Since bowing out in four straight playoff games to the Winnipeg Jets, Ken Holland has been changing up the Oilers as much as his cap space will let him. He’s brought in Zach Hyman for the top six. Warren Foegele was acquired last week for Ethan Bear. Holland signed Derek Ryan to fill a right shot centre poisition in the bottom six. On defence, he’s brought in Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci.
Holland was (so far) unavailable to get a goaltender, a position he has said he was looking to make an upgrade in. There’s still time for him to make a move, but with this year’s cap space all but fully spent (and with Kailer Yamamoto still needing a contract), this is the Oilers club for the 2021-22 season.
The Oilers were recently said to have at least a passing interest in defenceman Ryan Murray as recently as a few days ago, so the club might not be 100% done trying to add just yet. I do think the Oilers are going to come to an agreement with Kailer Yamamoto, and that’s where I think the spigot shuts off with the forwards. There might be a move remaining on the defence, and the goalies are what they are.
There’s a lot to take in here, especially over the last 30 days. The club acquired Duncan Keith from Chicago, they took 100% of Keith’s cap hit and paid Chicago a player in Caleb Jones and a third round pick to go with it. The Oilers were forced to protect Keith due to his NMC, they protected Ethan Bear and Darnell Nurse with their other two picks. Adam Larsson walks, Ken Holland trades Ethan Bear for Warren Foegele, he re-signs Tyson Barrie to a three year deal and he grabs Cody Ceci for the next four years.
Defence is going to be an especially volatile position this year, and I think there’s a fairly good chance there’s plenty of movement in and out of the lineup for players. Slater Koekkoek (850K cap hit last season) seems like a good candidate to return to the club if the Oilers want to add one more. If Erik Gudbranson isn’t on a club by the end of August, i think he’ll get a look from a couple of teams. Kris Russell (1.25MM this year) will be seen on the third pair (and maybe the second pair too).
For a few reasons, I’m petrified to see what a goaltender trade looks like at this point. Most teams have made their mark in free agency, and less than half the clubs have 10 million or more in available cap space with over ten weeks remaining until the season begins. Mike Smith is signed through the 2022-23 NHL season, meaning that Mikko Koskinen is odd goaltender out should their be an acquisition. Prior to the expansion draft, there were a handful of goaltenders available, none of which made their way to Edmonton. The Oilers could kick tires on former Oiler Devan Dubnyk if he came cheap, but they’ve missed the buyout window if they wanted to move on from Koskinen. Shipping Koskinen along with a first round selection is foolhardy, the Oilers are likely locked into another year of Smith/Koskinen unless Holland really pulls something wacky from the book. Dealing a first round pick along with Mikko Koskinen for a year of Anton Khudobin doesn’t sound like something I’d express much interest in; the OIlers will have 4.5MM off the books next year should they choose to move on from Mikko Koskinen.
IS THIS IT?
Save for a depth defenceman, I think this is it. The Oilers got better up front this offseason. If they’re really crafty, they might be able to put three scoring lines on the ice. I think they’ve downgraded an entire letter grade on defence, and the goaltending is the same as last season. The, Oilers are going to once again rely heavily on their top six, and they’ll need a defence corps to hold it together enough to win some high scoring games. Getting another .920SV% season from Mike Smith would go far as well.