The Edmonton Oilers made six selections this weekend as part of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, once again adding to a prospect system that has been bearing more fruit in recent seasons than any era in recent memory.
Now, the attention shifts from the prospects and the system to the NHL roster. GM Ken Holland knows he is under pressure to no longer just deliver playoff appearances, but to deliver playoff results. The veteran manager admits that “the time to win is now”, and many around the club believe Holland is working with a four year window to get his team on a deep run.
So far, it’s been an up-and-down off-season. Everyone liked, understandably, the eight-year contract extension for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The addition of Duncan Keith via trade, however, drew a much different reaction. Recently, the club lost top shutdown defender Adam Larsson to the Seattle Kraken, and re-signed veteran netminder Mike Smith to a two-year deal.
With all that in the background, what comes next for Holland and his team? It’s going to be a busy few days.
Zach Hyman Will Be An Oiler
Holland’s top priority entering the off-season was to acquire a top-six left winger for Connor McDavid. It will be Zach Hyman. Hyman was in town last week and agreed to terms on both seven and eight-year deals. The eight-year deal would have cut the cap hit down to roughly $5,000,000, but the Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs are currently too far away on potential compensation. A sign-and-trade appears unlikely at best.
The expectation at this point in time is that Hyman will sign a seven-year contract on Wednesday that will carry an AAV of $5,500,000. With Hyman in the fold, the Oilers are expected to run the following top-six on opening night when the Canucks come to town.
Zach Hyman – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
The Fates of James Neal and Mikko Koskinen Will Be Decided
Expect Neal to be bought out before the Tuesday deadline. His time in Northern Alberta has come to an end, as the extra $3,800,000 in cap space has become a more valuable asset. Holland tried to find a trade for Neal, but that looks highly unlikely at this point in time. The cost in assets to move Neal’s contract is simply too rich.
As for Koskinen, the priority is to move him. The Oilers have been in talks with numerous teams about a Koskinen trade. If a deal does come to fruition, the club will have to retain some salary or take a bad contract back. There’s also the possibility that the Oilers will buy Koskinen out, but Holland is trying to avoid having two buyouts added to the books.
There have been discussions about Koskinen with the Arizona Coyotes, while the Boston Bruins are expected to add a veteran netminder with Tuukka Rask’s health in great question.
Neal will certainly be gone in the coming days, while the Oilers will do everything they can to move Koskinen.
Expect a Busy Free Agent Period
Hyman will certainly sign on Wednesday, but he won’t be the only new Oiler. Holland is looking for a bottom-six center, a right-shot defenseman and a veteran winger for his bottom-six. Oh, and don’t forget about a goaltender to tandem with Smith for the next two seasons.
Two centers who really stand out are Derek Ryan and Luke Glendening. Both are right-shots, with Ryan bringing five-on-five success and Glendening being a solid penalty killer who can handle extreme defensive assignments.
Ryan played college hockey in Edmonton and has been connected to the club for years. Glendening, meanwhile, was procured in Detroit by Holland. The Oilers sniffed around him in the lead up to the trade deadline, but the price was considered too high. Sources confirm that the Oilers are hoping to talk to Glendening this week.
On defense, there are a few pending free agents that make sense for the club. Travis Hamonic prefers to play in Western Canada and has expressed interest in joining the Oilers before. The club is expected to speak with him in the coming days. David Savard, another pending UFA, is open to playing in Canada and does play the style that Adam Larsson did in Northern Alberta. Stylistically, he would appear to be a fit.
Savard, however, could be out of Holland’s price range. Pending UFA Cody Ceci, expected to leave the Pittsburgh Penguins, is also expected to be of interest.
Joel Armia was the ‘dream scenario’ for a bottom-six winger for Holland, but the Montreal Canadiens are expected to re-sign him to a multi-year deal in the coming days.
Tyler Benson and Dylan Holloway will be get looks in training camp, but Holland does want to add a veteran winger for both competition and leadership. Jordan Martinook of the Carolina Hurricanes is one name to keep an eye on, as is Tomas Tatar. Tatar is expected to sign a one-year deal in hopes of rebuilding his value.
In goal, the Oilers had eyes on Chris Driedger, but that’s no longer an option after he signed with the Kraken. Linus Ullmark, Jaroslav Halak and Petr Mrazek are expected to draw attention from the club on the free agent market.