There is no doubt that the Edmonton Oilers have struggled defensively this year, and have struggled to generate much offense outside of their top-six forward group. However, the team has had a uniquely poor start with their goaltending, as the duo of Stuart Skinner and Jack Campbell have produced a 5-10-1 record in 16 games played, as well as carrying a .873 SV% and a 3.70 GAA collectively.
Even looking deeper into the numbers of the tandem, according to Hockey Reference, they have generated a -14.0 Goals Saved Above Average, a 3.76 Adjusted Goals Against Average, and a 37.5% Quality Start Percentage.
In any trade to improve their goaltending, the Oilers’ dream scenario would be to include Campbell and his $5M salary, but with most other teams carrying limited cap space through the season, that option becomes much more improbable.
The most recent comparable to Campbell’s situation would be a June 6 trade between the Columbus Blue Jackets, Los Angeles Kings, and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Kings were able to unload the two-year, $10M remaining on Calvin Petersen’s contract, as well as the contract of defenseman Sean Walker, but did have to send a prospect, as well as a first-round pick in 2023, and a second-round pick in 2024 to Philadelphia just as a facilitator in the deal.
Essentially, the cost of $5.6M in cap space for Los Angeles, without acquiring anything of value in return, was a prospect, and two high draft picks. If the Oilers are looking to improve their goaltending in a similar trade, the cost would certainly increase beyond that price.
To set the table, Edmonton does have all three of their first-round picks over the next three seasons, as well as two of their second-round picks (the 2025 selection is owned by the Arizona Coyotes) over the same time. Also, if any acquiring team is willing to buy out Campbell this offseason, they would be on the hook for $10.5M spread out over the next six seasons.
Now, let’s look at a list of options and work a potential deal around them:
Petr Mrazek – Chicago Blackhawks (one-year, $3.8M)
Not only would Chicago be able to absorb the contract of Campbell even after a buyout, but Mrazek is quietly having a very productive season even with a poor team in front of him. In 10 games played for the Blackhawks this season, Mrazek has a 4-5-0 record, coupled with a .915 SV% and a 2.89 GAA.
With only one year remaining on his contract, a trade for Mrazek would allow the Oilers to improve their goaltending situation down the stretch while giving them the financial flexibility to pursue a different goaltender in the offseason if they choose to do so.
In order to rid themselves of Campbell’s contract, Edmonton would need to attach their first-round pick in 2024, as well as their second-round pick in 2026, and potentially a third-to-fourth-round selection in either of the next three years simply to acquire Mrazek from the Blackhawks in the first place.
Karel Vejmelka – Arizona Coyotes (two-years, $5.45M)
Even behind a struggling Coyotes defense for the last three seasons, Vejmelka has put up decent numbers and could benefit from a stronger team in front of him. Over the last three seasons in Arizona, he has played in 112 games and carries a 33-62-11 record coupled with a .899 SV% and a 3.51 GAA.
As the Coyotes are looking to exit their rebuild soon, they may not be inclined to take on Campbell’s contract, or even be inclined to buy him out after acquiring him. However, if the Oilers were willing to part ways with defenseman Cody Ceci in this hypothetical deal, Arizona could be more tempted.
With Matt Dumba, Troy Stecher, and Josh Brown all headed for free agency next summer, the Coyotes are going to have quite the hole on the right side of their defense. Ceci will be signed for one more after this season at $3.25M and has offered quality defensive play over the course of his career.
Elvis Merzlikins – Columbus Blue Jackets (four-years, $21.6M)
It’s tough to think of a more direct comparable to Campbell than the situation of Merzlikins over in Columbus. Both goalies are signed for the next four years, they are both coming off of poor 2022-23 seasons, and both have had a tough start to this year.
If Edmonton was able to frame this deal in the right way, it could become a change-of-scenery swap, with the Oilers not having to add too much extra in return. Even from the viewpoint of Columbus, playing in a much smaller market, Campbell may even be able to regain some of his lost confidence.
Unfortunately, there is a very real possibility that Merzlikins will fail to improve Edmonton’s goaltending situation, even after a change of scenery. In a disastrous year in the net for him last season, Merzlikins held a 7-18-2 record, carrying a horrid .876% and a 4.23 GAA.
Jake Allen – Montreal Canadiens (two-years, $7.7M)
Similar to where the Canadiens are in the rebuild like the Coyotes, it is unreasonable to think Montreal would be inclined to take on the contract of Campbell, even in a buyout situation. With Allen making $3.85M for this season, and next, Edmonton will once again look to salary match through different positions.
Over the last two seasons, the Canadiens have built up some serious young depth on defense, meaning the Oilers may have to part with some forwards to acquire Allen and his cap hit. Given this, a realistic package would revolve around Ryan McLeod and Warren Foegele.
As a pending unrestricted free agent, Foegele will simply be on the Canadiens roster for the rest of the year, and move on next summer. When healthy, McLeod represents a bottom-six center option with the ability to play on both sides of the puck, allowing the Canadiens to comfortably replace Sean Monahan next year, and give them a long-term option on the third-line.
Juuse Saros – Nashville Predators (two-years, $10M)
At last year’s trade deadline, the Oilers and Predators connected on a massive trade, sending Mattias Ekholm to Edmonton in exchange for a package surrounding Tyson Barrie, a prospect, and two draft picks. In the summer, Nashville showed a few more veterans the door and took a very aggressive approach to free agency.
Sitting at 28th place in the NHL entering Thanksgiving week, and unlikely to contend over the last two years of Saros’ contract, the Predators could be inclined to trade him this season. Saros has gotten off to a slow start this year but has finished top-10 in Vezina Trophy voting in each of the last three years.
Due to his track record, it will take a mammoth offer to pry Saros out of Nashville, and the Oilers would need to give up serious capital in return. If they are also willing to take on the contract of Campbell, a package including a young roster player such as McLeod or Dylan Holloway, one of Edmonton’s better prospects such as Philip Broberg or Xavier Bourgault, Edmonton’s first-round pick in 2024, as well as a conditional second-round pick in 2026 with the ability to turn into a first, that may be enough to get Saros from the Predators.