What Should They Do? Oilers Have Tough Decisions With UFA’s

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at New York Islanders
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Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland will have some tough decisions to make in the lead up to free agency in October. Holland has limited cap space and a list of needs. He needs to find a goalie, a third line center, a top-six winger and very likely needs to change the complexion of his defense.

With limited resources, that is not an easy task. He’ll need to trim some of the fat off of his roster, and very likely will need to dump a salary or two via trade. That’s a discussion for another day, however.

Today, we are going to take a look at the pending free agents for the Edmonton Oilers. What should Holland do with them? Is there any value in keeping them?

We start with the UFA’s.


C Riley Sheahan: Sheahan signed with the Oilers in September and was an outstanding penalty killer for the club. Along with Josh Archibald, Sheahan helped turn the Oilers from one of the worst PK teams in the NHL to the second best.

He also won 49% of his faceoffs, which is decent number. Things fall off from there.

Sheahan could not handle a third line role at five-on-five. He had a 43.7% Corsi-For, which was -4.8 compared to his teammates. The Oilers didn’t get much offense out of him, and his line was more often than not defending.

(all stats via hockey-reference)

Sheahan is a fine fourth line center who can kill penalties, but that’s it. He’s not equipped to play on the third line, even though he is seeking to get paid as such.

Sheahan was a good bridge piece in 2019-20. That’s likely all for his Oilers career, however.

Verdict: Let him walk

G Mike Smith: Smith was signed at the request of Dave Tippett last summer. He won the starting job, looked great on opening night and then had a decent October. In November and December, Smith was awful. January? He was terrific.

Smith was up and down all season long, and finished with a .902 save percentage. In the end, although he brought leadership and some swagger, the overall performance wasn’t good enough. At 38, it’s hard to imagine Smith getting better.

He was also shelled in his lone playoff start, giving up five goal and taking the Game 1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks.

With a plethora of goalies, upgrades no less, on the market this October, there isn’t a good reason to bring Smith back.

Verdict: Let him walk

F Tyler Ennis: Acquired at the trade deadline from Ottawa, Ennis settled in and ended up taking a top-six role entering the playoffs. He dealt with a broken leg in Game 3, however, and didn’t finish the series.

On the season, Ennis scored 16 goals and finished with 37 points in 70 total games split between Edmonton and Ottawa. Two of those goals and a pair of assists came in nine regular season games with the Oilers.

Ennis skated with Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto in the playoffs, and didn’t look out of place. In two-and-a-half games, Ennis scored two points (1-1-2). He fit in with those two, and brought speed and skill that was lacking all season to the wing.

Ennis shouldn’t break the bank and has proven to fit in well on a skill line. With a flat cap, there is incentive to bringing back a cheap skilled winger who has chemistry with the core.

Verdict: Sign him

F Patrick Russell: Russell is a coach’s dream. He works hard, plays a tough style, can kill penalties and does all of the little things. He’s also extremely cheap, isn’t a liability and at least limits chances against. He’s a depth player at the NHL level and should be fine as a cheap 14th forward.

Russell, however, has zero career goals in 51 career games. He does have five assists, however, and one goal that was wiped out in 2019 against the Vancouver Canucks.

Verdict: Sign him as the 14th forward. He’s cheap and works hard.

D Mike Green: Acquired at the trade deadline from the Detroit Red Wings, Green played in parts of two games for the Oilers. He was hurt in his second game, didn’t return before ‘the pause’ and then opted out of the playoffs.

Oh, and according to Elliotte Friedman on his ‘31 Thoughts: The Podcast’, he is also retiring. Too bad. Dave Tippett seemed to like him based on usage that one night in Anaheim.

Verdict: Enjoy retirement, Mike!

D Brandon Manning: Manning’s Oilers tenure was a total disaster. He was acquired in a panic trade with the Chicago Blackhawks in December of 2018, struggled mightily in a depth role, and then was banished to the AHL two months later.

He played in nine games this season for the Oilers, but was relegated back to the AHL. He said all the right things last year, and made fans feel for the veteran. Then all that goodwill was thrown away when he used a racial slur in the AHL this past season. There’s just no good reason to bring him back.

Verdict: Very likely KHL bound after his disgusting incident

F Markus Granlund: Signed to add speed and skill to the depth ranks, Granlund just never panned out for the Oilers. He was a decent penalty killer and did contribute some secondary offense in November, but never found consistency. He was sent to the AHL in December, and never really found his way back. Full marks to the veteran for being a calming presence and a real pro on the farm.

He’s signed to play next season in the KHL with Salavat Yulaev Ufa.

Verdict: Gone

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