The Edmonton Oilers are on the brink of being eliminated by the Colorado Avalanche in their Western Conference Finals series. The Oilers haven’t played terribly, but the Avs have been the better team and if the Oilers lose out, specifically if they get swept, that will lead to questions about the roster.
All that said, even if Edmonton wins the next game, and then the next, and the next… changes to this roster are coming. Salary cap restrictions, an interesting contract situation playing out with Evander Kane, and possible extensions for certain players the Oilers absolutely want to keep, mean some players will have to go. In fact, some of the players who will likely leave won’t be leaving because the Oilers want to move them. These players could be on their way out because there are no other options.
Tyson Barrie: A Luxury the Oilers Potentially Can’t Afford
I’ve argued before in articles talking about roster changes that Tyson Barrie is the odd man out when it comes to the Oilers’ blue line. He’s still a useful player and he’ll make for a good fit in someone’s top-four, especially if he’s pegged to quarterback a powerplay, but he’s an easier move to clear space and he’s too expensive for the Oilers if they want to make other changes.
In an ideal world, having too much of a good thing is a nice problem to have. Evan Bouchard and Barrie play a similar style and offer similar strengths. If one man goes down, the other steps right in. If one is struggling, the other fills the void. Edmonton may have to sacrifice that flexibility to make other things happen.
Moving Barrie’s $4.5 million salary is probably worth more to GM Ken Holland than having Barrie on the roster is.
Warren Foegele: His Underlying Numbers Aren’t Enough
He’s only played one season with the Oilers and for portions of this past season, Warren Foegele has been effective. Unfortunately, for other portions of the 2021-22 campaign, the forward has been invisible. And, that was all before the playoffs started where the winger has often been a healthy scratch.
The Oilers traded for Foegele when they moved Ethan Bear to the Carolina Hurricanes. The reason I’ve qualified Foegele as a potentially “key loss” is that the idea was to send out a player that wasn’t necessarily happy and had been soured on by some of the fans (Bear) and exchange him for an analytics-driven forward who could push the offense in a top-nine role. The Oilers still need that kind of player, but they signed Foegele to a three-year deal worth $2.75 million per season and it hasn’t necessarily worked out, at least not well enough to argue he can’t be traded.
This isn’t a contract that is killing Edmonton. That said, the potential to find a similar forward for less money exists and the Oilers might explore freeing up some of his salary and seeing if they can’t save $1 million per season over the next two seasons.
Allan Mitchell of The Athletic writes:
The summer in Edmonton will be spent discussing a possible re-signing of Evander Kane. If it happens, Holland will need to offload attractive assets with significant dollars attached. Foegele is probably on that list, along with names like Tyson Barrie and Zack Kassian.source – ‘Lowetide: Oilers’ Warren Foegele may be victim of cap crunch this summer’ – Allan Mitchell – The Athletic – 06/04/2022
Jesse Puljujarvi: Hasn’t Found His Scoring Touch
Whether the Oilers make it through this series with Colorado or not, Jesse Puljujarvi’s regular season and postseason numbers are somewhat troubling. He’s done a ton of things well, but if you watched him early on, it was clear this was going to be a breakout season for the big Finn and these playoffs were a good opportunity for him to finally silence critics who didn’t look at his underlying numbers to determine his value. If he could find his scoring touch and deliver strong metrics, there would be no doubt Puljujarvi is a key part of the Oilers’ future.
Unfortunately, the Bison King hasn’t convinced all his critics and it will be interesting to see how many teams try to take advantage of an Oilers organization who might have some doubt about his place on this roster. If it means losing Kane, would the Oilers sacrifice Puljujarvi? Had he potted a few more goals, perhaps not. Because he hasn’t, all bets are off.
The good news here is that his lack of scoring touch has made it possible for the Oilers to re-sign him at a lower cost than they might have had to if he scored 20 goals during the season and added another five or six in the playoffs.
Evander Kane: Situation Is Tricky
I took a look at the way things could unfold in an article explaining how the grievance with the San Jose Sharks might affect the Oilers’ ability to re-sign Kane to an extension. You can read that article if you want a more extensive breakdown of that whole process and the options Edmonton might be looking at.
For the purposes of this post, I’ll just say, because there are a lot of moving pieces here, Kane qualifies as a key piece that might not return. He could sign with another team in free agency, the Sharks could take him back based on the result of that grievance, or he could be too expensive for Edmonton to fit under their salary cap. All things are possible and getting him back isn’t at all a slam dunk.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”