The Edmonton Oilers don’t have as many holes to fill this off-season as they have in previous ones. That said, GM Ken Holland will still have his hands full. The list is not as long, but it is filled with important roles that need to be tended to.
Before we look at the targets, let’s look back at the shopping list, which we came up with last week.
1. Find a tandem goalie: Mikko Koskinen will certainly be back next season. He makes $4.5 million for two more seasons, has a modified no-trade clause and was actually quite solid with a .917 save percentage. The Oilers will need to replace Mike Smith, who only posted a .902 save percentage and was largely ineffective for stretches.
There are plenty of options available both via free agency and trade. They include Thomas Greiss, Matt Murray, Casey DeSmith, Frederick Andersen, Aaron Dell, Devan Dubnyk, Alex Stalock, Antti Raanta, Corey Crawford and more.
2. Add a top-six winger: Re-signing Ennis will help in this regard, but the Oilers need a top-six winger to play with Connor McDavid. The second line should be set, with Draisaitl centering Nugent-Hopkins and Yamamoto.
McDavid doesn’t have any set wingers in my opinion. Kassian was non-existent after signing his extension, and there are rumblings the Oilers could move on.
Free agent options like Taylor Hall, Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov make lots of sense and are sexy acquisitions. A two-way forward like Andrew Cogliano, while not sexy, could be a valuable add as well. There are many ways to do this, but someone needs to be added to this forward group. A two-way option in this role is possible as well.
3. Add a third-line center: Sheahan was outstanding on the penalty kill, but was lacking at five-on-five. Fact of the matter is, the Oilers simply did not have a capable third-line center on their roster. Could Gaetan Haas emerge in year two of his North American career and take the job? Possibly, but it would be a risk to bet on that.
A money-for-money kind of trade could be the solution here. What if the Oilers moved, say, Kris Russell to Pittsburgh for Nick Bjugstad? The Penguins get a shutdown defenseman, the Oilers get a right-shot third center. It’s that type of trade that could fill this hole for the Oilers.
There are some free agents, like veteran Carl Soderberg, but not many.
4. Solve the Puljujarvi Dilemma: One way or another, the Jesse Puljujarvi saga needs to end this off-season. Both the player and team would benefit from it. Puljujarvi cannot afford another season outside of the NHL if he is going to establish himself as a player in this league. The Oilers need to recoup assets or find a spot for the player.
In an idea world, Puljujarvi returns as the right wing on the third-line next season. If not, Holland could cash him in for a draft pick, of which the Oilers are lacking, or use him to help unload an unwanted contract. Regardless, after a year in Europe, it feels like this saga is coming towards an end. A solution benefits everyone.