5 Oilers Who Probably Won’t Be Back Next Season

There are some players on the Edmonton Oilers whose contracts are either done at the end of the season, or players who have underperformed and should be moved prior to the end of their deals. Young impactful players are becoming restricted free agents (RFA) at the end of the season, the team needs to address holes in the lineup, and other young players will be pushing for full-time NHL jobs in the near future.

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We have already seen a number of defencemen who started this season in the American Hockey League (AHL) get a shot with the Oilers this season. Generally they have done well and have gained some NHL experience that could go a long way in their development and adjustment to a higher level.

Most of these players have underperformed their contracts since signing them, and the team would do well with moving on from them and getting new faces in Edmonton to try and shake things up. Below are five candidates that probably won’t be back next season based on the direction the Oilers should head in. Combined, it would clear $15.1 million, money that is much-needed to improve the roster.

Tyson Barrie

A player making the money ($4.5 million) that Tyson Barrie does should be able to perform to a level that is worthy of more than third-pairing duties. That has not been the case, as he is a defensive liability, and that’s the last thing the Oilers need with a depleted defence and shaky goaltending.

Evan Bouchard is well ahead of schedule in becoming a force on the Oilers’ back-end. He is more of an all-rounded defenceman who can play in all situations and be relied on defensively. Not to mention his offensive ability, generating 15 points while receiving very limited time on the power play. Early on this season Bouchard assumed the top-pairing spot on the right side beside Darnell Nurse, and they have been effective in eating minutes and playing against the opponents’ top lines. Bouchard’s play is allowing for the Oilers to move on from Barrie sooner than later.

Tyson Barrie Edmonton Oilers
Tyson Barrie, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Barrie is a power-play specialist, but has recently been swapped in and out of the top power-play unit with Nurse. Along with Bouchard, Barrie seems like he’s much more expendable after the power play has struggled recently and the Oilers’ top two defencemen can both fill in seamlessly on the top unit.

Cody Ceci has the right spot on the second pairing locked down with Duncan Keith when he’s healthy, as they create nice shutdown pairing. So it’s either first line or third line for Barrie, and by the trajectory Bouchard is on, he has all but locked that spot down permanently.

Another thing to watch is the emergence of the young defencemen that are pushing for spots on the Oilers’ blueline. Philip Broberg, Markus Niemelainen, and William Lagesson, along with Dmitri Samorukov who plays the right side. Broberg has also seen time on the right side this year, but he is expected to take that second-line left defensive spot by the time Keith’s contract is up.

The Oilers have tons of options to fill the third pairing spot that Barrie currently holds, internally or externally, while freeing up much-needed cap space that is wasted playing so few minutes and in not enough impactful situations.

Mikko Koskinen

No surprise to anyone, Mikko Koskinen‘s name appears on this list. Overpaid from the start after such a limited showing, the $4.5 million he makes has not been worth it for the Oilers. If he made half as much, then the criticism and pressure to perform as well as he needs to would have gone down. He would have also been much easier to move, allowing the Oilers to have targeted an upgrade sooner.

Regardless, that is in the past and can’t be changed now. The only thing Ken Holland and the Oilers can do is look to the future, either sometime this season or when Koskinen’s contract finishes after the year. With a team that has as much talent as the Oilers, there is no doubt that they need solid goaltending by someone who can also stay healthy. Many names have been thrown out for the Oilers to target this season, but what about when the season is over?

Related: Oilers’ Ken Holland Has At Least 3 Options to Upgrade Team

If nothing can get done mid-season, something definitely has to get done after. I still don’t think Stuart Skinner is quite ready for a full-time backup role unless the Oilers acquire someone who is capable of playing more than 60 games in a season. They cannot run with a Mike Smith and Skinner combination since the trend seems to be Smith getting injured each year for a significant amount of time. The duties would fall onto Skinner, who is a fringe NHLer right now.

I don’t even believe the Oilers will bring back Koskinen on a cheaper deal, as they need a real No. 1 goaltender to create stability. Smith/Skinner could serve as a backup to said player, or Smith could mostly split time with a new goalie until his contract is over at the end of next season as well.

Mikko Koskinen Edmonton Oilers
Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Koskinen has most definitely fallen out of favour with the general fanbase, and the organization, especially Holland, would receive a ton of backlash if Koskinen were to be brought back in any capacity. It is time for a change in scenery for him and the Oilers to look to the future.

Derek Ryan

Derek Ryan has massively underperformed the expectations the team had for him when the Oilers signed him to a two-year, $1.25 million AAV (average annual value) deal. He has since been scratched from some games recently with the return of Devin Shore.

Brought in to help out defensively while adding some offence, Ryan has done neither. In 23 games, he has one goal and a minus-13. Before this season, he was a plus-14 with four of his five NHL seasons seeing him score 29 or more points, twice almost reaching 40.

If Ryan is moved, expect to see him buried in the minors next season for the final year of his deal.

Zack Kassian

Zack Kassian hasn’t had a horrible season, but I don’t believe he is worth what he is making in salary. Again, the Oilers will need to clear some cap space for next season to sign and add impactful players. Even if Kassian is still a part of the Oilers come next season, it wouldn’t be wise to play out the rest of his contract that extends two more years after this one.

Zack Kassian Edmonton Oilers
Zack Kassian, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

He wouldn’t be the most difficult player to move, as general managers may have been paying attention to the impact Ryan Reaves has had since arriving in New York. Though Kassian is a fan favourite and many would be sad to see him go, this is a business, and his days in Edmonton may be numbered.

Kyle Turris

Kyle Turris was originally signed one year prior to Ryan to fill the void of third line centre, and it went just about as well as what we are seeing from Ryan this season. Almost no production, and failing to meet expectations, have found Turris struggling to fit in the lineup this year despite playing better than he did last season (“Edmonton Oilers’ Kyle Turris settling into new role”, Global News, Nov. 2, 2021).

Turris is just considered a depth forward at this point, and once his $1.65 million contract is off the books after this season, it isn’t likely at all they bring him back. The experiment of signing a player for cheap who was impactful a number of years ago failed, and since it has happened in back-to-back seasons, a different approach should be looked at, possibly Ryan McLeod as a permanent solution.

Some of these players very well may return next season despite the need to move on and change things up for the better. Let’s hear your thoughts on who should and shouldn’t return to the Oilers next season.

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