According to a report from former Sportsnet analyst Andrew Walker, the Edmonton Oilers are going to be without veteran goaltender Mike Smith indefinitely while he continues to experience setbacks in his recovering from a lower body injury that he sustained late last month as a result of teammate Devin Shore falling on top of him during a game.
Walker even speculates that Smith may need surgery to fix the problem.
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Smith briefly re-joined team on their road trip over a week ago and was hopeful to get back into the lineup but ultimately had to return to Edmonton for further treatment. Now, it appears like he may need surgery to get back on track.
TSN Oilers insider Ryan Rishaug reports that Smith is still about a month away from returning, but that he hasn't heard any rumors of surgery.
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Whatever the case, this is bad news for both Smith and the Oilers. While Smith isn't the goalie he once was, there's no denying the fact that he has been stellar the past two seasons. Backup Mikko Koskinen has never really inspired confidence, even if his numbers aren't half bad this season. Veteran Alex Stalock is also with the club, but he's on long-term injury reserve. This means that a lot is going to be asked of 23 year old rookie Stuart Skinner, who has impressed in his five games so far this season.
Still, are the Oilers comfortable going long-term with a Koskinen/Skinner tandem in net? I very much doubt that, even with Skinner on a bit of a hot streak.
No doubt the team is looking hard at reigning Vezina Trophy winner Marc Andre Fleury of the Chicago Blackhawks reports TSN's Chris Johnston. Blackhawks interim GM Kyle Davidson is reportedly working the phones in an effort to give Fleury a fresh start elsewhere and don't be surprised if the man they call Flower ends up in Oil Country.
From Johnston's most recent TSN appearance:
“I think that they (Oilers) understand what this season means. I see them trading for a (defenseman) before the deadline and I see them getting another goaltender and that goaltender might be the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.”
- Chris Johnston, TSN
The Blackhawks have been abysmal so far this season, but Fleury can hardly be blamed for that. It's true that he sports a dreadful 3.81 goals against average and .892 save percentage in nine games to start the season, but let's not forget that this is a guy who put up a sparkling 1.98 goals against average and .928 save percentage with a competent defence in front of him last season.
The sticking point, of course, is Fleury's $7 million salary. The Oilers would likely need to get rid of Koskinen and his $4.5 million salary, which could be tricky given that he has a 10 team no-trade clause thanks to former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli.