In a league where death is the status quo, the Edmonton Oilers need to get the better player(s): 9 Things


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Happy Father’s Day.

I owe so much of my life in hockey, both on the ice and off, to my late Father. The amount of time, care, attention, support and dollars (when there wasn’t a bunch of that kicking around) that Dad invested not just me but all the hockey loving brothers in our family is a little staggering. I often end up wondering how on earth he did it all.

I hope you’re also able to recall the support you got from your Dad (or from another important figure in your life) on a day like this and smile. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy digging into this week’s edition of…

9 Things

9. I expect the Oilers will qualify RFA Jujhar Khaira. I have a lot of time and respect for J.J. But if the Oilers are significantly better next season then a guy like Khaira is your 13F and not an every-night player.

8. I continue to see negative chatter around Oilers D prospect Philip Broberg based on how his season ended in Sweden. The filter I run his 2020-21 year through is that Broberg’s pro team in Europe had practically no interest in developing him. I’ll be watching for a healthy Broberg this Fall, both in camp and (likely) to start the season in Bakersfield…where he’ll play.


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7. The chatter coming out of Toronto is that F Zack Hyman may not stay in that city. Yes, if that’s the case then he should be a high-priority target for Ken Holland to potentially fill an open LW spot with. And as a UFA, Hyman would “only cost money” and not an asset to acquire. But there will be lots of well-financed suitors. The Oilers will need a “Plan B”, and probably a “Plan C” as well. More on that in a minute…

6. Edmonton needs a 3C. And I don’t think it’s smart to count on Ryan McLeod to be that in the first couple years of his career. You’re a better club if McLeod starts as a 4. Will the Oilers wait and try to fill that 3C spot in Free Agency? Or might they instead be proactive prior to the expansion draft a week earlier? If you wait until Free Agency, you end up looking at a narrower field of candidates and all too often buyers end up paying the inflated sticker price. And expansion may make a good guy available.

5. The Oilers, barring a trade, will be selecting 19th in the 2021 NHL Draft. I wonder if they will target a goaltender? It is an area the organization could sure use some shoring up. I doubt Jesper Wallstedt will still be around at 19. But big Oil Kings keeper Sebastien Cossa may well be. The 6’6 goalie would be a nice add. Most 18-year goaltenders are 4-5 years away from making an impact in the NHL. Maybe Cossa trims a year to 18-months off that. But even then, does that mesh with a “win now” approach?

4. Leon Draisaitl finished 13th in the 2020-21 Selke Trophy voting. I have made no secret of the fact that I believe Draisaitl’s defensive contributions are under-appreciated. Having said that, there are other players in the same boat who deserved more votes than they got. The Leaf’s Mitch Marner finished 10th. I think he’s as good of a 2-way forward as there is in the league. Sidney Crosby finished 14th. Over-all, though, I feel the voters got the winner right. Aleksander Barkov is a marvelous 2-way performer and well deserving of the honor.


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3. I don’t have any knew information on the status of Oscar Klefbom. His projected status for 2021-22 may have a significant impact on who the Oilers protect in the expansion draft. In particular, the future of Caleb Jones in Oilers silks probably depends on Klefbom. I certainly don’t see the club protecting both blue liners. In fact, they may not protect either of them. Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear are locks. Adam Larsson will be back but Edmonton may not announce the signing until after the draft. And while Jones has some promise, even if he turns out I’m not sure his long-terms plans would include playing in Canada for any team.

2. Dougie Hamilton is a terrific NHL D-man who earned $5.75m last season. Some would like the UFA become an Oiler. But is Hamilton a better offensive defenceman than Tyson Barrie? No. And is Hamilton enough of a defensive upgrade to make up for that gap? Debatable. So, then do you risk blocking Evan Bouchard (again) with a new guy who’s not a significant upgrade from Barrie, a veteran you already know fits nicely in your group? I suspect both Barrie and Hamilton will get big enough pay-days on the open market that Bouchard ends up looking like a logical choice. Besides, if this franchise doesn’t have players on ELC’s like Bouchard, Ryan McLeod, and maybe even Dylan Holloway or Tyler Benson in support roles next season, I’m not sure how they will be able to afford the talent required higher up in the lineup. And the G.M. and coaches would need to be on the same page on this front. I’m not so sure they all were this past season.


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1.Oilers General Manager Ken Holland has continued to grind away on the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Free Agent file. It has been suggested to me by several wise, in-the-know people that Holland probably has a brown envelope with about $30m sitting in it. That amount of cash could buy a shorter-term contract with the player at a higher AAV. Or, as I suggested in this space last week, Nugent-Hopkins could look at a longer-term security but with a lower annual cap hit. But they key is that the $30m, if indeed that’s an accurate amount, probably only leaves Holland with just enough dough left to accomplish the other urgent roster needs. And remember: Retaining Ryan Nugent-Hopkins does not automatically make the Oilers a better team than they were the year before.

If any G.M. spends too much money to merely run in one spot, then he is probably not improving the team. So, if an agent is asking for dollars and term comparable to what Hyman or (say) Taylor Hall might command? Then the General manager then needs to be impartial and ask himself the tough question: “Who’s the better player”?

And look…all 3 of Nugent-Hopkins, Hyman and Hall are “good” players. But who has the resume as the more impact performer? Who drives the game 5v5? Whose team made it to the 2nd round of the playoffs this past season? Zach Hyman’s career year is 21 goals and 41 points. Nuge is arguably coming off his worst.

I believe the Oilers are in the driver’s seat with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, just as Hall likely is in Boston and Hyman with the Maple Leafs.

But if Edmonton doesn’t get the better player(s), they risk landing on the status quo. And I don’t know anyone who’ll be o.k. with that.

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

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STAPLES: Evening the score for the Oilers at the 2021 NHL Draft

McCURDY: The next few weeks will define Holland as Oilers GM

STAPLES: Assessing the Oilers pro scouting department

McCURDY: Can Slater Koekkoek get a 2nd life as an Oiler?


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