Leaving Montreal with lots of questions – OILERSNATION
Coming back from Montreal to Edmonton, I can’t help but feel like we’ve had more questions than answers about the Oilers in the past 48 hours. I’ll come back to that in a second.
First of all, the experience of covering my first NHL draft was great. The Canadiens fans brought the noise on the first night and the city really bought into it. I know I’ve written a bit about this before, but I just wanted to say again that the city and the league put on a great event. The amount of drama we had the first night definitely helped that too.
In addition to signing Reid Schaefer 32nd overall, the Oilers completed a draft day trade, moving Zack Kassian and his contract to the Arizona Coyotes. A slight overpayment in my opinion but a trade the Oilers definitely had to make. Giving up a few picks in the draft to avoid a buyout is worth it.
They also had $5.5 million of cap space on their knees when news broke that 39-year-old defenseman Duncan Keith was calling it a career. There were plenty of rumors that this was going to be the case in the days leading up to the draft and while the extra $5.5 million is great, the Oilers will have to sign a left-handed defenseman or two.
This is the first big question: what will the defense look like next season?
Here’s how things look now:
- Nurse Darnell – Cody Ceci
- Philippe Broberg – Evan Bouchard
- Markus Niemalainen – Tyson Barrie
It’s not a blue line capable of winning the Stanley Cup. I really think a deal will be made between Brett Kulak and the Oilers. His reported request of $2.5 million is very reasonable and he has performed very well. He and Tyson Barrie could make a great third couple, but that brings me to my second question: why aren’t they still trying to move Tyson Barrie?
Look, I like the player, but there’s no denying he paid too much for what the Oilers expect of him. I actually think his actual value is close to $4.5 million, but he’s a puck-moving defenseman who brings a lot of power-play value. The Oilers have a younger, cheaper version of Evan Bouchard’s. I think they need to not only re-sign Brett Kulak, but also trade Barrie and use some of the cap savings to go find a more defensively reliable player for their third pair.
Honestly, I think it doesn’t matter if they move or not, they need to find another veteran defender. An option that I really like: Mark Pysyk.
Determining the blue line is crucial, but it’s not the biggest question to answer. It would be: who will be the starting goaltender for this team next season?
While we didn’t necessarily get an answer to that question, I think we can connect some dots.
First, we have already seen a lot of movement. Georgiev went to Colorado, Husso landed in Detroit and Fleury rebooted in Minnesota.
There are two high-end UFA options in Jack Campbell and Stanley Cup champion Darcy Kuemper. There are plenty of reports saying the Washington Capitals are very interested in Kuemper. They distributed Vitek Vanecek in New Jersey and opened a place. Would they really do that if they didn’t have a very good idea of their chances of signing Kuemper?
I think Campbell is the likeliest option for Edmonton. It’s not me being an insider or anything like that, but that’s where it seems to be heading. The Oilers have reportedly been very interested in Campbell for a while now and those rumblings are legitimate.
There are, however, two things that could change that. First, there are reports that Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas will meet with Campbell in person early next week. If the Leafs are willing to pay market value, it could hurt the Oilers’ chances of signing Campbell.
The other thing is the availability of Cam Talbot. Wild GM Bill Guerin seemed adamant he wasn’t going to move Talbot, but it’s a very limited team. If they can get a cheaper, but still reliable, backup for Fleury and move Talbot’s $3.6 million cap, they might have some cash to spend in free agency.
Ken Holland should definitely go make a move for Talbot. He’s been incredibly consistent with the Wild and would be cheaper than the options available in free agency. That could give the Oilers more money to bolster their forward squad, which is the next question.
Which forwards will the Oilers prioritize?
I don’t think giving Evander Kane a multi-year contract worth around $7 million isn’t the best way forward for this team. He’s probably worth that much when you just consider his on-ice game, but I’d like to see the Oilers take a chance on signing Claude Giroux first. If you can get Giroux, who is a more versatile player, for around $5 million on a two- or three-year contract, you might have enough money to add a piece like Dylan Strome as well.
The Oilers will always find ways to produce when Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are on the ice. Giroux would still give them another top line mate and of course they still have Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Kailer Yamamoto should also be back. Those six names would give the Oilers a really good top six and like I said, pivoting from Kane to Giroux in that scenario saves them some money.
Adding a play like Strome with those savings could give the Oilers even more scoring depth they need. It doesn’t matter if it’s Strome playing on the third line with Ryan McLeod or someone in the front six being pushed down, I think the Oilers are a deeper, better team with a Giroux/Strome tandem compared to one big splash with Kane.
Speaking of attackers, will the Oilers move Warren Foegele or Jesse Puljujarvi?
We know they are trying to move Puljujarvi but they didn’t reach a deal in the draft. That really doesn’t mean much considering they had no intention of dropping him for a draft pick, but it was still surprising that a deal wasn’t made. I really thought it would happen.
It could happen and even if they subtract Puljujarvi from the attacking squad, the deal will likely add a young striker to their roster.
Earlier this week on Oilers Now, Bob Stauffer said the Oilers aren’t done transferring their salaries and they can still trade a player earning more than $2.5 million. This is where Warren Foegele comes in.
He didn’t have a great first season with the Oilers. He struggled to consistently produce offense and didn’t always play with physicality. Those are two things he did in Carolina and that’s why the Oilers not only moved Ethan Bear for him, but gave him a three-year extension.
I wouldn’t move it though. I would prefer to move Barrie. I think exchanging a player like Foegele after a bad year is not a smart move. I think they should see if he can bounce back this year and if he can’t you can move on next summer.
I’ll close with this: a fun little hypothetical forward group for the Oilers next season.
If Holloway cracks the team, that means there’s even more depth. They could flip Hyman to the right side and dent everyone a bit. There is the potential that the Oilers can build a very deep forward group this offseason.
Lots of questions and in the next week we should finally have answers.