Most Edmonton Oiler fans wanted more! A second round exit in a wide open playoffs is very disappointing. I wrote before the elimination that we had two weaknesses: our right defence wasn’t deep (or good enough) and our goaltending was a very big gamble on a rookie to win 16 playoff games. As it turns out, those two things contributed heavily in our post season early exit. Stuart Skinner was sub .900 and our coach simply did not want to play Jack Campbell. Cody Ceci played very well but he had one point in the playoffs and he was noticeably exposed in the elimination game. You can win a Stanley Cup with Ceci but not with him in your top four. The Vegas Golden Knights were also excellent.
I have been making the same statement for over a decade now. We need one more top four defenceman and a number one goalie. Well, we still need one more D and a G. We are two players away from being a very strong Cup contender. Normally, when I look at the “to do” offseason list for the Oilers, it is very big—not this year. No bold moves needed at all. Most of the roster will be back and that is a good thing. Two bigger moves and several small ones could make us a very strong contender.
Taking a look at CapFriendly, we have several UFAs departing: Derek Ryan, Mattias Janmark, Devin Shore, and Nick Bjugstad. Of the four, I’d only offer Ryan a one-year contract that could be buried in the AHL if it needs to be (eg. Under $1.125M).
We have a few RFAs as well with Ryan McLeod and Klim Kostin. Of the two, I’d keep McLeod (forever). I’m very worried that we will overpay for Kostin as GM Ken Holland likes to pay a little too much and give too much term to marginal players (eg. why did Devon Shore get two years?)
Looking at signed forwards, it is definitely worth looking into trading Warren Foegele ($2.75M and four points in 25 playoff games) and Kailer Yamamoto ($3.1M and I’m not sure he’s living up to that). Dylan Holloway should be full time next year.
We have one more RFA and that is Evan Bouchard. You do everything you can to keep him on, most likely, a bridge deal.
A little bit of relief
Also leaving are some buyouts and LTIR players. Oscar Klefbom, Mike Smith, and Ryan Murray are all UFA now. We also no longer paying $750K for Milan Lucic or $1.5M for Andrej Sekera. That is over $2M freed up for a new buyout. We still pay James Neal $2M for another two years unfortunately.
It would appear that Holland is coming back for his final year. I think he missed a golden opportunity this year and despite his strong acquisitions, he’s on year four and has yet to figure out the goaltending or defence. I was fine to see him go. We are watching Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl scoring at record paces and not giving them enough support keeping the puck out of our net.
Holland needs to clear up some cap space (Yamamoto and Foegele come to mind) and to get a legit top 4 RHD. This would push Ceci down a notch to 3RD. He could move up in case of injury (just like Brett Kulak on LD). I expect Philip Broberg to have big gains and push the conversation but he has yet to show enough to suggest he’ll be top four next season. Despite a poor playoff, I do expect Vincent Desharnais to have a good season and learn from the playoff experience.
Buying out Campbell is probably the best play. The buyout is essentially paid for by the money cleared by Lucic and Sekera. Then getting a platoon goalie (I suggest targeting Karel Vejmelka or Dan Vladar) to supplant Skinner. He will have a very good year and be stronger in the playoffs next season. This experience will be good for him to grow his game.
We have minimal draft picks this offseason which is unfortunate as it is a very strong draft. We pick at 57, 153, 185, and 217. We also traded away our last first-round pick in Reid Schaefer. The pipeline is weak after Broberg and Holloway to be honest. Maybe Raphael Lavoie but he’s not been the most consistent in his pro career.
Amazingly, that’s all that really needs to be done. Fill in the rest of the roster with cheaper players, current UFAs, or guys in the system; Offer only one-year contracts for depth players; One good top 4RD, buyout Campbell, and get a goalie to split the load with Skinner.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire
What about the AHL team. Anything worthy coming from them?
I’m not seeing it personally. Lavoie had a nice ‘run’ but not a full season. Petrov is doing very in OHL and could end up being a big steal but I don’t see him on the big club next year. Xavier B was a bit underwhelming but is a first rounder who projects to being a 50 point guy. He has the highest ceiling by far. He could crack the NHL next year and replace a guy like Yam as a top 6 complimentary player. I was a huge Benson fan but I think he may be let go.