While things stay in a state of flux for the NHL, there are questions about whether or not the NHL regular season will resume. There are questions about the possibility of a full playoff schedule and questions about which teams get in. There are questions about what happens to some of the contracts, conditions and bonuses for players who may or may not meet them and questions about prorates said conditions over the course of an 82-game season should one not actually happen.
In Edmonton, that only scratches the surface of their own internal organizational questions.
For the Oilers — one of the busier teams in the NHL at the trade deadline — there are at least three players of note that may or may not have shown the organization enough to make a longer-term decision on their respective futures.
Mike Green Played Two Games
On his first outing with the Oilers, Mike Green played very few minutes. On his second, he got more ice time. There was never a third.
Green got injured shortly after arriving as part of a deal with the Detroit Red Wings. There are conditions on his trade that include whether or not he plays in 50 percent of Edmonton’s playoff games and the Oilers advance to the conference final. That may be the least of Edmonton’s questions regarding Green’s future.
Whether the 2020 fourth-rounder they gave up to acquire Green turns into a 2021 third-rounder pales in comparison to the questions about whether or not the Oilers and Green should even consider working together in the future. He’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and, while the Oilers might not have penned him into their long-term plans, one would assume a conversation about another one or two-year deal was coming.
Green was bound to take a serious pay-cut over this current $5.375 million salary (most of which the Oilers were not paying). But, in order for Edmonton to have felt comfortable paying 25-50% of that salary, they probably needed to see more.
Edmonton has some decent young talent on their blue line but there’s a potential that players like Kris Russell might be moved in the off-season. If so, does Green make sense?
Tyler Ennis Has Showed Well
The one player who has produced since joining the team is Tyler Ennis. Still, there are questions about where he fits, who he has chemistry with and what he’s worth on an extension?
Perhaps this is an easy solution and the Oilers offer him a similar $800,000 to play another year next season. Gary Bettman said he expects the 2020-21 NHL season to be a “normal” one, and that gives Ennis another opportunity to play alongside one of the best centers in the game and up his point totals in the hopes these one-year deals continue to come.
With four points in nine games for the Oilers, they may need to see what Ennis can do in the playoffs before they know for sure he’s a smart signing for next season.
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Andreas Athanasiou Hasn’t Clicked, Yet
The biggest question mark for Oilers GM Ken Holland might be forward Andreas Athanasiou. A speedy forward with a high ceiling, he’s not clicked in Edmonton yet. He’s got a goal and one assist in nine games but more than that, he’s looked a bit out of sorts at times.
His game started to round into shape over the past couple contests but that’s where this pause comes at the most inopportune of times for the Oilers. Had Athanasiou gone on a bit of a run, Edmonton would have had a better idea of what he could do when paired with the right line mates. Since that didn’t happen, he becomes a pretty big risk as an RFA who has a history of holding out for the money he wants.
In the off chance there’s no hockey the rest of the season, what does Edmonton do? Do they give him another contract and hope what he wasn’t able to do in nine games, he can do over the course of an 82-game season? Or, do they flip him for a pick and understand that they took a hit giving up two second-round picks in a year where they didn’t get to see all they wanted to?
Two of these players, if signed, aren’t likely to be big issues for the Oilers. Athanasiou has the potential to be a great addition or a huge mistake. Unfortunately, nine games just isn’t enough to know for sure.
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Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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