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The Edmonton Oilers have three proven top-six forwards on their roster. In Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton has immense speed and skill. It’s everything else that is a problem.
The club employed players like Zack Kassian, Milan Lucic, Jesse Puljujarvi and Ty Rattie in top-six roles during the past season. All of those players have their uses and are at various stages of their development, but none of them are top-six NHL forwards at this stage.
Ken Holland, if he wants to make good on his goal of making the playoffs next April, needs to add at least one proven player to his mix of top-six forwards.
Enter Tyler Johnson of the cap-strapped Tampa Bay Lightning.
Why Is He Out There?:
Johnson carries a $5,000,000 AAV on a contract that runs through the 2023-24 season. He’s locked up long-term in Tampa Bay and is commanding a solid chunk of cap space. Now, Johnson is a very good player and a key top-six forward for the Bolts, but he’s a luxury.
The Lightning have ample skill on their roster and more coming from their AHL affiliate in Syracuse. With contracts due for Brayden Point, Adam Erne, Cedric Paquette, Anton Stralman and Braydon Coburn, decisions need to be made.
Not everyone will be back, but players will need to be replaced and the Bolts will certainly want to get involved in the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes should he go to market. There isn’t enough money to accomplish it all, and moving someone like Johnson for cap relief might be the team’s best option.
What Does He Do Well?:
Johnson has hit the 20-goal mark in each of the last two seasons and in three of the last five. He sniped home a career-high 29 goals (tied with 2014-15) this past season and finished the year with boxcars of 29-18-47.
Johnson is a really good fit for what Edmonton is looking for this summer. He’s a goal scorer, proven top-six forward at the NHL-level, is relatively affordable and brings quickness and speed to the table. For an Edmonton team lacking both speed and skill upfront, Johnson would be a godsend.
He’s proven he can play with skill, lining up with guys like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov in recent seasons. He’d have no problem lining up with a McDavid, a Draisaitl or a Nugent-Hopkins. In fact, if you are going to trade for him, that’s exactly where you should slot him.
His best attribute might be the 27 goals he scored at even strength a season ago. The Oilers absolutely need to generate more goals at five-on-five, and Johnson had a monster season in the discipline for the Bolts.
He’s quick, he can score and he’s a top-six forward. He’s exactly what Holland and the Oilers need.
Here’s a look at Johnson’s scouting report via The Sports Forecaster.
Where Should He Play / Where Will He Play?:
Johnson, to me, is best suited as a second line forward. He’s got the ability to play on the top line, and I think he could in Edmonton with McDavid. That being said, he’s probably most effective on the second line.
He hasn’t been used too much on the powerplay in recent years, but did score eight goals at five-on-four in 2014-15. Perhaps with more opportunity, there would be room to improve. He’d get the looks in Edmonton.
With the Oilers, Johnson would be a candidate to play on the top-line with McDavid. I could see him teaming up with McDavid and Draisaitl as the right winger on that line.
What Will He Cost?:
Johnson’s long-term contract and Tampa’s cap concerns make this a deal where a team could acquire an asset for less than full value. The Bolts won’t just give Johnson away, but they are in need of cap space and likely would move him for futures.
Could Edmonton acquire Johnson for, say, a package built around prospect Jesse Puljujarvi? What about Puljujarvi and Ethan Bear for Johnson? One of those two players, Edmonton’s second rounder in Vancouver next week and a low-level prospect? There are options here.
The Edmonton Oilers’ biggest need this summer is on the wings. If the club wants to compete for and make the playoffs, they’ll need to acquire at least two players that can chip in 15-20 goals and not be a liability on the ice.
Johnson might be the perfect fit. He’s still relatively young, carries a fair cap hit, could be acquired for less than full value, and brings the lacking speed and skill to Edmonton’s roster.
Should Johnson be on the market, and I think there is a good chance he will be, Holland has to investigate it. It could be the exact move this club needs to kick off what should be a busy summer.