Every year since 2015, I’ve gone through the list of potential off-season targets for the Edmonton Oilers one by one in the lead up to free agency. This year, with the condensed off-season and other factors, we’ll be doing a shortened version of off-season targets. Instead of looking at every player individually, we’ll go position by position in the lead up the expected rush next week.
A trade and signing freeze will go into effect on Saturday just a few hours before expansion lists are due for teams. This will last until the conclusion of the Seattle expansion draft on Wednesday night. During that window, teams can only make trades with the Kraken.
After that? It’s a mad dash off-season that will see the NHL Entry Draft go Friday and Saturday (July 23rd and 24th) and then free agency open the following Wednesday, July 28th.
The Edmonton Oilers, in case you haven’t heard, expect to be in the middle of the fray. GM Ken Holland will be active as he admits the “time to win is now” for this group of Oilers.
Among the areas Holland must address? Adding a bonafide top-six left winger, adding another middle-six winger, adding a third line center, adding a goaltender and likely adding depth at both forward and defense.
There will be other moves too. The club is working hard to trade the final year of goaltender Mikko Koskinen’s contract, and could be getting close to something. A buyout of forward James Neal is also quite likely following the expansion draft.
With that said, this series will focus solely on the potential additions that the Oilers could make over the next few weeks.
We start with the most pressing position, the left wing spot. Edmonton is certainly going to add at least one winger this summer, but could double-dip depending on what else shakes loose.
Here are the off-season targets at left wing.
Zach Hyman (UFA, Toronto Maple Leafs): Hyman is both Edmonton’s top target at left wing and will be leaving Toronto. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported on Thursday that Hyman has been given permission by the Leafs to speak with other teams. Last week, Dreger specifically mentioned the Oilers as a team that could trade for Hyman’s rights.
Hyman scored 33 points (15 g, 18 a) in 43 games in 2021, finishing with a +19 rating. His underlying numbers for Toronto this past season were also outstanding. With Hyman on the ice at five-on-five, the Maple Leafs had a 52.26% Corsi For, 53.57% Fenwick For, 66.67% of the goals, 59.95% of the expected goals (xGF%), and 59.94% of the scoring chances.
Now, of course, the Maple Leafs have some outstanding talent up front that could skew Hyman’s numbers. Without Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, Hyman was still impressive at even strength. He had a Corsi For of 54.61% without the two star players, 65% of the goals, 61.60% of the expected goals, and 62.15% of the scoring chances.
Regardless of who he played with, the puck was going in the right direction with Hyman on the ice. He also put up the points to match, and is undoubtedly a top-six forward in the NHL. At 29, he’s still likely got a few good seasons left.
Hyman is a good player who would get a top-six role on merit. He’d also instantly upgrade Edmonton’s forward group. The lone concern? His contract is likely to be an overpay, especially when it comes to term.
Taylor Hall (UFA, Boston Bruins): Hall is included because he’d be a perfect fit for the club, can drive his own line and the Oilers were interested in him prior to the April 12th trade deadline. Hall was dreadful in Buffalo this past season, scoring just 19 points (2 g, 17 a) in 37 games before his trade to Boston.
With the Bruins, Hall scored 14 points (8 g, 6 a) in 16 games and helped provide the Bruins with a strong second line alongside David Krejci and Craig Smith. Hall finished the playoffs with five points (3 g, 2 a) in eleven games as the Bruins fell in six games to the New York Islanders in the second round.
There is mutual interest between Hall and the Bruins on a new contract, and a Boston source has confirmed to us that Hall has also been looking a real estate in the Boston area. One current Bruin even expressed that Hall staying is much more likely than not.
The Oilers are hoping the player reaches free agency, but that doesn’t seem likely to be the case. Hall appears to be staying in Boston, and a deal is likely to be signed post-expansion.
Tomas Tatar (UFA, Montreal Canadiens): Tatar and the Canadiens are on the path to a ‘mutual’ breakup after Tatar was scratched for most of the Habs’ playoff run. It was a baffling decision, considering Tatar has been one of the team’s best five-on-five producers over the last three seasons.
Tatar had 61 points (22 g, 29 a) in 68 games for the Canadiens in 2019-20, then tacked on 30 points (10 g, 20 a) in 50 games this season. On top of that, Tatar was a possession demon this past season. He posted a Corsi For of 62.3% (12.5 rel) and a 61.6% Fenwick For (12.6 rel), while the Canadiens got 60.63% of the shots, 50.82% of the goals and 59.79% of the scoring chances with Tatar on the ice at even strength.
On top of that, the Canadiens had an xGF% of 56.79% with Tatar on the ice. His playoff scratches likely cost Tatar millions of dollars, but he’s done nothing but produce at five-on-five over the last three seasons.
Tatar is familiar to GM Ken Holland from his time in Detroit, and sources confirm that the Oilers will have interest in him when he hits the market.
The sell here could be a one-year deal at lesser money to rebuild his value. The Oilers can point to Tyson Barrie and what he accomplished this past season, and put Tatar in their top-nine with some powerplay time.
It wouldn’t be a shock if the Oilers added Tatar and someone like Hyman in free agency.
Mike Hoffman (UFA, St. Louis Blues): The Oilers sniffed around Hoffman both last October in free agency and in April at the deadline. Hoffman instead opted to sign with the St. Louis Blues last fall, believing the Blues were closer to a Stanley Cup. After a tough year, St. Louis flirted with selling at the deadline, but elected to stand pat in hopes of making the playoffs.
After a first round sweep at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, changes are coming for GM Doug Armstrong. Allowing Hoffman to walk as a free agent is apparently going to be one of those changes.
Hoffman is a strong scorer with a lethal shot, but is limited as a player. Hoffman is more powerplay guru than he is five-on-five scorer, and he comes with real warts to his defensive game.
Hoffman did manage 36 points (17 g, 19 a) in 52 games this past season, and was on pace for his seventh straight 20 goal season. Hoffman is a one-dimensional player, but that dimension is an extremely important one.
Hoffman posted a 42.04% xGF% this past season with the Blues, and was below 50% in most possession metrics at even strength. He can score, and he can help a powerplay, but Hoffman is merely a complementary player at five-on-five.
Mattias Janmark (UFA, Vegas Golden Knights): Acquired at the trade deadline from the Blackhawks, Janmark is likely leaving Vegas as a free agent this summer. The 28-year-old has been connected to the Oilers, and could be a decent third line option for the club.
Janmark scored 19 points (10 g, 9 a) in 41 games with Chicago prior to the deadline, then tacked on five more points (1 g, 4 a) in 15 games with the Golden Knights. Janmark appeared in 16 playoff games this spring and scored eight points (4 g, 4 a) as Vegas advanced to the Stanley Cup Semifinals.
Janmark was a negative possession player in Chicago, but rebounded nicely in Vegas. He posted a 57% Corsi For (3.7 rel) with the Golden Knights in 15 regular season games after a 42.7% (-5.8 rel) mark with the Blackhawks.
If signed, Janmark is probably best used as a third line option at five-on-five who can help kill penalties. That’s the role he played successfully in Vegas.
Rickard Rakell (Anaheim Ducks): The Anaheim Ducks were once again near the bottom of the NHL standings in 2020-21. This is a team that is clearly in the middle of a rebuild, and Rakell is a year away from unrestricted free agency and could provide the Ducks with more draft picks and prospects.
Rakell is a two-time 30 goal scorer, but hasn’t hit that mark since the 2017-18 campaign. Since then, Rakell has managed seasons of 18, 15 (65 games, COVID) and nine goals. He hasn’t produced at nearly the same level since the Ducks went into rebuild mode.
Still, there is potential value here. Rakell is a strong complementary goal scorer who hasn’t had a center able to set him up since the Ducks shifted away from their older core group. Anaheim has also been one of the worst teams in the league at creating offense during that time span, both scoring chances and goals.
Should the Oilers acquire Rakell, he’d likely play with one of McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. That could be a reason to be optimistic that Rakell will have a big year should the club pull the trigger.
There are two issues here, however. One, is Rakell more of a 20 goal guy than the 30 goal player he was three years ago? Two, can Edmonton pay the price required? The Oilers lack draft capital and may be forced to give up the 19th overall pick in next week’s draft. That likely isn’t something Holland wants to do. Prospect wise, Edmonton doesn’t have many valuable pieces that they would be willing to move.
Rakell makes sense as a trade option, but Edmonton may not have the required pieces to get this done, especially if a bidding war ensues. Heck, perhaps the Ducks take Rakell into the season, see what happens and then move him at the deadline if they fall out of contention in the weak Pacific Division.
Jake DeBrusk (Boston Bruins): If the Bruins get their expected deal with Hall done, DeBrusk is almost certainly going to be traded. After a strong start to his career, DeBrusk has experienced a power outage over the last two seasons. He found himself scratched at points this season, and doesn’t seem to be a fit with Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.
From a pure player perspective, DeBrusk is actually a really good fit for Edmonton. In two of his most recent three seasons, he was a lock to score 20 goals. There is a player there. DeBrusk, who is 6′ and 194 pounds, is not afraid to throw the body and play a power game if needed. His style is also a good match for playoff hockey, which Edmonton needs more of.
He’s clearly a top-six forward when right, and could experience a boost playing with either McDavid or Draisaitl. With all due respect to Krejci at this stage of his career, DeBrusk has never really been given an extended look with an elite center like he would in Edmonton.
Trading for DeBrusk should provide the Oilers with a top-six left winger who can pop 20 goals and play a physical style. He’s not a perfect player, but if he’s replacing Dominik Kahun on last year’s roster, it’s a real improvement for the club.
Even this past season, when the counting numbers weren’t the best for DeBrusk, he was still solid in possession. DeBrusk finished 2020-21 with a 52.1% Corsi For, 53.4% Fenwick For, 52.97% xGF% (expected goals), 53.33% of the goals scored while on the ice and 49.77% of the scoring chances.
This could be a good chance for the Oilers to acquire a player at his lowest value. It would be a nice change of pace, depending on the price.
Brandon Saad (UFA, Colorado Avalanche): If the Avalanche figure things out with Gabriel Landeskog, then Saad will be looking for another team on July 28th. If not, then the door opens back up for Saad to return to the Avalanche, who he enjoyed a strong season with in 2020-21. Bet your money on Landeskog re-signing in Denver.
Saad checks a lot of boxes for the Oilers, as he’s a proven winner who can capably fill a top-six forward spot, score goals and play a physical style. More of a complementary player than a driver, Saad scored 15 goals in 44 games this past season, well on pace for a third consecutive 20 goal season.
In fact, Saad has been incredibly consistent when it comes to goal scoring. He had 21 goals in 2019-20 prior to the COVID-19 pause, and prior to that had scored 20 goals in five of his last six seasons.
Saad was also a positive possession player with the Avalanche this past season, posting a 59.5% Corsi For (3.2 rel) and 58.6% Fenwick For (2.0 rel) at five-on-five. At even strength, the Avalanche got 57.19% of the shots, 50.82% of the goals, 56.59% of the expected goals and 56.49% of the scoring chances with Saad on the ice.
At only 28, Saad surely still has some good hockey left in him. He’s a proven top-six forward, a quality leader and would fit Edmonton’s needs like a glove. One could argue, that with teams fighting over Hyman, that Saad should be Edmonton’s top choice in the free agent market.
Barclay Goodrow (UFA, Tampa Bay Lightning): Make no mistake, Goodrow isn’t the winger you sign to play with McDavid. Still, if the Oilers want to improve their scoring depth, then this is a player to look at for the revamped third line.
Goodrow scored 20 points (6 g, 14 a) in 55 games this past season while playing a depth role on the back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions. He brings pedigree, brings size (6’2″, 215 pounds), brings physicality and brings depth scoring. Quite frankly, he fits what the Oilers are looking for perfectly in the bottom-six.
The Lightning scored 62.90% of the goals with Goodrow on the ice at even strength this past season, and had an xGF% of 62.30%. For an Edmonton team that was embarrassingly bad in the bottom-six a season ago, this would be a major, major upgrade.
On top of that, Goodrow also played over 130 minutes on the penalty kill for Tampa Bay last season, and would be an asset in the game state.
There will be a market for Goodrow, though, and it could price him out of Edmonton’s range. Among the many teams expected to be in on him, the Boston Bruins have cap space to play with in free agency.
Joel Armia (UFA, Montreal Canadiens): Armia is an interesting fit in a lot of ways. He’s got size (6’4″, 210 pounds), versatility (plays both wings) and is a strong five-on-five player. He’s also a free agent, and it’s questionable if the Canadiens will be able to get a new contract done with him.
Armia scored 14 points (7 g, 7 a) in 41 games this past season and had strong possession numbers. He also had a solid playoff, scoring eight points (5 g, 3 a) in 21 games. Armia also played a regular shift on the penalty kill for the Habs in 2020-21, and could be relied upon in that area by Dave Tippett if he signed in Edmonton.
Armia is a name to keep an eye on largely because he fits the club’s needs, but also because his name has been tossed around quite a bit by local media. Usually when there is this much smoke, there is fire. Perhaps a deal won’t get done, but Edmonton will certainly call if Armia hits the market.