Following a disappointing four-game play-in series lost at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks, the Edmonton Oilers enter this year’s off-season with what seems like more questions than answers. With around $11M left to sign a total of 23 players, 11 UFA’s and 12 RFA’s, there may be nothing left for any major free-agent signings. The Oilers hold the 14th selection in this year’s draft. However, they only hold four selections in the draft and only one in the first four rounds. What they will do with the 14th selection will be crucial to their future. Here is a look at some Edmonton Oilers trades and signings that may happen this offseason.
Edmonton Oilers Trades in 2019-20 Offseason
Oilers Free Agents
As mentioned the Oilers have a total of 23 players that are in need of a new contract. These player’s consist of UFA’s Riley Sheahan, Tyler Ennis, Patrick Russell, Mike Smith, Brandon Manning, Markus Granlund, Tomas Jurco, Brad Malone, Josh Currie, Keegan Lowe, and Shane Starrett (group six contract) and an RFA group consisting of Andreas Athanasiou, Matt Benning, Ethan Bear, Ryan Mantha, Ryan Kuffner, Nolan Vesey, Cameron Hebig, Logan Day, William Lagesson and Angus Redmond.
First the UFA’s. There is speculation that the Oilers will not be bringing back Sheahan. The Oilers will also most likely not be bringing back Smith, Manning, Granlund and Jurco. The departure of Smith will most likely be based on what the goalie market looks like. As well as whether or not the Oilers are able to afford one either via trade or free agency. It is believed that the Oilers will bring Ennis back. The likes of Malone, Currie and Lowe could all be signed to two-way deals. Two players of note that the Oilers will most likely re-sign are Patrick Russell and Shane Starrett.
Russell has played parts of two seasons (2018-20) with the Oilers as a call up playing in 51 games posting five points and is viewed as someone who could be an option on the fourth line. Shane Starrett is quite an interesting case. He has been the starter for the Oilers AHL team in Bakersfield the past two seasons and with the Oilers top goalie prospects now having all turned pro there may be no room for Starrett. The Oilers could decide to bring him back. However, it would be a competitor for their young prospects in net.
The RFA’s are a completely different matter. The likes of Athanasiou, Benning and Bear will be their main targets to resign this summer. Firstly let’s get rid of the other RFA’s the Oilers have coming off the books this summer. Mantha, Kuffner, Vesey, Hebig, Day and Redmond will either be brought back on two-way deals or not at all. William Lagesson is another interesting player for the Oilers. The Oilers could bring him back on a two-way deal and have him as an option to call-up or have as a seventh defenseman, or they could trade him for picks as he is a fairly good defenseman who is capable of playing third-pairing minutes in the NHL.
Now for the three players that hold the most intrigue for Oilers fans.
Athanasiou is an interesting case as the Oilers do have arbitrary rights. However, most people, namely Jason Gregor of TSN 1260, believe that the Oilers should avoid taking the case to arbitration as they would most likely end up having to pay Athanasiou in the range of the three million he is currently making. For the Oilers, it would be better to have him sign a deal worth less than three million on a two or three-year deal.
What a year for Ethan Bear to shine. In a contract year, Bear went from AHL call up to top-four NHL defenseman. Now the question remains, does he sign a bridge deal worth around three to three and a half million? Or do the Oilers try to sign him long term? A long term contract for Bear would most likely be a five or six-year deal. It would come in the four or five million range. Which at the moment may seem undoable.
If the cap does eventually begin to rise again in the next four or five years, then a long term deal makes sense. However, living in the uncertain times we live in this is not a guarantee. Pre-COVID it was agreed among hockey pundits in Edmonton that the Oilers needed to lock up Bear to a long term deal. Now the Oilers may just have to sign him to a bridge deal.
Benning may be the easiest of the Oilers three major RFA’s to sign this offseason. He is currently making just under two million and is not expected to get more than 2.5. Although many fans oftentimes say he does nothing, Benning was one of the Oilers best D-men in their play-in series lost to the Blackhawks. He is a capable bottom pairing defenseman who gets shots through traffic and on net. The Oilers could lock him up for two or three years on a good cap hit and have a serviceable defenseman at their disposal.
Regardless of how Ken Holland gets his RFA’s and UFA’s signed, there will be little to no room to add to this Oilers team come free agency.
The Oilers hold one pick in the first four rounds. They do have the option however of deferring their third-round pick next year to the Calgary Flames if they so choose. The Oilers hold the fourteenth pick in the first round and there are a few players that they could and should target.
Yaroslav Askarov is viewed by many as the best goalie to enter the draft since Carey Price. Askarov is good downlow and is calm in his crease with very little panic to his game. Although Askarov most likely won’t be available at fourteen, if he is the Oilers need to be the team to take him. By taking Askarov the Oilers solidify their future in net and could have him as their starter in no less than four years. This is a risky pick for a team that needs offence but it could be a risk worth taking.
Noel Gunler is viewed as an absolute no-no in the top 10 by most, however, if a team is smart they will take the young Swedish goalscorer early. If he were to fall to the Oilers they would be getting a player that has an elite shot and is capable of getting into the high danger areas. He is also an excellent skater however, he could add some separation speed to his stride. With Gunler the Oilers would add a much-needed goalscorer to their system and a potential offensive threat to play with McDavid.
Rodion Amirov is another interesting prospect for the Oilers. He is viewed as a good two-way player with a goalscoring touch. He is a great skater and possesses a quick shot. One thing that he does that makes him an interesting player for the Oilers is his motor, which is always running. In the play-in round this year there was only one game (Game 2) where the Oilers forecheck was effective and that will need to change. With Amirov he will need to get more physically involved in plays but once he does he could be a very good forechecker.
Dawson Mercer is viewed as the best stick handler in the draft. He possesses excellent hands and is good in all three zones. He is capable of creating offence and is willing to backcheck and help support his defensemen. With Mercer, the Oilers would be getting a guy who is a good overall passer on both his forehand and backhand and above-average skating ability. He plays with an edge which for many Oilers fans would be welcome.
Honourable Mentions: Seth Jarvis, Jan Myšák, Jack Quinn and Dylan Holloway
With little to no cap space available, there is no real game-changing player available for less than four million. However, if the Oilers managed to find the cap space there are two positions they should consider upgrading or adding to.
With questions surrounding Mikko Koskinen as the Oiler number one goalie, adding a potential one B option could prove vital for the Oilers.
The Oilers could opt to bring back Mike Smith, however, there are better options available. Names such as Robin Lehner and Jacob Markstrom have been tossed around in Edmonton and could be options. However, the price they would come at may be too steep for the Oilers to afford.
Another option may also be pricing himself out of contention thanks to his current playoff performance in Anton Khudobin. However, there is little reason to believe that the Dallas Stars won’t re-sign him. Therefore there may be little to no way for the Oilers to afford a potential goalie who can push Koskinen and potentially be their number one for certain stretches in the season.
With the Oilers seemingly lack of will to forecheck the opposition in the play-in round, the Oilers need to find more dog on the bone bottom-six forwards. There may be a few options that could be within their price range. One player the Oilers should look at is Boston Bruins forward Joakim Nordstrom, he is not the flashiest guy but he gets into the opposition’s face and is able to grind play out along the boards in the offensive zone. He would also be a great fit in the Oilers bottom six.
Potential Edmonton Oilers Trades
There is little to no money for the Oilers to use on free agents. So, Edmonton Oilers trades will most likely be the place to look for help. There has been speculation that the Oilers may look to trade one or two of either Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse or Adam Larsson. Out of these three, it would make the most sense to only trade away Larsson due to injury concerns, Nurse may get them a better return. Despite that, trading Nurse may not be the best solution for their team’s defence.
Some names for Edmonton Oilers trades or opportunities to trade for are Matt Murray, Andreas Johnsson, Frederik Andersen, Tristan Jarry and Nikolaj Ehlers. Of these names, the Oilers most likely only have enough assets for one maybe two if Holland can make it work.
If the Oilers managed to pry one of the Pittsburgh Penguins young netminders out of the Steel city they would be set in net for at least the next three years. Matt Murray would most likely be the target of the two as he is an RFA this year and may need to sign a show-me deal this time around and could come cheap enough.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, on the other hand, could be a potential trade partner as they are in need of a right-shot defenseman. The Oilers may be willing to offload Larsson. The Oilers would most likely ask for Johnsson as he would be an excellent addition to the forwards and could be an option on McDavid’s wing.
Edmonton Oilers trades will be the cause of any major changes to the Oilers roster this offseason. Any other addition will be for depth in free agency. The Oilers will need to pull themselves back up next year and try to prove that their play-in round lost was a simple fluke. This year’s Edmonton Oilers off-season may be the one that dictates the team’s successes and path in the near future.