The NHL’s Entry Draft is slated for October 6th, 13 days from today. On Friday, we will officially be two weeks out from the start of free agency. That is set for October 9th at 12:00 pm eastern (10:00 am MT).
Whether or not the Edmonton Oilers are active remains to be seen. There are plenty of rumors, however. In fact, it seems like there are more rumors this offseason than there were a little over a year ago. Perhaps now, with a season under his belt, Ken Holland has a better idea of what he needs to add to this team.
Let’s take a look at all of the rumors surrounding the Oilers right now.
Shopping In The Desert?
Last summer, we saw Dave Tippett lobby to get former goalie Mike Smith to Edmonton. Holland, meanwhile, added former Red Wings Mike Green and Andreas Athanasiou during the season. Don’t be surprised if more former players make their way to Edmonton in the coming weeks.
The Arizona Coyotes are in shambles right now. The ownership situation is once again in flux, while the organization is set to lose Taylor Hall as a free agent and is spent in terms of draft capital. A rebuild is coming in Arizona, and some good veteran players are going to be moved out of town.
The Oilers have talked with the Coyotes about two impact veterans. One is defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who was elite under the eye of Tippett. OEL is coming off of a down year by his lofty standards, and carries a big ticket contract.
The other player the Oilers are interested in? Goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who posted an outstanding .928 save percentage in 29 games in 2019-20. This wasn’t a new thing either. Kuemper posted a .925 save percentage in 55 games during the 2018-19 season.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman confirmed the interest in his most recent ‘31 Thoughts‘ column.
A source told ‘The Oilers Rig’ that the interest in Ekman-Larsson is real, but the price could scare the Oilers away. The club isn’t overly inclined to move the 14th overall pick.
A different source indicated that the club’s 2021 first round pick could be in play, however.
Something Bruin In Boston?
Could Anders Bjork be a potential target for Holland? The Oilers do like Bjork, while a Bruins source indicated there is smoke surrounding a deal involving Bjork and veteran winger Alex Chiasson. Edmonton’s interest in Bjork is nothing new, either.
Moving Chiasson for Bjork would open $600,000 on the cap for the Oilers, and would give them a young player who is a better fit. Bjork has the skill set, and shot, to be a top-six forward in the NHL. He’s not going to get that chance in Boston while Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk patrol the wing.
Chiasson gives the Bruins more of what they are looking for in a veteran bottom-six forward who can help out a bit on the powerplay.
If Chiasson does get moved, a right wing spot opens on the NHL roster. Perhaps it opens the door for Jesse Puljujarvi to return, as many have speculated.
Keep An Eye To The South
New GM Bill Zito is starting to put his stamp on the Florida Panthers. Earlier today, Zito agreed to ship defenseman Mike Matheson to the Pittsburgh Penguins for veteran power forward Patric Hornqvist. That won’t be the last deal the Panthers make. They are looking to get tougher and they are looking to add character to their locker room.
Perhaps Zack Kassian could be of interest to the Panthers, who are looking for more of a physical edge. Veteran forward Brett Connolly, signed by ex-GM Dale Tallon, could be a potential trade chip for Zito. A one-for-one trade makes some sense between the teams. Connolly was a target for the Oilers last summer.
Kris Russell, who has a cap hit that exceeds his actual dollars owed in 2020-21, could be appealing to the Panthers in a trade as well.
Free Agent Frenzy:
One name that won’t go away with the Oilers in free agency? Veteran Finnish center Erik Haula. The Oilers badly need another center, and Haula will hit the open market after an up-and-down season split between the Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers.
Haula also could be a good mentor and linemate for Puljujarvi if he does in fact return to Edmonton.
Jimmy Howard certainly isn’t the sexy option in goal, and is a bad bet, but don’t be shocked if the Oilers check in on him. Holland likes Howard and has long had respect for him. Thomas Greiss is another name to watch if Holland elects to add his goalie via free agency.