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Destination: Edmonton?

Is “paying a premium” on free agency a thing of the past?

Detroit Red Wings v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

If everything goes as planned, the Oilers will be looking at their first postseason appearance since the windy days of Aught Six. There will be much rejoicing, and there will likely be a baby boom at the beginning of 2018. It’s been a tough decade.

Not only has it been an especially tough decade on the fans, it’s certainly been a tough decade for those who have put the uniform on. It’s been tough for everyone involved in the organization. It’s probably been tough on the organ guy.

When your team goes on a dry spell that lasts a decade, everyone takes notice. When your team goes on a dry spell that lasts a decade, you have trouble luring high profile free agents to your city, and you end up spending more than you should on the ones that are willing to come.

When your team goes on a dry spell that lasts a decade, you spend nine million dollars for two years of Nikita Nikitin. Or nearly four million dollars on three years of Ben Eager. Or fifteen million dollars on four years of Nikolai Khabibulin. You get the idea. It’s too much money, too much term for not enough player.


Right now, things are looking up in Oil Country. Barring something completely off the radar, the Oilers look to play some hockey after the regular season ends for the first time in eleven years. Connor McDavid has done everything that could possibly be asked of him and more. There’s a very good chance that McDavid will end the regular season leading the NHL in scoring. Forward Leon Draisaitl has paired nicely alongside McDavid, and Patrick Maroon has rounded out the top line nicely. Cam Talbot would be a worthy candidate for the Vezina Trophy, and Andrej Sekera has emerged as the team’s best defenceman this year.

“We’re in a decent spot. We’ve got some work to do.”


This was Peter Chiarelli’s message to Edmonton when asked about the trade deadline last month, and he’s right. While Chiarelli added an expiring contract in David Desharnais for the bottom six, there’s still some work to be done. If Desharnais doesn’t re-sign, the Oilers could use another centre, even moreso if Draisaitl stays on with McDavid. If Jesse Puljujarvi isn’t up and ready full time, another right wing could be in the works. The club could use another righty on defence.

Making the playoffs is a huge step in turning this franchise from a laughing stock into a desirable landing spot for free agents. Maybe the club doesn’t need to offer fifteen million dollars to an already bottomed out Nikolai Khabibulin (though I think Tambellini was quite keen on that one). It’s high time that Edmonton becomes a destination instead of terrible punchline to a joke that someone on the intermission panel thought up.

For the last five years, I’ve said that the Oilers need to take the first step. That first step is making the playoffs. This year, they’re going to do that. If they flail in the first round and sink, it’ll be a step in the right direction. But if they win a round, look out. It’s high time that Edmonton becomes a desirable target for free agents, and there’s good reason to believe that good fortune comes around this summer.