We can see how a week makes all the difference here in mid-July. It wasn’t too long ago that the fervour of free agency descended upon the league on the heels of the 2023 entry draft, where even a relatively mild free agent class, along with another season of relative cap stagnation, still packed intrigue across the league. Already we have shifted into the quiet of the offseason, a time where news is slow to develop. Most teams, like the Edmonton Oilers, still have some work to do, but we have gained clarity into what next season might look like.
Thanks to some steps forward from younger players over this past season, like Evan Bouchard, Stuart Skinner, and even Ryan McLeod, as well as acquisitions made last season, most notably that of Mattias Ekholm, the Oilers appear to be in better shape this year than they were last offseason.
The Oilers did not have much cap space to work with but were still able to make a few additions to the roster. With that in mind we asked our readers what they thought of the Oilers moves so far in free agency.
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Running away with top spot in our poll is Connor Brown. Given the Oilers limited amount of cap space, the moves that were available to the Oilers were quite minimal. The deal to sign Brown was all but guaranteed a win in this poll, but the way that it all got done can provide some context, both pros and cons.
Despite coming off of a season lost to injury, the Oilers did well to acquire Brown at a low cap cost, at least for this season. On top of Brown being signed for one year, his bonus-laden contract is a creative way for the Oilers to afford the services of a legitimate NHL middle-six winger. Brown should be a strong addition to the locker room, the penalty kill, depth, and the Oilers overall on ice play.
With the target for Brown’s bonuses, entirely fulfilled by his appearance in 10 games for the Oilers next season, and Brown seemingly on track to be available for training camp, it is quite likely the Oilers will have to pay out Brown in full. This low target might leave some fans scratching their heads, but the almost ceremonial nature of the bonus does reveal that the Oilers have some sort of plan here. In order to fit Brown into the lineup this season, adding a player to such a deal is a way to fit Brown into the cap structure while offering something fairly close to guaranteed money.
While Brown would not highlight league-wide headlines as far as free agent additions go, it is clear that he is the standout addition made by the Oilers so far.
With only about 5% of the vote, our poll tells us that the addition of former Oiler Drake Caggiula is far from the biggest addition the Oilers made this offseason. It might not help Cagguila’s cause, at least in this case, that Oilers GM Ken Holland referred to Cagguila as an AHL signing.
Holland did concede that Cagguila might well find his way into a few games for the Oilers this season. In fact, Cagguila does represent a near ideal depth option at forward. As a speedy and reliable veteran, Cagguila should have no problem sliding in and out of the bottom of the lineup, and presumably would be a fit on the penalty kill if needed. In some ways, Cagguila does profile similarly to Brown, as a smaller player in his late 20s best known for a strong work ethic. By this measure alone it would be hard for Cagguila to earn more votes than Brown here.
Cagguila is likely not the player he was when he was last an Oilers. Playing in three seasons for the Oilers, from 2016–17 to 2018–19, Cagguila showed some promise as an NHLer. The Oilers seemed to have sold high, as his career best points per game rate of 0.42 came in his last season as an Oiler, a season he split with the Chicago Blackhawks after being traded in late December 2018.
Cagguila has managed to move around a few times since then, playing for short stints with NHL teams as a depth forward. A player who jumped into the NHL after four years of college, Cagguila just played his first season in the AHL and scored at about 0.82 points per game, good for second on his Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins team. In the AHL, Cagguila should help a number of young Bakersfield Condors as a strong linemate.
A smaller signing with little risk, Cagguila should be a positive contributor to the Oilers overall program next season. There might be a boosted vote total thanks to Cagguila’s previous tenure with the Oilers and any goodwill left over.
With 7% of votes, our polls demonstrates the fan’s recognition that Janmark is a valued contributor to team success. Some might have taken for granted that Janmark would return, but the Oilers did well to retain his services.
Janmark will try to replicate the effectiveness he embodied last season. After starting in the AHL, it was not long until Janmark was a fixture on the Oilers penalty kill. Coaches and fans alike can depend on his simple and straightforward approach to the game, going into tough areas with a strong effort.
The Oilers did present some other options for this poll, as the club made a number of other lower profile signings. Each of these players might still surprise us in the season ahead.
Lane Pederson was brought in, and though Holland referred to Pederson as a “number one AHL centre,” Holland also admitted that the Oilers might still look to fill a fourth line centre role for this upcoming season. Few people, including perhaps the Oilers GM are not expecting a big surprise from Pederson, he will have the chance to impress at training camp in September.
Another Oilers signing is that of Noel Hofenmayer, a strong left shot AHL defenceman, who like Pederson has some chance of surprising. Hoefenmayer should help the Condors to a strong season, as the roster has filled out quite nicely. Ben Gleason fills a similar role, but neither are material for “best signing” more than they are collectively part of an idea that benefits the Oilers program as a whole, a strong AHL program.
Evan Bouchard was brought up. Although unsigned to this point, as an RFA without arbitration rights, there is little Bouchard can do besides return to the Oilers. Bouchard will easily be the most impactful player the Oilers sign this offseason, but is still on the to do list.
Olivier Rodrigue was signed as well. An RFA, Rodrigue is a bit out of sight and out of mind for most Oilers fans. Still, Rodrigue had fantastic results last season, leading to a huge upswing in the projection of his NHL likelihood. It would be nice to see Rodrigue get sole claim to the starting job for the Condors. With another strong performance in the AHL, Rodrigue might have done enough to earn a look or two in the NHL. It might be a year early but Rodrigue is certainly a player to track going forward.
Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire