Some more Edmonton Oilers news hit the wire on Thursday as the rumors continue to pick up steam in advance of the Seattle expansion draft, NHL Entry Draft and the opening of free agency over the next 12 days. Among the news, the Oilers were heavily connected to a prime UFA forward and continue to grind away with one of their own.
Leading The Hyman Pack?
On Thursday morning, TSN NHL insider Darren Dreger tweeted out that the Toronto Maple Leafs have given forward Zach Hyman and his agent, Todd Reynolds, permission to speak with other NHL teams. The idea is that if Hyman finds a deal he likes, the Leafs could trade his rights to said team prior to the bidding war starting on July 28th.
Sources have been adamant that Hyman is the Oilers’ top target in free agency and that the club will be aggressive in its pursuit of the forward. In fact, Dreger himself said something similar in a radio hit last week.
“If I’m Kenny Holland in Edmonton, I’m approaching Kyle Dubas very soon,” Dreger said last Wednesday on TSN 1050 in Toronto. “I’m saying ‘alright, what is it going to take’, I want an opportunity to get to Zach Hyman earlier, I want to jump the gun. It doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen where player’s rights are traded and then there’s an opportunity to obviously get a look and to have the negotiation and get on with it.”
Dreger brought up Holland and the Oilers in regards to Hyman unprovoked. He was asked about the possibility of Hyman being a target for the expansion Seattle Kraken, but named Edmonton instead.
“I think that Edmonton covets Zach Hyman,” Dreger continued. “Not alone, obviously lots of teams with that level of interest.”
On Thursday, Kevin McGran of the ‘Toronto Star‘ reported that the Oilers are one of the frontrunners for Hyman’s services. The Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks were named as the other two teams, while the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings were among the teams also lurking in the sweepstakes.
Hyman is likely to require a seven or eight year term on his new contract, which could rightfully scare some teams away. Hyman is a good player, but it is a massive risk to sign someone who is 28-years-old and plays a physical style to a long-term contract. The AAV, meanwhile, is certainly going to be over $5,000,000 per year. In fact, it may hit the $6,000,000 mark according to sources.
Smith Talks Positive, But Going Slow
Oilers GM Ken Holland was pretty clear at his end of year press conference in May when asked about Mike Smith returning for a third season in Edmonton. He wants the veteran netminder back.
Just 12 days before free agency, however, Smith doesn’t have a new contract with the Oilers. Negotiations have been ongoing, but progress has come slowly, perhaps slower than both sides would like.
Dreger updated the talks on Thursday night on TSN’s ‘Insider Trading‘.
“The Edmonton Oilers continue to negotiate with veteran goaltender Mike Smith,” Dreger said during the segment. “I’m told the talks are positive. I think we can all understand how busy Ken Holland has been as of late, starting with the Duncan Keith trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. I’m told they are negotiating to get things done, it’s a slow moving process. I’m also told that if Mike Smith becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 28th, despite the fact that his best years are likely behind him, there are clubs with interest. The Oilers have some work to do.”
The Oilers are hoping that a new contract with Smith gets done ahead of July 28th. The club ideally wants Smith for at least one more season, and wants to pair him with a younger goaltender. In order to accomplish that, the Oilers are shopping goaltender Mikko Koskinen on the trade market. A deal could come to fruition over the course of the next few days.
The club is also expected to be involved when it comes to UFA netminder Chris Driedger, who just enjoyed a terrific breakout season with the Florida Panthers.