The Oilers are expected to make a splash in free agency this Wednesday. While the Oilers are expected to use some cap space on Wednesday, they might be able to slide in on a discount deal to a player that didn’t receive a qualifying offer from their club today.
A qualifying offer is a one year deal that may contain a slight raise (if the player’s salary was below $1MM the year previous) to a restricted free agent so the club can retain the player’s rights. The player will then choose to sign or not sign the deal. If the player does not sign the deal, they will have until December 1st to come to an agreement with their club. If they do not, they are ineligible to play that year.
If the club fails to offer the player a qualifying offer, the player will become an unrestricted free agent outright. This is happening with Dominik Kahun and Jujhar Khaira in Edmonton this year. These players may end up signing with the Oilers at a reduced rate once free agency begins, but they are free to sign with any club on Wednesday.
CAN ANYONE HELP?
The Oilers need someone to play third line centre in 2021-22. Kyle Turris will probably get a shot at it once again, but I think I’d rather bring in a player to compete. I’d rather it not be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, though the club **could** do that if they wanted to go in that direction. I’d rather have a responsible 3C to handle those minutes instead of a player that’s pulling 5+ million a year until 2029.
Even more daunting: the Oilers need at least one defenceman. They need someone to play the right side now that Adam Larsson has gone to Seattle. It probably wouldn’t hurt to get someone else on the left side now that we’re certain that Oscar Klefbom will miss at least the beginning of the season. I’m not too sure they’ll find what they’re looking for among players who didn’t receive a QO, but they might take a look at say, Julius Honka just for kicks.
Here are a few players that didn’t receive qualifying offers from their clubs. They are free to sign a contract with any club on Wednesday when free agency opens. The Oilers might have an interest in a couple of the following players.
- PIUS SUTER - C/W
Suter is going to have a few lookers this free agent season. A left-handed centre, Suter is just 25 years old and was nearly a half point per game scorer in the abbreviated 2021 season for the Blackhawks (14-13-27 in 55 GP). 20 of those 27 points came while 5 on 5. . He spent a good chunk of the year with Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat while 5 on 5, and his underlying numbers look better while apart from those two. At over 16 minutes of ice per game, Suter would be a good fill at 3C for the Oilers. Suter’s cap hit was a meagre 925K this past season, I’d expect him to get snapped up quickly on Wednesday.
- RYAN DONATO - C/W
Like Suter, Donato will have a fair share of looks this free agency period. Donato put up 20 points in 50 games with San Jose in 2021, his qualifying offer of 2.15 MM might have been the ultimate reason the Sharks decided to pass. Donato’s underlying numbers aren’t as nice as Suter’s, though it’s fair to mention that Donato’s most common linemates were John Leonard and Dylan Gambrell. Donato averaged just a touch over 12 minutes a game with San Jose this past season, he’d likely be looking at a few more minutes a night in Edmonton. If Suter becomes unavailable early on, Donato could be a nice option to fit the 3C bill at the right price for the Oilers.
NICK RITCHIE - LW
The Oilers would be wise to replace Dominik Kahun this offseason. If they don’t do that internally, Nick Ritchie could be a decent bet. A best-suited third line left wing, Ritchie was a 15 goal scorer for the Bruins this past season (15-11-26 in 55 GP). Ritchie could be an ideal fit on the bottom six if they can make the money work. If Ritchie plans on staying around his 2MM cap hit from last season, the Oilers may rather give Tyler Benson the reins at 3LW instead.
There are plenty more free agents who could hop in as late season PTOs or early September one year deals (I’ve got a nagging feeling we could see Mark Jankowski back in Alberta before long).
The Oilers would do well by taking a look at at least a couple players who didn’t receive qualifying offers from their previous clubs, as there’s some quality in that list.