believe the play in Montreal is to move Jake Allen and go forward with a Montembeault-Primeau tandem — but not until Primeau proves himself an NHL backup, and Montembeault — who has just 97 career starts — further proves he can operate as a No. 1. 

Things We Know 

Allen may remain a target for Edmonton, but that is a trigger that Oilers GM Ken Holland would rather not pull if he can avoid it.  

In his last three starts at Bakersfield, Jack Campbell’s numbers — 1.97 GAA, .944% — are promising. Enough, at least, for the Oilers to give him a shot at being the suddenly-more-stable Skinner’s backup. 

Things We (Think We) Know 

The working theory in Edmonton’s front office is, “We’re paying Campbell five million bucks. Surely he can play one out of every four or five games as an NHL backup.” 

That theory, of course, is reliant on Skinner being able to handle the lion’s share of the games. 

Holland gave up two first-rounders — a pick and Reid Schaefer — in the Mattias Ekholm deadline deal only 42 regular-season games ago. To include another first-rounder in a deal to shed Campbell’s salary this soon after the Ekholm trade qualifies at some level as dereliction of duty for the steward of a franchise — even if Holland is likely gone after this season when his contract expires. 

Everyone knows it: The Campbell contract is a disaster. 

The task now is to mitigate the damage and not make it worse, if you possibly can. 

Is Skinner can be a true No. 1 — and that is not a given — the Oilers would have $7.6 million tied up in their goalies. Of course, a $5-million backup is not ideal, but the Oilers would like to get closer to the end of Campbell’s deal before a buy-out or trade, if at all possible. 

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.