new contract skinner gains leverage oilers

#contract #Skinner #gains #leverage #Oilers

By signing a new three-year extension valued at $2.6M per season, Stuart Skinner just got engaged to the Edmonton Oilers. But he didn’t get married.

I know that might sound a little weird. But let me explain.

Let me get this out of the way: Skinner’s contract is a smart deal for the Oilers from a monetary sense. 

The franchise will have cost certainty between the pipes through the end of the 2025-26 NHL season. And even though Jack Campbell’s contract already looks like a mistake — he has four years remaining at a bloated $5M cap hit — at least Edmonton GM Ken Holland knows what he’s working with for the foreseeable future.

But what this really comes down to is Skinner. And why the local boy agreed to a deal that I think is worth less than he could have garnered during the upcoming offseason.

For me, there are a few reasons.

Campbell was signed to be the starting goaltender for Edmonton and was paid accordingly. $5M is more or less the going rate for a No. 1 in the NHL. 

And with four years remaining on Campbell’s contract, the Oilers need to make it work. He’ll continue to get playing time.

Skinner knows — no matter how well he plays — there is internal pressure for Campbell to regain the crease. 

Buying out Campbell isn’t a viable option right now for the Oilers. And trading him might be next to impossible. Campbell’s contract is a boat anchor.

But Skinner also has a good thing going in Edmonton. He’s earned the crease through solid, consistent play. His .915 save percentage is in line with the .913 he posted last season. And Skinner now has 33 NHL games under his belt.

His teammates trust him. And it’s pretty apparent given Skinner’s recent workload that Edmonton head coach Jay Woodcroft does as well.

Could he regress? Sure, it could happen. But I think Skinner’s technical foundation is the bedrock of his game. It’s the reason why he’s been consistent. 

Skinner may not be the most athletically gifted goaltender, but his game is modern. He spends far more time being square and patient than he does chasing the game.

Have there been growing pains? Absolutely. Skinner will continue to face bumps in the road as he gains NHL experience. It’s part of the gig. 

But I think he’s capable of a lengthy career. And Skinner probably has a higher ceiling than the Oilers first thought when they assigned him to the ECHL in advance of his first pro season in 2018-19.

Last year I felt that Skinner deserved an extended run in the Oilers net. He was ready for the challenge and looked the part. 

And while he ultimately finished the 2021-22 season with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, Skinner proved that he was ready for more at the NHL level.

Before the 2022-23 season began, I said that Skinner was going to play a bigger role in Edmonton than people realized. So I’m zero percent surprised that he’s carried the mail for the Oilers recently.

Skinner must be thrilled to have contractual stability. But he knows the goaltending situation in Edmonton will forever be a hot-button topic. And by accepting a three-year deal, Skinner gives himself some wiggle room.

Here’s the thing: I can’t imagine Skinner has any desire to leave his hometown of Edmonton in search of greener pastures elsewhere. 

But to me, that’s the biggest piece of this puzzle. Skinner’s new deal takes him directly to being an unrestricted free agent. Two seasons before Campbell’s contract ends.

That’s a win for Skinner. But he probably had to give up a few dollars in the short term to attain such flexibility. 

Because with a season like he’s having, I think this offseason could have brought Skinner a new contract worth upwards of $3M per year.

While the numbers of the contract work for the Oilers, it had to be a big gulp for Holland to risk losing Skinner to free agency. 

Because in just over three years — maybe sooner — Edmonton will have to make a choice between Campbell and Skinner.

Resolving that situation will not be easy if the current performance of each netminder continues. 

The Oilers will want to retain Skinner if at all possible. But trading Campbell won’t get any easier. And buyouts are never ideal.

The bottom line is that Skinner’s new contract is about leverage just as much as dollars. 

Because if the Oilers want to keep Skinner in Edmonton when his contract is up, it won’t be for less than what Campbell makes. And the team can’t afford over $10M in goaltenders.

Advantage: Skinner.

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