If you are an Edmonton Oilers fan, you may want to buckle up. On Thursday morning, TSN NHL Insider Frank Seravalli unloaded an insane amount of rumor and speculation surrounding the club. This comes a morning after rumors began to swirl on Wednesday.
The full report, which can be found on TSN.ca, is here.
Athanasiou, Benning Moving On?:
“The Oilers are attempting to find a taker for either restricted free agent Andreas Athanasiou and/or Matt Benning, both of whom will likely not receive a qualifying offer due to lack of cap space.”
This does not come as a surprise. With a flat cap of $81,500,000 for the 2020-21 season and potentially beyond, the Oilers cannot afford these two depth pieces. Considering the club paid two second-round picks and Sam Gagner for Athanasiou, it is paramount that GM Ken Holland get an asset back for the pending RFA.
It is unclear what the market for each player will be, and it is possible the Oilers decline to qualify both players but attempt to sign them to contracts less than their qualifying offer. Sources indicate that could be the plan for both if a trade does not present itself.
Getting one second-round pick back, perhaps from a pick rich team like Ottawa or Montreal, could be the play with Athanasiou.
Changes are coming to the blueline. In addition to Benning’s departure, it is highly unlikely we see veteran Oscar Klefbom next season. Klefbom is dealing with a “lingering” shoulder issue and is “weighing his options” at this time. Surgery is possible, and if that is the route he goes Klefbom is likely to miss the entire 2020-21 season.
That’s a massive blow to the Oilers.
As a result, the club has talked with the Arizona Coyotes about Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Club insider Bob Stauffer openly speculated about UFA Tyson Barrie on a one-year ‘prove-it’ deal on Wednesday.
Seravalli discussed the latest surrounding the Oilers and Ekman-Larsson.
“The Oilers are believed to have had preliminary discussions on acquiring defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, the new No. 1 on the Trade Bait board, from Arizona. But there is a financial component to the potential transaction that would need to involve Arizona retaining a portion of Ekman-Larsson’s salary, which the Coyotes have not been willing to budge on. Top-end defensive prospect Evan Bouchard (No. 46) and the Oilers’ first-round pick could be involved in a deal.”
A potential alternative to the Coyotes retaining salary? Taking back a contract like Kris Russell, Zack Kassian or James Neal. In the case of Neal, he could be included in the trade and then bought out.
Trade Talks Bruin’:
Here is what I wrote in this space on September 23rd regarding a trade between the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers.
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.
Now, here is what Seravalli wrote about that topic on Thursday.
“Sources say the Oilers engaged the Boston Bruins on a left/right wing swap, Alex Chiasson for Anders Bjork. (Assistant GM Keith Gretzky drafted Bjork in Boston.) We’ll see where that goes, but the Oilers are pursuing a number of similar left/right swaps with other teams.”
Edmonton’s interest in Bjork goes back years, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them once again checking in on his availability. Seravalli does mention that the Oilers have interest in Bruins RFA Jake DeBrusk, but that the price is likely to be too high.
Although DeBrusk is on the trade block, sources indicate it is uncertain if the Bruins will actually pull the trigger and move him.
Keep Nuge Forever, Or Bring Hall Home?:
Servalli dropped an interesting tidbit surrounding core piece Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. A free agent on July 1st, 2021, Nugent-Hopkins is eligible to sign a contract extension. The Oilers are exploring that, and long-term contract talks have taken place.
“The Oilers are believed to have made recent progress with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ camp on a long-term extension. Nugent-Hopkins, 27, is entering the final year of his deal at $6 million. There may actually be some urgency to getting a deal done sooner rather than later, or at the very least knowing in concrete terms whether there is a deal to be had.”
Now, what happens if there isn’t common ground on a contract extension? Well, Holland would then go to the trade market with Nugent-Hopkins, perhaps adding picks and prospects for the veteran.
His replacement? Ideally, it would be an old friend.
“If Nugent-Hopkins is not in the fold, sources suggest the Oilers are interested in targeting Taylor Hall if he were to hit the free agent market.”
Further to Seravalli’s report, sources indicated in November that the Oilers were engaged with the New Jersey Devils on trade talks for Hall. Holland was not prepared to pay that price, however.
Aiming High In Goal:
Initially, the thought process coming into the offseason was that the Oilers would target a tandem goalie to play with Mikko Koskinen. That may not be the case now. Seravalli reports that Holland is aiming higher, looking for a starter to come to Northern Alberta.
“The Oil have already been linked to Trade Bait in Matt Murray (No. 4), Darcy Kuemper (No. 21) and Petr Mrazek. Free agency is just nine days away and there is a slew of starters available, with many wondering whether the Oilers would take a run at Jacob Markstrom if he makes it to market.”
Pierre LeBrun mentioned the club’s potential interest in Markstrom on Tuesday night. Mrazek, meanwhile, is seen as more of a “Plan B” for the organization. It certainly seems like Mike Smith will not be back in Edmonton in 2020-21.