The Oilers have been fairly active in free agency since it began a little more than two weeks ago. Ken Holland brought back Jesse Puljujarvi for two years, he got a centre in Kyle Turris for two years as well. Tyler Ennis was brought back for a year to help on the left. A couple of depth signings occurred before Tyson Barrie was brought in for a year on the blue. Mike Smith is back to play a second year in a backup role to Mikko Koskinen. The Oilers have been busy.
As for player signings, things have slowed up quite a bit in recent days. Players are signing one year “prove it” deals, and some players are signing for what could be perceived as under market value.
Here’s a quick look at some unrestricted free agents who ought to be able to make an impact above their next cap hit.
- DOMINIK KAHUN C/W, 12-19-31 in 57 GP with Pittsburgh and Buffalo (925K in 2019-20)
Bringing back Tyler Ennis into the fold may have shut Dominik Kahun out from the Oilers, but his production on Pittsburgh (and for a very short time, the Sabres) will bring plenty of value for the right cap hit. A career shooting percentage just over 11%, Kahun can play both wing and centre. In 2019-20, Kahun spent the majority of his time on the wing in Pittsburgh with Jared McCann and Patric Hornqvist. For the right price, there’s a place for him mid-six.
The Oilers don’t have a bunch of cap to toss around right now, and that might limit their dip into the free agent pool. Don’t discount a player who was recently bought out. The Oilers signed Kyle Turris to a two year deal at 1.65MM AAV fresh off of his buyout from Nashville. The Oilers surely couldn’t squeeze him at his 6MM AAV he was making with the Predators. Is there a recently bought out player who might take a smaller deal to join the Oilers?
MICHAEL GRABNER - LW/RW, 8-3-11 in 46 GP with Arizona (3.35MM in 2019-20, contract bought out)
Michael Grabner has had two iffy seasons in Arizona. Combining for just 27 points over his last 87 games played doesn’t sound like a good reason to rush out and sign a player you want to come in and make an impact, but he did well prior to signing that deal in Arizona. Grabner was twice a 27 goal scorer in the two years prior to him signing the Arizona deal, and he’s consistently averaged a 13% shooting percentage over his career, even in his down years in Arizona. This player might be a PTO if he’s hanging around before the season begins, but I wouldn’t mind having a look for a year in the low 1MM range
ANDREAS ATHANASIOU - C/LW/RW, 11-15-26 in 55 games with Detroit / Edmonton in 2019-20 (3MM in 2019-20)
If you count the play-in series against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Oilers saw Andreas Athanasiou play in exactly thirteen games since he was acquired for two second round picks in the 2020 trade deadline. While I would have liked a deep playoff run after those nine regular season games that Athanasiou played, it wasn’t to be. A 30 goal scorer in 2018-19, Athanasiou played just 110 minutes in an Oiler jersey and didn’t receive a qualifying offer this offseason. Could Ken Holland entice Athanasiou to sign a deal for a nice price?
The Oilers are up against the cap (and they’ve still got to sign Ethan Bear to a deal before next season begins), but they might be able to squeeze out another deal or two if the price is right.