Where do the Edmonton Oilers go next? Follow the insider chatter and the existing contracts

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This in from broadcaster Bob Stauffer of the Edmonton Oilers: “Here are 4 Oilers storylines to watch during Free Agency period:

#1. Goaltending
#2. 3rd line C… the top 2 C’s have HART!
#3. Short term replacement for Klefbom on D?
#4. Flip a RW for a LW?”

My take

  1. Where are the Oilers going next? Pay attention to the insider chatter and the existing contracts. And no one is more insidery on the Oilers than Stauffer, who is a grinder of John Tonelli-esque proportions when it comes to digging for and knowing all Oilers info, and also has the inside track as he works for the team.
  2. The Oilers already have 13 forwards with NHL contracts for next year, and that doesn’t include Tyler Benson, who is on an Entry Level Contract and has a decent shot at making the Oilers. Six of those contracts are on right wing (unless you move Josh Archibald over to the left side, as I’ve done on this depth chart). It looks like the Oilers have room to bring in one more NHL forward for sure, another centre, and maybe one more NHL depth winger, but that’s it unless a player moves out in a trade, perhaps in a right wing for left wing deal.
  3. If Jesse Puljujarvi is going to be given a real shot on this team at right wing is there still room in Edmonton for Alex Chiasson? Chiasson is a useful veteran, a solid fourth-line grinder and strong top-line power player, which means Edmonton can move out Chiasson if they must. Of course, the Oilers would likely prefer to move out the older and far more expensive James Neal, but that’s hard because he’s older and far more expensive. Other teams won’t bite.
  4. As for third line centre, Jim Matheson of the Journal tweeted: “Mikko Koivu says he wants to play one more year and if Oilers can fit in what it’ll cost, his agent is Gerry Johannson, who happens to live here. That sounds like a call Ken Holland would make for that third-line centre… Obvious fit for 3C free-agent with Puljuarvi’s return would be Mikko Koivu, of course, if price was right. A left-shot C passing to a right-shot Puljujarvi, and he could teach Jesse the finer points of the game.”
  5. I’m less bullish on Koivu than Matheson, given the Oilers need to get faster and Koivu is no longer speedy. In the last two years at even strength, he’s averaged just 1.28 pts per 60 (Riley Sheahan is at 1.12 per 60), which ranks Koivu 385th out of 533 NHL forwards who have played at least 20 games. That said, veteran players are crucial to winning in the playoffs. Koivu will bring that experience and know how, so he might be a solid option.
  6. On defence, five players have NHL contracts, but that doesn’t include William Lagesson, who was offered a qualifying offer, and Evan Bouchard, on an ELC and also with a good chance of making the team. It does include Oscar Klefbom, who is likely to miss a big part of the year with his shoulder injury. With Klefbom out, does that make it much less likely that the Oilers will move Kris Russell? I had previously predicted a Russell trade and said it would be the Alpha Move for Ken Holland this summer, freeing up a spot on the blueline for Caleb Jones and freeing up cap space for other needs. But with Klefbom iffy, Jones has a spot now. It may still be reasonable to move out Russell, as I’m pretty sure William Lagesson is ready for NHL duty and there’s also plenty of veteran left side NHL d-men who are available on the UFA market. But I’m less certain it’s the right move or best move for the Oilers to make. I no longer think it will happen.
  7. In net, there’s Mikko Koskinen on an NHL contract and no other real NHL possibilities. When Stauffer says goalie is the top priority, that makes sense. Koskinen had been an OK starting goalie in the NHL for the past two years, but just OK. The Oilers need an upgrade on Mike Smith, someone who can challenge for the No. 1 job.
  8. There’s been plenty of talk from league insiders like Elliotte Friedman and Pierre LeBrun that Jacob Markstrom might make sense here. If Markstrom is looking for, say, $6 million a year with a longer term, I don’t see how that works for the Oilers, but maybe that’s where this is headed. In a market full of useful goalies, I’d prefer Edmonton look for a cheaper option in net.
  9. Koskinen ranks 30th for NHL goalies in save percentage over the past two years at .911, while Markstrom ranks 19th at .915. But other available goalies did better than either of them.
  10. Here’s what LeBrun wrote on Thursday in the Athletic: “Defense is not a big need for the Oilers but with Oscar Klefbom’s long-term injury, I think it opens the door to Edmonton making a pitch to Barrie’s camp Friday. The Oilers would be intriguing to me because their cap situation doesn’t really indicate they’ll be able to outbid other teams on the AAV. But maybe they throw term at Markstrom as a way around it.” Markstrom seems like a good choice, based on his strong playoff play, but there are many other choices here as well. I’d be surprised if Edmonton ends up signing this free agent. As for Barrie, I like what this player brings but where does he fit in if you have Larsson, Bear and Bouchard on the right side? Should Edmonton move out Larsson and bring in Barrie? If Larsson is healthy, he’s still a killer on defence, while Bear and Bouchard will provide plenty of offence.


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The Cult of Hockey on the 2020 draft

McCURDY: Oilers draft forwards, forwards, forwards

McCURDY: Oilers take Dylan Holloway 14th overall 

STAPLES: “Head-scratching asset management”: Oilers blasted for not keeping Athanasiou

STAPLES: Ottawa, Columbus, New Jersey reached highest in the draft’s first round

STAPLES: Edmonton trades 76th pick

STAPLES: Puljujarvi returns!

STAPLES: Oilers draft Carter Savoie, local sniper at #100

LEAVINS: Oilers draft OHL sniper Tullio at #126

McCURDY: Massive Russian winger Maxim Beryozkin selected at #138

STAPLES: Oilers go off the board to pick overaged Swedish pivot Filip Engaras at #169

LEAVINS: Oilers land Swedish winger Jeremias Lindewall at #200


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