Oilers Still Searching UFA Market For Help

K Holland

Ken Holland, five days ago, told the Edmonton media that he didn’t think he was done making adjustments to his roster. Since then, the club has made the Gaetan Haas signing official and inked eighth overall pick Philip Broberg to his entry-level contract. Both of those moves came as no surprise.

Holland continues to look at both the free agent and trade markets for help as he attempts to make Edmonton a playoff team in 2020. The long-term goal is to build a “powerhouse team” in the Western Conference, but Holland knows the importance of fighting for and making the playoffs in 2019-20.

Moving the Milan Lucic contract via trade is still near the top of Holland’s list. The Fourth Period reported a few days ago that when the LA Kings looked into F Jesse Puljujarvi, the Oil tried to attach Lucic to the deal. It was a non-starter for the Kings.

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Sources indicate that LA isn’t the only team the Oil tried that with. Both the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning have shown interest in Puljujarvi. Boston is attempting to unload David Backes and had no interest in Lucic. Lucic wasn’t even a conversation with the cap-strapped Bolts.

While Holland continues to try to move the Lucic deal and find the right fit for Puljujarvi, he’s also looking at the UFA market. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector was the first to report on July 1st that Edmonton is in the mix for Patrick Maroon.

The Oil are still in the Maroon mix, but he isn’t their first choice at this time. Edmonton is hoping that Marcus Johansson’s two-year deal with an AAV of $4,500,000 is a sign of things to come. Johansson signed with Buffalo early on Saturday.

Even after a terrific playoff in which Johansson scored eleven points (4-7-11) in 22 playoff games, he was forced to take a slight pay decrease on a short contract. Johansson’s $4,500,000 deal is actually a decrease of $83,333 per season. That caught a lot of people by surprise.

Holland and the Oil are hoping this will open up the second wave of free agents and perhaps present some value deals. Confirmed by Jason Gregor of TSN1260 and Oilersnation on Saturday, the club has interest in UFA’s Ryan Dzingel and Derick Brassard. Both fit the Edmonton roster and could fill major holes.

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Brassard could fill Edmonton’s void on the third line. The club currently doesn’t have a center behind Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but Brassard is an established NHL’er that might be willing to take a one-year deal to build his value back up.

He was a strong player, both by possession metrics and boxcars, until a trade to Pittsburgh at the 2018 trade deadline. He struggled for parts of two seasons with the Pens, then found himself with both the Panthers and Avalanche within a few weeks of each other. A whirlwind 2018-19 ended in Colorado, where he scored four goals in 20 games.

Brassard only posted 23 points (14-9-23) in 70 games with the Penguins, Panthers and Avalanche during a nightmare campaign. Prior to that? Brassard posted seasons of 45, 60, 58, 39 and 46 points. His track record indicates he’s a strong middle-six center who can provide secondary scoring and solid possession metrics. He had a positive Corsi Rel every season until 2017-18 when he ended up with Pittsburgh.

He wasn’t a fit with the Penguins, but could be a really solid buy-low option for a club like Edmonton. Brassard, who is a left-shot center, could also get powerplay time in Edmonton.

Dzingel, meanwhile, would be the 20-goal scorer that Holland said he is looking for. Dzingel has scored at least 20 goals in each of the last two seasons and has emerged as a top-six forward in the NHL.

Dzingel scored a total of 26 goals this past season, 22 with Ottawa in 57 games and another four in 21 tilts with Columbus. It’s hard to imagine him not hitting 20 playing with either Connor McDavid or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Prior to his 26 tallies this past season, Dzingel scored 23 playing on a pitiful Ottawa team in 2017-18. He’s improved his goal scoring every season since entering the NHL on a full-time basis in 2016-17. He’s a terrific bet, and if he can be had on a short-term contract of one or two years, Edmonton will be in business.

Final Thoughts:

As I said on July 2nd, I’m willing to give Ken Holland the benefit of the doubt when he says he isn’t done making moves. Edmonton’s off-season has been underwhelming to this point, but Holland has done everything he has said he would.

When he says he wants to add a third line center and a 20-goal scorer, I believe him. His interest in both Brassard and Dzingel, and to a lesser degree Maroon, reinforces that point.

If Holland can come away with both Dzingel and Brassard on short-term deals that could bring value to Edmonton, his summer will be looked at in a very different manner.

Holland continues to work the trade and free agent lines for help. Eventually, the market is going to break open again. That’s when the veteran GM must be able to strike.

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